Unlike looking back, looking ahead can be full of surprises and a great help in getting anyone to where they hope to be. But beware: Looking ahead has pitfalls all its own. Being “in the moment” lasts only so long for those who need to know what’s next. In any journey the road ahead is what gets them there, while the road behind is a done deal, always leading to the Now.
The good news about looking ahead is that there is nothing there. The future for everyone is a tabula rasa, at least as far as history goes. “It ain’t been written yet ‘cuz it ain’t been lived.” Such a mindset, however, does not stop anyone from peeking at horizons, outlining or planning, or even living ahead of themselves. “What’s the use of bein’ where anything ain’t?”
Dreams can be the pretty part of looking ahead, goals the practical part and fear the potentially paralyzing part. All have their play and place in the Now. Dreams of a better world are grounded – though, unfortunately, too often stuck or swallowed up – in the challenges of reality. Goals provide the workshops for the future while fear can either wisely temper the struggle forward or be a monkey wrench in the process.
It is human to feel guilty (when looking back) and fearful (when looking ahead). But both feelings have built-in motivational force. Guilt, once confronted, can be all about learning and becoming better; fear, about testing one’s clarity and resolve. Both impact only on the here and now.
Looking ahead may hold the “stuff dreams are made of” but fear can turn those dreams into nightmares. That’s why it’s important to know how to tame or make friends with fear when one encounters it. There are three ways to do so: Name it as quickly and as precisely as possible; render it reasonable; and work with and through it while moving on.
Naming any fear is the first step in dealing with it. “Knowing the enemy is half the battle.” Fear of failure is different from fear of embarrassment, fear of physical harm or fear of being wrong. Rendering fear reasonable is just as important as rendering it ridiculous. In either instance working with and through such fears provides a sense of one’s ability and strength to grow through them. Fear, when honest, can sharpen one’s perspective when looking ahead, or even when trying to make sense of its presence in the moment.
Fear comes with being human. It seems most times to be about a future that does not yet exist. So, looking ahead, oddly enough, is really about looking at the Now.