Welcome back to My HeroQuest a Nerds Guide to Self-Help. This week I’m going to be discussing Fear and Future. Last session in Broken Pieces, we explored the feeling of setbacks and how we can begin piecing together the small parts of ourselves going forward. If this is your first time with me, I invite you to take a look at how all this began in my first post.
Fear and Future
A lump in his throat was growing in size as Eric stood speechless staring at the old wooden door, the entrance to the dungeon.
“I’m growing older by the minute”, grumbled Gorn just behind him.
“It can’t be” were the words that involuntarily escaped Eric.
“Huh?”, Gorn questioned.
Eric lifts his arm forward and presses his hand against the oaken wood. It slowly moves, creaking and moaning with every inch until the all too familiar darkness seeps out from within.
Elomir steps up to Eric’s side and places a hand on his shoulder. “What is it?”, he asks. “I’ve done this before. We’ve done this before, or perhaps I dreamed it?”, Eric answers, his voice seemingly scattered.
Elomir turns to face the young wizard. “I’ve heard tales of powerful magic, capable of altering the minds of others. I’ve even heard of it being able to warp time to its will. Perhaps you’ve been cast into a stupor of sorts by the evil of this place.”
The young wizard nods his head slowly, still staring into the darkness before them. It felt so real. Had he imagined it all? Was it just a dream of fear and future? Was he so afraid of what he might find at the end of his journey, that he’s somehow tricked himself into believing he’s already tried? The questions weighed on his mind for some time, his companions becoming restless. Suddenly, without a word, he stepped forward into blackness to the surprise of the other heroes who quickly scurried after him.
The Lifted Veil
“What do you see? Why have we stopped?” rang Gorns voice in the air. The darkness slowly falling away revealing the long, narrow, stone hallway they were walking down before. “A trick.” Eric mused out loud. “Trick?” replied Gorn. Elomir was right. It must have been a spell. That would mean it wasn’t Elomir that convinced him, but himself, his own conscious using a projection of Elomir to break through the spells power. He could have been caught in that dream for ages until body and mind withered and his companions long abandoned his actual self.
This dungeon is dangerous indeed and he now knew that the power within was greater than his own capability to sense. They would have to tread carefully. What if one of the others, whose mind was not as adept and willful, should fall under a similar spell. They would be lost to imagination and dream of fear and future for the rest of their days.
Oh! The Horror!
Fear. It’s such a powerful emotion. It controls and often guides many of our thoughts and actions throughout our lives. We do what we can to ignore it, work through it, suppress it, but it’s one of the most unpredictable human characteristics we possess.
I deal with fear on a daily basis. Sometimes, I’m hyper aware of it and other times, I don’t even know it’s there. An easy example of fear is the fear of failure. This is a big one that I’ve consistently faced in my life in multiple scenarios. We all fear failure. We fear not being a good spouse, parent, lover. Many of us fear not being successful in our chosen careers or fear not being good enough for the positions we currently hold. We fear not having enough money and fear for our health, especially the older we get.
Now or Later
There are so many different variations of fear, but I’m going to be talking about one really big one, which is fear and future. We all are fearful of our future in some form. I know for myself, it plagues my mind incessantly. My brain is constantly bombarding me with tomorrow, next month, next year, the rest of my life. I’m always worrying about these future problems that I don’t know will exist, may not have control over, but more importantly have not even happened yet. This problem takes me out of the now and it takes away from my experience of life.
In acting we work a lot at what we call “being present”. It means connecting with the person or persons with you and focusing solely on the step by step interaction without the intrusion of past or future. This of course is easier said that done, because our minds tend to wander, but that’s the whole point of the exercises we would perform. They help us hone in our focus for that moment and just be with our scene partner(s).
How many times have you been talking with someone and realize you’re not really listening to what they are saying, but are thinking of the next thing you’re going to say, or perhaps thinking of what you’re going to have for lunch? We do this a lot as human beings. As an introvert, who naturally listens more than I talk, I’ve become pretty good at spotting people who aren’t really listening to what I say. I used to get down on myself and believe that, well, maybe what I’m talking about just isn’t really that interesting. That may be true in some cases, but I have to remind myself that perhaps it’s not me who is uninteresting, but perhaps it’s the other person who just has a hard time being present and listening.
Listen to Fear
This lack of listening, truly listening, I believe comes from fear. It’s the other person afraid that if they don’t come up with something clever or intelligent to say in that moment, they are lesser somehow. They are dull and uninteresting. Therefore, they’re not really listening to your story or point of view, but wracking their brain for that relatable story or piece of wisdom.
This is a big problem in today’s information overloaded world. Everyone know’s everything or that’s how it’s perceived. We hear an antidote from a friend and DING, a relatable antidote pops into your head that you heard from someone or seen in a show or read in a book and you can’t wait to share your piece of knowledge. See what happens? You’ve stopped listening, because you’ve become so concerned with being an intelligent part of the conversation that you’re now honing all your energy into relaying rather than receiving.
Listening is tough, but I think the more we practice the better we can become as people. It’s just taking the fear out of seeming uniformed or not opinionative. It’s putting your ego aside for a moment, even in those instances where you feel you know better or feel the other person is wrong. Don’t be afraid to listen to that other point of view and take a moment before responding. Really try to understand what they other person is conveying.
Power in Uncertainty
You’re probably wondering how this ties into our topic of fear and future. Well, if you think about it, if you’re truly present and listening, you’re not thinking about the next thing to say (the future), you’re taking in the information the other person is giving you and digesting it (the present). Now, this isn’t to say that all conversations need this intense focus. Sometimes, idle chit chat doesn’t require the same intense listening. I’m just challenging you and myself to really focus in on what another is trying to explain and take a moment and mull it over before you respond in your clever way.
The future is uncertain. That’s a fact. We think we know a little about something, but it could all change tomorrow. Some things we can control. I can get up and write every day for at least 90 minutes. That’s control, but that’s present. I can’t however predict that it will result in something great. So, why worry about what it could be? That’s the power of trying to be more present.
Tasks often seem daunting when looking at them in their finished state. When I begin writing a script, I often catch myself visualizing the finished product. Now, there is nothing wrong with visualization, we need that, but what happens often for me, is that I get paralyzed at the thought of all the work that has to go into getting from where I am now, to where I need to be. That’s fear and future. I’m scared of all that in between. Rather than focusing on the only thing I have control over, which is the 90 minutes or more I’m going to write today.
Fear often paralyzes us when we feel we’re running out of time in our lives to do something. The older you get, the faster the days go by. It becomes more difficult to set aside those feelings of “time is running out”. Therefore, you become paralyzed and never actually accomplish what you want to accomplish. A good friend of mine reminded me that it’s never too late to start something. It’s never too late to accomplish something. It’s only too late after you die.
We are always bombarded with stories of all the incredible people who accomplished big things in their early years. This person was a multi-millionaire by the time they were 30. This person was an award winning professional at only 25. We don’t get enough stories in our media about all of the people who accomplished great things later in life and those who continue to accomplish great things even up until their deaths. It’s never too late.
I’m Not Enough
I’m always at battle with myself on this topic. It’s because I have a real problem with comparing myself to others. It’s poisonous and unhealthy. My path is my own. This is the trappings of self-help and it’s why I decided to scrap my prescriptive format from previous articles. There’s a lot of opinion in self-help, but no one way is the right way. One persons path to financial freedom isn’t necessarily going to apply to your journey. I can’t do everything Robert Deniro did in trying to become a successful actor, because his success was particular to him and he didn’t know his journey was going to lead him to the level it did. You can read the advice and learn from it, but ultimately you have to find your own way.
The future is scary because it’s uncertain, but if we spent more time focusing on our day-to-day, we would live much happier lives, myself included. I can set goals, I can have intention, but I can only take it one day at a time, one moment at a time. It’s time to listen to myself more so that I can be more present for others when it comes time to listen to them. Fear and future will never go away, but we can minimize its impact the more we can hone into the now.