How the Future Can Steal Our Joy

I stopped a high-speed car chase.

It was 1978, and I was driving my wife’s Pontiac Firebird.  Blue, sporty, white interior.  Classy, just like her.

The light turned green, and I started through the intersection – unaware of the police chase approaching from my left.  The driver had stolen the car after robbing a liquor store, and ran the red light at about 50 mph.

He hit my driver’s door at that speed.  My wife’s classy car was totaled, but I wasn’t scratched.  The ambulance took me to the hospital for observation, but everything was fine.

People said, “Wasn’t it terrifying?”  I replied, “Nope.  I didn’t see it coming, so I didn’t have time to worry.”

Now, suppose that a week earlier, someone had accurately said, “Next Wednesday at noon, you’re going to be in a serious accident.  Your car will be totaled, but you’ll be OK.”

I’d be terrified.  I’d spend the whole week worrying about it.

futureLife’s like that.  A lot of bad things happen to us.  But we often put a lot of energy into what could happen, and we live in constant low-grade fear.

It’s good to set goals, and it’s wise to prepare for the future.  But we don’t live in the future; we live in the present.

When we worry, we attempt to live in the future.  We mortgage the present, missing the richness of life.  We focus on protection and prevention, rather than the pleasure of the present.

A friend in Oklahoma said, “How can you live in California with all those earthquakes?”

I said, “Honestly, I’d be more afraid to live in Oklahoma with the tornadoes.  You know they’re coming, so you live in dread for hours at a time.  With an earthquake, you don’t know it’s coming. When it does, you deal with it.  A few seconds later, it’s over – and if you’re still alive, you’re OK.  There’s no anticipation or fear because you didn’t know it would happen.”

But some people live in constant fear of earthquakes. They’ve given up their joy in the present for the terror of the possibilities.

It sells a lot of insurance, but it’s a crummy way to live.

We need to be smart.  We need to think through the things that could happen in the future, and take steps to prevent and respond.

But we don’t want to live there.

Author Leo Buscaglia wrote, “Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy.”

Let’s give today our 100% attention.  Make choices, savor the moments, build relationships and make a difference.

The future will be here soon enough.  Live there when it comes – not before.

Senior Consultant at FranklinCovey; Author of "People Can't Drive You Crazy If You Don't Give Them the Keys"