I remember when I took the above photo of my son looking out across Lake Windermere and sometimes wonder what was going through his young mind at the time, was he thinking of his next big adventure or which food was at hand to satisfy his growing hunger? Or was he just simply enjoying the view? I guess one will never know.
What goes through my own mind at times is ‘what does the future have in store?’ What will life be like in 20 years’ time; which career will my son be doing when he eventually finishes education; will the environment be saved in time for future generations to appreciate? And whilst I’ll naturally continue to ponder, it strikes me that over the last couple of years I’ve had a lot of anxiety around my future and that of my family.
Although some of this anxiety was related to the ups and downs of daily life, it was more to do with some big personal challenges which had left me exhausted, defeated and with a negative view of myself and my abilities that it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
After doing some research and speaking with those in the field, I decided to try some of the techniques used in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), which can help us manage our anxieties by changing our thinking and behaviour.
It may come as no surprise but what I’ve learnt is how our inner voice can have a huge impact on the way we think, feel and behave. If that voice is consistently negative, it can really impact on our self-esteem, create anxiety within us, make us fearful, influence how we react to situations and affect our mental wellbeing.
By practising certain techniques, I was able to dig to the root cause of my negative thoughts, look at where my fears had come from, what feelings were driving these and how I was behaving. It was a real eye opener for me as I realised that I’d been stuck for a lot longer than I thought and it was having a big impact on my life. What stood out for me is that I have a choice, I can either remain in a cycle of negativity or I can choose to stop my thoughts dead in their tracks, challenge and rationalise them in some way then disregard them and think of positive alternatives.
Furthermore, using CBT techniques has helped me realise that my intolerance of uncertainty and the anxieties I was having about the future and what could happen weren’t rational as the future hasn’t yet happened. There was no real proof to suggest that anything bad would occur, however real it was in my own mind.
Therefore, whilst this is an ongoing process, my outlook is beginning to shift. It’s enabling me to focus on living in the present moment more, accepting that I cannot change the past and that the future has not yet been written. Being mindful every day, noticing and appreciating what’s going on around and within me is what’s really helping to bring me back into a sense of living and a ‘can do’ mindset, without being fearful that something bad is waiting just around corner.
To conclude, whilst we can, in our personal lives and in business, have an eye on the future and plan ahead to some degree, we cannot always predict what could happen at any given time. We can try to influence outcomes through our behaviours and actions, and these can set us on a certain path. But as for the real future, well I guess we’ll know more when we get there.
- Which strategies can you adopt to help you stay focused on what’s relevant right at this moment in time?
- What things can you control?
- What can’t you change and let go of?
- How can you operate from a place of strength instead of a place of fear?
Written by Rebecca Walker