Some people are fascinated by the past and enjoy reflecting on and learning about everything that has occurred up until the present time (possibly thinking that they will learn from it). Some individuals enjoy living in the present because it allows them to be aware of what is occurring here and now, but how many books have been written about practicing mindfulness and being in the here and now? Tons. (This may be an extension of our now hyper-connected selves, but if you ask me, this mindfulness movement is moving in the wrong direction; however, that is a topic for another post.)
Both the past and the present are interesting in their ways, but if you ask me, they are both dull. I mean, what exactly are some things that you can change regarding the past or the present? A negligible amount. You can make rapid judgments about the present, but there is absolutely nothing you can do about the past because we can’t go back until we figure out how to build a real-time machine. In the meantime, you can make snap judgments about the present. The past is finished, and the present arrives far too quickly for us to have much influence over it.
That leaves what lies ahead. The time that is yet to come is a unique location. It is the only location where the things you do and say have the potential to make a difference. The only thing that your actions can alter is what lies in the future.
Some believe that we are powerless to alter the future. That is, of course, utterly incorrect; the future, if there is anything that can be altered, is it? The future will serve as our playing field.
Some believe that it is difficult to think about the future and even more challenging to anticipate what will happen in the future accurately. This is correct so long as your goal is merely to forecast what will happen in the future without attempting to influence it. Your ideas, deeds, and emotions all impact the future, and it is one of the few things that your choices can mold.
There are two schools of thought on this topic: the determinists believe that everything is pre-determined and that there is nothing you can do about the future; it will just happen. The other school of thought is the free willists’ school of thought. On the other hand, those who subscribe to the theory of free will maintain that our choices decide the course of our lives; they contend that positive and negative events take place only as a result of the acts we choose or do not take.
I like to believe that our lives are a combination of determinism and free choice; there are certain boxes of determinism around us, and inside those boxes, we have free will. While some people believe that it’s either/or, others think that it’s either/or. It is up to us to determine whether we want to increase the size of that box or maybe blow it up completely. We have the freedom to engage in a wide variety of activities, but once we find ourselves pressed against the confines of a box, we have difficulty breaking free of it. We are stuck there, thinking that we have reached the limits of what we can do, thinking that we can’t go any further, even though we can – even though it’s just a simple mind shift that lets us tell ourselves that It’s ok to go there – not only will nothing bad happen, but awesome things could happen. We are convinced that we have reached the limits of what we can do and that we can’t go any further.
You have to smash that box open if you want actually to bring about the change you seek. You need to broaden your understanding of determinism to encompass the goals that you have for your life.