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Although living in the moment and planning for the future might sound like a contradiction, research shows the value of both. In defining mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn specifically says that it is “in the present moment.” How can I be mindful and also plan ahead for a successful future?  

In 2020, researchers found that during the pandemic lockdown, those who used proactive coping were able to avoid additional stress, or at least reduce its negative impacts. Proactive coping is when people make plans and take steps to change or reduce potential stress for future events. Researchers recommend continuing to make informed plans, even in uncertain times. Other studies highlight the positive role that anticipation plays when we are looking into the future, waiting for a pleasing event like a vacation. Anticipation for a positive event can bring us enjoyment while proactive coping for a potentially negative event may help reduce stress.  

Sometimes future events are very large such as starting a new school or job. Other times, future events are as basic as daily routines. In a previous Live Healthy Live Well blog, titled My Future Self, the author described how the things we do today affect who we are tomorrow. Some basic examples of daily routines that shape our successful future could include meal planning, family decisions, and scheduling exercise.

The goal is to not spend time and energy worrying about the future. We cannot control future events, but there is value in anticipating positive results. When making future plans and putting action steps into place, it’s worth asking:

  • Am I preparing for future success or am I worrying about future things I cannot control?
  • Am I taking pleasure in looking forward to future events?
  • Am I being present, now, in this moment as I take appropriate steps for future success?

Here are a few life examples of plans and action steps now for a successful future later:

  1. Practicing the musical instrument now to be able to pick up and improvise a jazz performance
  2. Practicing mindfulness now for additional benefits later
  3. Packing now for a week-end trip
  4. Choosing flower seeds now for next year’s garden
  5. Choosing a greeting card or gift now to share later with a loved one
  6. Reading and studying now to test later
  7. Childproofing living room now for toddler grandchildren to visit later
  8. Buying groceries now for meals later this week
  9. Prayers of gratitude now for unknown future blessings
  10. Reading this blog now with plans to use the information sooner than later

What steps are you taking now in planning for success in the future?

References:

Kumar, A., Killingsworth, M., and Gilovich, T. (2014, August 21). Waiting for merlot: Anticipatory consumption of experiential and material purchases. Psychological Science.

Marrison, E. (2019). My Future Self. Live Healthy Live Well. Ohio State University. https://livehealthyosu.com/2019/12/12/my-future-self/

Pearman, Hughes, Smith, & Neupert, 2020  https://web.ncsu.edu/accolades-magazine/2020/10/15/quiz-pandemic-stress-busters/index.html

Polk, M., Smith, E.,  Zhang, L.,  and Neupert, S., (2020). Thinking ahead and staying in the present: Implications for reactivity to daily stressors, Personality and Individual Differences. Volume 161. 2020 https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886920301604

Szabo, Richling, Embry, Biglan, Wilson, (2020). From helpless to hero: Promoting values-based behavior and positive family interaction in the midst of Covid-19.

Photo credit: Pixabay

Written by: Patrice Powers-Barker, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Lucas County

Reviewed by: Misty Harmon, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Perry County

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