Are you burned out on worrying about the future? Me too! Let's take a moment to get present instead.
Disease, Economic Collapse, Artificial Intelligence, Whether or Not Coffee is BAD... Sometimes you just hit a worry wall!
You’re reading Making This up as I Go from Aden Nepom and the Art of Change —an improvisers thoughts on finding the simple, obvious, meaningful path forward from one moment to the next. Newsletter content is free! Going paid unlocks premium subscription features like our once-a-month Zoom, and Monthly Clickables a rundown of links to the fun, helpful and weird things that capture the author’s attention each month.
“What me worry?
-Alfred E. Neuman
Past | Present | Future - TENSE
When I was teaching beginning level improv classes for Merlin Works in Austin, Texas one of my favorite games to share was Sound Ball. In this game players stand in a circle and take turns passing energy around by making and then repeating sounds.
Someone throws, “Zoom!”
Then that person throws with a new sound, “Nanananana….”
And another person catches, “Nanananana….”
You get the idea…
I like the game, because it demonstrates the value of being present and in the moment.
If you pass a sound, and then spend time analyzing whether the sound you made was sophisticated or idiotic and experience what Merlin Works founder Shana Merlin calls “sound ball remorse,” then you’re not fully present. You’re stuck in the past, and it’s easy to drop the ball when it comes back around.
Similarly, if you spend the game making lists of sounds in your head (bark, woof, woomp, blap) you’re spending too much time and energy in the future, when the game is being played in the present moment. That means that when it’s your turn to catch, you either make your own weird sound instead of the one being passed to you or you miss that its your turn entirely!
So Sound Ball teaches that to be the most flexible and responsive to what the game throws your way, you’ve got to stay fully present.
Being present, or playing the scene you’re in is one of the primary principles of improvisation, as you may recall from this piece I published to kick off the month of March.
Dang! Now what? Things weren't supposed to go like that! Adopting an Improvisers Ethos
But knowing that staying in the present moment is valuable and actually practicing staying present are two different things altogether… particularly when there’s a lot going on!
There’s a lot to be worried about
You don’t need me to tell you that there’s a lot you can worry about: from global issues to personal obligations, and of course whether or not coffee prevents heart disease or causes it. There’s always something we can be anxiously contemplating!
To be clear, stress and worry aren’t inherently bad, our mindset certainly has a role to play in how we process these thoughts and feelings.
Look, we all know it’s an important skill to be able to understand how the choices we make now will lead to consequences, positive and negative, and to be able to think though some of those possibilities. Planning plays a key role in our work and in our personal lives! But like anything, a little goes a long way and too much of anything can tip the scales against your ability to notice great opportunities, to show up for your teams at work, and to be there for your those who need you most.
I don’t know about you, but I find that I am more prone to worry about the future when I am overwhelmed in the present and concerned about dropping something important.
Exciting opportunities, personal travel, family obligations… like you, I have all three!
This is a reminder for me as much as it is for you!
If you’re burned out on worry about the future (hey! me too!) than it’s time to spend a little time in the present moment.
The good news is because the present moment is this one right now… and now… and now… it doesn’t take much time to reground, refresh and re-oxygenate your brain!
Look out the window.
Notice more about what is perfectly at peace right now.
What do you hear?
What smells are present?
Notice something beautiful. Perhaps the leaves on the trees outside. Maybe a cool piece of art on the wall of the room you’re in. Maybe a beautiful feeling in your heart.
Repeat after me, “So far so good. Still breathing!”
Take a deep breath. Sigh it out and let your shoulders drop away from your ears.
One more breath for good measure.
And know… it’s gonna be what it’s gonna be.
What do you do to bring yourself back to the present moment when your planning brain or worry brain start spinning out of whack?
Did you try this micro-meditation? How did it make you feel?
What’s one worry you can decide to let go of for a little while?
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Great reminder! Life is a gift, but you have to be present to win it!