Stay Focused on the Present

“Don’t let your reflection on the whole sweep of life crush you. Don’t fill your mind with all the bad things that might still happen. Stay focused on the present situation and ask yourself why it’s so unbearable and can’t be survived.”


Today’s quote really resonated with me. It hit home so hard that I read the whole thing to my wife, and actually the full page from The Daily Stoic. The reason it felt so powerful to us is because we’re in the middle of a massive change in our lives, and it feels overwhelming to us on a daily basis. So the recommendation to stay focused on the present seemed really timely.

Next month, we’re selling our home and two cars, and moving to Costa Rica permanently. We’re going to have to buy a new car there, apply for residency with the immigration department, and rent a home until we can find one to buy. And a million other details that we’re trying to track and stay on top of.

I’m not gonna lie — it’s really freaking intense. The anxiety is crippling. I’m often swept up in trains of thought about all the things that could go wrong. Will my children adapt? Will they find new friends? Will we become victims of crime? What if we hate the house we’ve bought? What if we decide we don’t like it there and want to move back, but can’t? What if we can’t generate income to support ourselves? The questions are endless; there are about a thousand more than I’m not listing here.

I’m reminded that you can’t escape fear in life. Anyone who tells you that it’s possible to conquer fear is either speaking from inexperience (and you can generally see it in their eyes), or they are trying to sell you something.

The truth is that fear can’t be conquered. The best you can do is accept it as part of the duality of life: love and fear. One pulls people and things together, and the other pushes them apart. Accept and embrace your fear, and you’re further along than 99% of people who inhabit this earth. Push through your fear and act boldly in spite of it, and then you’re unstoppable.

So when I look at the big picture of our move, I’m crushed by fear of what might go wrong. But Marcus is saying explicitly to not focus on the big picture. Instead, pay attention to what is immediately in front of you. Stay focused on the present, exactly where you are at this moment, and simply do the next right thing. All you have to do is put one foot in front of the other, and the rest will take care of itself.

And when I do that, I find that the fear melts away, because I’ve pushed through it. All my concerns melt away. What exactly do I need to get accomplished today only? When I ask myself that question, I feel calmer and I realize that the puzzle pieces will fall into place. I just have to be present.

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