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Go Do: Let Go of the Past and Future and Live in the Present

Go Do

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” ~Einstein

“Go do, you’ll learn to just let yourself fall into landslide. Go do, you’ll learn to just let yourself give into low tide. Go do!”~Jonsi

I recently heard from a friend whom I had not heard from in over two years. He sent me an email just to check in and see how I was doing, congratulate me on my recent marriage, which he had heard about, and let me know that he had faced some hardship over the past couple of years.

He had been, simply put, stuck. To my surprise, he also mentioned that some words I had sent him in an email, many moons ago, had stayed with him and encouraged him over the years.

What were those words? “Don’t even talk about dreams. Think of it as actually the moment, the doing.”

At the time, my friend was facing a very common fear: what to do with his life. He had dreams like we all do. He had goals he wanted to accomplish.

This is something we all face at some point in our adulthood and with my friend, that fear of what’s to come, what may be, was holding him back from simply doing anything. In that way, he found himself feeling so stagnant that depression was taking hold.

Funny, I had not remembered ever saying that. Nor did I recall our correspondence, but upon reading the words, I thought, Wow, I still say that to myself now! Keep doing… cause it’s all about the journey.

These are all things we’ve heard before. I had said nothing new.

The thing is, we all have dreams and goals. But when we get caught up in the small things around us, we forget the big things. At the same time, when there are so many big things to potentially bog us down, we forget to enjoy the small things in life.

So how do we find the balance and keep moving? How do we have big dreams, and still obtain them? How do we experience the day to day? How do we go do?

In my early twenties I was briefly married to a man who was one person before marriage and another person after. During our marriage he was extremely abusive, dangerous, and to be frank, downright selfish and mean.

During that time, despite everything else going on in my life—the day-to-day stresses, hopes, demands, and needs—I was still in fear for my very own life, whether it was at stake in reality or not.

At the time, I didn’t realize this fear.

I spent three dreadful years married to this person and trying to do anything and everything I could to avoid being exactly where I was.

I would come up with excuses to be out of the house or out of town. I was telling myself I would leave or that I could change my husband, and in the worst way, I was not allowing myself to emotionally recognize the true danger of the situation I was in.

Why? Because I was terrified. Terrified my marriage would fall apart, terrified to tell my friends or family, terrified I would be looked at as the ‘poor victimized wife,’ and even more so, terrified to confront my husband for fear of what he might do.

Had I known then how important living in the present was, I likely would not have stuck around in that marriage for so long.

When we are in crisis situations, even stressful situations at work or school or at home, our bodies tell us to fight or fly. Mine did both while I was being abused. But more importantly, and on a conscious level, I was denying myself the one thing I needed most—to see where I was and accept it.

I would not allow myself to see the danger and weight of the situation I was in. I feared the abuse and would not allow myself to face it because of my fear.

Now, let’s take this example and move it into something perhaps a bit more relatable.

Consider the stresses of a demanding job. Consider monetary problems—too many bills and too little cash. Consider a fight with a loved one or confusion on where to go in life or what to choose for your career.

In any stressful situation, of the many and hundreds of situations that abound our lives, there is truly only one answer that I’m aware of that applies to all these open ended questions. That is: go and do.

When times are tough it is easy to get caught up in the toughness and remain there.

Whether that means you stick to your guns in an argument or ponder your dreams rather than take action, either way you’re stuck. You’re stagnant. But, if you remind yourself to go and do, then you move.

I won’t say forward because I don’t know if we are ever moving forward; perhaps we are just swarming around in an eternal grain of sand. Perhaps life is just a string of present moments, neither past nor future. In any case, the movement, the doing, is the living.

Had I allowed myself to be in the dangerous moments of my marriage, mentally accepted that my life was in a situation of abuse, and at stake lay my happiness, my well-being, my peace of mind, I would have not stayed stagnant in that marriage for so long. I would have made a change. I would have gone.

Had my friend not spent so many years questioning what he should be doing, he would have just done.

The key is to recognize every moment and keep moving.

It is an oxymoron to be in the moment and always moving from the moment, but such is life and it is a truth that cannot be denied if we are in search of peace.

The world is ever moving. Ever changing.

Living in the moment means doing or feeling or seeing or recognizing what’s right in front of you. The important thing is to let yourself experience everything—the good and the bad—and once you experience it, then you let it pass.

We get caught up in our pasts because we did not allow ourselves to live those pasts when they were present.

Take my example. After finally extraditing myself from an abusive environment, I lived with PTSD for the following six years, reliving over and over everything that had happened to me once before.

Take my friend; had he been doing and changing and living rather than pondering what’s to come, he would have done what he is finally doing now.

Now he is just, simply put, exploring life. He is not setting ultimatums saying, “I must be here and have xyz by this point.” Rather, he is in the moment and recently took some time for himself, volunteering at a Buddhist retreat in California.

Instead of worrying so much about where he would be, he is taking time to be now, living and relishing in his current situation.

You have to live in the moment so that it can pass. You have to face your fears, so they too can pass. And since it must pass, we must feel its presence, good or bad, while it actually is present, for it too will haunt us, for better or for worse.

Whether you are fighting abuse, fearing your future, worried about school or a test or a meeting at work, stressed about money, losing sleep over love, no matter what is on your mind at any given moment, the point is to be aware of what you're feeling, what’s around you, and in all cases, to continue to go do.

We so often get caught up in the stress, the worry, and in some cases, so caught up in avoiding the danger or real fear in front of us, that we forget to just live. So try to balance and stay on your bike. Remember to live each moment, let it pass, but keep moving and enjoy the next. As Jonsi said, just “go do.”

Photo by Beverly Goodwyn

About Jenny Bowman

Jenny Bowman is a freelance writer and editor specializing in self-help, regional writing and children’s literature. She is a lover of books and the Carolina shore, where she resides today with her beautiful husband and son. If you would like to learn more about Jenny, visit her at jennybowman.com and on Facebook.

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  • Awesome post Jenny. Each time I read material about being in the now, it reminds me of how human consciousness is heading in the right direction.

    Great takeaway for all your readers “You have to live in the moment so that it can pass. You have to face your fears, so they too can pass. And since it must pass, we must feel its presence, good or bad, while it actually is present, for it too will haunt us, for better or for worse.”

    By saying that you just summed up the power and effect of ‘the light of consciousness’ within each one of us.

    Thank you.

  • Thank you for the reminder, Jenny 🙂
    It is challenging sometimes to get a hold of the idea that “there is no future in the past” or it is also no use to stress about the future… that we need to stay present in the moment of now. That is why it is so vital to remind yourself about. Thank you.

  • :o)

    A friend of mine was struggling with this very concept last night, of living fully in the present moment while still moving forward. I don’t think I was able to explain it well enough, but you’ve done a great job. I will be sending her this article!

    I love Jonsi, by the way!

    Thank you! :o)

  • DE

    Jenny- Like your post. It is very difficult to live in the moment with so many past and future thoughts come in our mind every moment, but I am trying it and I am rephrased it with ” Go with the flow of life”.

  • Luke

    Thank you Jenny! A well-written article.

  • Jenny

    Thank you for your message! It’s something I have to remind myself of daily. 🙂

  • Jenny

    Thank you for your kind words!! And I think you are right about heading in the right direction. 🙂

  • Jenny

    I love it! Thank you!

  • Jenny

    Thank you!

  • Jenny

    I’m so happy you think it will help your friend!!! That’s what I was hoping for in writing it.

    I also love Jonsi – his music helped me through a tough time, ‘Go Do’ in particular, of course. 😉

    Sending hugs to your friend during a hard time. Thank you for your message – much appreciated.

  • gargi

    jenny, old friend, its gargi, I didn’t know you write for tiny buddha! I like to read this from time to time. I reached the bottom of the article, thinking what a great article. One I wish I had read in my years of inertia and worrying about doing. Then I saw your name- How nice! Great read too.

    Hope you are well. Amazon is promoting our book too!
    http://www.amazon.co.uk/How-To-Find-The-One-ebook/dp/B00H7987A2 (this link is for any tiny buddha readers who want to manifest a great loving, life partner)

    I received an email from them the other day!!

  • Jenny

    Gargi! How nice to hear from you!!!

    I love tinybuddha and this is my first time writing with them. It was an honor. So happy the book is doing well – I check in on it time to time!

    Please continue to stay in touch!!

    Hugs,
    Jenny

  • Lilian

    Thank you for this great article! It summs up everything I am struggeling with right now and was just what I needed to read today! “We get caught up in our pasts because we did not allow ourselves to live those pasts when they were present.” Especially this part is just so true… I hope, I’ll be able to internalize your words, Jenny!

  • Talya Price

    Thank you Jenny for this article. It has been a very long journey for me, I had to really take time out for myself to live in the present moment. There are times when I feel that I am running out of time and that I am not where I am suppose to be in life, career-wise and geographically. But I have to focus on the present and keep reminding myself to do so. Because that is all that matters.

  • Aonva

    How very true and wise, we get so caught up in the past and desprate about our future, that we forget to live in the moment and make it count. It is such a tool for life, to teach yourself, not to put energy into yeasterday and don’t over think towmorrow.

  • Jenny

    You are absolutely right, Talya! We always say, “the grass is greener,” but I’m not sure if it really is. The point is to find your happiness within, make what you have count when you have it. I do know that life is always changing, and often there is no way to ‘prepare’ for those changes, so I just try and enjoy what I can when I can.

    Thank you for your message and best of luck to you!

  • Jenny

    Thank you for your message Lilian and I wish you the best of luck!!!

    Hang in there and take time each day to remember this – that’s what I do… and it works! 🙂

  • Jenny

    Absolutely agreed! Thank you.

  • I have found that I became stronger as a result of thanking the Universe for the negative experiences. I believe that it’s up to us to make lemonade out of the lemons we were given.

    When the dots of my life were connected looking backwards, that’s when my life shifted into the happiest state I have ever lived and others are now in awe of my joyful energy.

  • gargi

    yep will do!:)

  • Jenny

    So wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

  • Rosie

    Hi, Jenny.

    I just wanted to say thank you for writing this post and sharing your experiences. You know how sometimes you’ll hear a song and it’s like the writer wrote the lyrics just for you? That’s how I felt reading this post, and it’s comforting to know that I’m not the only one who has experienced feeling stuck. It’s so easy to feel like we’re alone in our struggles when, in actual fact, many others have experienced the same thing.

    I think we all need a good push now and then, just like when we first start out on our bike (I really liked that analogy). Your writing was that push for me. It spoke to my heart and moved me and I want to sincerely thank you for sharing your story. I wish you all the best in your future, and will keep your words close.

    Best wishes,
    Rosie

  • Jenny

    Rosie,
    Thank you so much for your message. I can’t express the joy I felt in reading it. I wish you all the best on your journey now and in all to come as well.

    I’m happy you’ve found the strength to continue to ‘go’ and ‘do’… this simple (though really hard sometimes) task has helped me time and again, and I hope it continues to help you.

    Sending hugs,
    Jenny

  • Thank you for sharing, Jenny. A little left field, but I’m using a lot of the ideas you’re talking about to help with developing a relationship with my horse. I need to free myself from thought and the fears of the past or future; it’s all about the here and now. I’ve just discovered this blog and will be stopping by more. 🙂

  • Jenny

    Thanks for your message and best of luck to you!

    And so happy you discovered tinybuddha – filled with great wisdom from all walks of life! 🙂

  • Jeevan/Mirthu/Gupt

    This was really insightful & helpful…Thank you for sharing! 🙂

  • Jenny

    Thank you!

  • Kim

    I am currently struggling with this. I cannot seem to let go of the past and am worrying about my future because of it. How to live in the present and let all that go? I have read books and hear what everyone says, but doing it is something completely different.

  • Jenny

    Hello Kim.

    You’re right – the doing is the hard part. And it is all easier said than done. When I was struggling hard with PTSD it was very difficult for me to just ‘be’ where I was at the moment. Even if I wasn’t aware of it at times, I was always checking myself, telling stories about how to be safe, what to expect, etc. And none of those things were relevant to my current situations. But, despite therapy and help from friends/family, the big thing that pulled me through was just simply the going and the doing. Even if I didn’t know what I wanted – be it what to eat or following a dream – I found something each day. If I was washing dishes, I would do that and just that, wash dishes. If I was thinking about ‘becoming’ a writer I would ‘be’ a writer just in that moment… sit down and write something – not worrying about where it would take me. In then end… all those little ‘doings’ led me to where I am now. They also, over time, put me in the present instead of leaving me in the past. When feelings about your past pop up – feel them, let them be – but don’t let them stop you. You and your heart and mind are strong. So, let the feelings come up but take control and say, “I feel you, Past. But you’re not stopping me.” And go on then with your day.

    I wish you the best of luck during this hard time. I know it is VERY hard. Hang in there and seek out some help and support if you can. Give yourself credit for being YOU and stick with it – eventually the past will fade if you let it.

    Sending BIG HUGS!
    Jenny

  • Michael Johnson

    “We get caught up in our pasts because we did not allow ourselves to live those pasts when they were present.”

    I don’t believe it’s always because we didn’t allow ourselves to live in the moment – in other words, it’s not always a conscious choice.

    When we’re younger, we often don’t live in the moment because we lack the maturity to recognize the depth of the world around us. We’re driven by instincts, hormones and outside influences from authority figures. Self-awareness is a rare commodity among teenagers and early-20-somethings. This is how it’s always been. Consequently, many of our regrets stem from missed opportunities at this point in our lives. We carry those regrets into our 30s, 40s and even 50s. Due to the length of time we carry them, these regrets can often grow quite heavy.

    When we’re older, we often don’t live in the moment because we are distracted by the demands of daily life (work, spouse, kids, etc…) Self-awareness is available, but it requires a quiet mind to recognize present opportunities and engage in personal growth. This is somewhat ironic, since in our teens/20s we have plenty of time for self-reflection, but no self-awareness to take advantage of it. Whereas in our 30s, 40s and even 50s, we have plenty of self-awareness, but no time to take advantage of it.

  • Michael Johnson

    Another thought. If regrets from your teens and early-20s are growing heavier as the years go by, you must remember one thing – hindsight is *always* 20/20. In other words, the growing weight of your regrets is because you are looking at your past through the lens of the present. You are far more mature today than you were back then, so harshly judging your actions back then is completely unfair. You didn’t know any better! You are supposed to *learn* from bad experiences so you don’t make the same mistake again – you’re not supposed to feel regret for making the mistake in the first place. Such regret is, in reality, misplaced anger with yourself at not being as self-aware as you are now.

  • Jenny

    Yes Michael, you’re right. And so the saying, “Youth is wasted on the young.” This view point is certainly applicable to my case – I was in my 20’s when I experienced abuse and in my 30’s now reflecting.

    At the same time, the years and years I lived with PTSD did for sure teach me that, overall for me – what I take away is – be present – because then the past cannot haunt you because it has been lived.

    Thanks so much for your insightful comments!
    Take care. 🙂
    Jenny

  • Michael Johnson

    You are quite welcome – and correct. To combat the traditional “learn from experience” model, which is highly-inefficient, you must have a mentor (or parents) who is willing to take the time to teach you self-awareness long before you might discover it on your own. This is where the old master-apprentice/disciple model was very useful. Unfortunately, history teaches us that there were far more bad masters than there were good ones. If you’re lucky enough to have a mentor during your formative years and through your teens, you can often acquire the benefits of a lifetime’s worth of experience without having to personally go through it first hand.

    The past is just that – the past – and you can choose not to live there anymore. To accomplish this, the present must be a more appealing place to live.

  • Varia Aird

    I just did a paper for school about this same topic and ran into your blog. What an incredible blog!!!! One of my main points was making sure we share this concept with other people, and that’s exactly what’s happening. Taking on this mentality has been something I’ve been trying to do lately, and it’s been incredible the changes. It’s definitely not easy changing the way you think, but it all starts with having a new mentality.

  • Younger The Elder

    We find it hard to let go of the past because it was better back then.

  • Ronit Srivas

    I am very depressed. Whenever I think about my past I feel like these problem will come in future also, it happen with me in future also. My present is getting worse day by day. I always think about changing my present location. This is very frustrating for me. I have no one to guide me stand with me. Can anyone help me????

  • Kamila

    Jenny thank you alot i hope you keep writing in the future but for now live the present buy