Beyond Negativity and Aimlessness
5 mins read
The Mental Traps
Many of us get caught up thinking about past mistakes and worrying about future problems, which leads to negative thinking. This mindset can block our personal growth and stop us from seeing new chances that are right in front of us. On the other hand, some people are always daydreaming about a better future but don't take real steps to make it happen. Both of these ways of thinking don't help us grow or become happier. They actually hold us back
The Active States
The right approach, I believe, is to face our challenges directly and seek solutions; it's about taking control of our lives, rather than passively letting circumstances dictate our paths. Proactively shaping the future is crucial. This means envisioning our desired life and taking steps to bring that vision into reality. Whether it’s setting goals, acquiring new skills, or fostering meaningful relationships, it's about actively crafting our life's journey, not merely observing it from the sidelines. When we avoid the negative past thoughts and the aimless future thoughts, we find ourselves actively in the present, doing one of three things: either experiencing what you are in, solving the problem at hand, or creating the future you want.
We can focus on these active states, by first starting our days right. We owe it to ourselves to practice the Sunnah of freeing our mental state every morning from becoming trapped into obsessing over the past or fretting over the future. Every morning, after the Fajr prayer, Prophet Muhammad would pray saying, “My Lord, I seek refuge in You from worry and sorrow.” This is part of a longer supplication collected in Sahih al-Bukhari and narrated from Anas ibn Malik. The worry mentioned in the hadith is about the future, the sorrow is about the past. In essence, this has a lot of this has to do with what we believe we have control over and what we believe has control over us. Similar to this is what Allah tells us about those who would accuse the Prophet of being a poet, saying, “Or do they say [of you], ‘A poet for whom we await a misfortune of time?’” (al-Ṭūr, 52:30) The “misfortune of time” was what they would attribute their dreads and misfortunes to, while the good they experienced they would attribute to themselves. When the Prophet brought a message that broke this attitude, and instead attributed all fortune and misfortune to Allah command and decree, they instead attributed their misfortune to the Prophet as well, anything but abandoning their false beliefs and adhering to pure Tawhīd.
The believer, on the other hand, knows that all that befalls him was meant to him and willed into existence by Allah. Therefore they know their hands are not tied in the future, as the future does not exist. They are not condemned to be products of their past, as they’ve already passed that.
How to think about time and control
Think about it like this: You’re walking through a secure building where the foot traffic only flows one way. You walk through a door which locks behind you as soon as you walk through it. Regardless of what you did in that room, you can never enter that room again. The room ahead of you won’t open until the end of your shift, so while you know you will walk through that next door, some day, you don’t know what lies beyond it. Whatever is beyond that door is effectively non-existent, just as what lies behind the past door is, for all intents and purposes, non-existent. You can only deal with the room you are in. If you were to fall asleep while in the present room, you’d lose perception of all three rooms: the present, the past, the future rooms. So in reality, time is a conceptual tool. We don’t really experience time. We use what we perceive of time to manage the “now” that we live in. That leads us to the next part.
Immersing ourselves in the present
It is of immense importance to immerse ourselves in the present, after conditioning ourselves to not dwell on the past or fret about the future. It's about fully experiencing and appreciating the here and now, finding joy in everyday moments. Contemplate this statement of the Prophet, collected by al-Tirmidhi from Abdullah ibn Muḥṣin, “Whoever woke safe in his domicile, healthy in body, with enough food for the day, then it's as if the entire world and all that is in it had been gathered for him.”
The mindset imparted by this Ḥadīth helps us to lessen worries about what's to come and let go of past regrets. While we can and should think about the future we want for ourselves, there’s a difference between planning for that with what we have available now and not planning ahead, and simply daydreaming about the future, waiting for it to make it happen, then cursing time when it doesn’t.
By focusing on what’s immediate we are reminded to cherish life as it is, as it unfolds, to embrace its realities rather than get lost in what could be or obsessing over what should have been.
Interconnectivity of these states
These three states – problem-solving, creating the future, and living in the present – are all linked. Good problem-solving requires being aware of what's happening now. Also, to build a future we want, we need to deal with today's problems and use the chances we have right now. Being fully in the present helps us think clearly and stay calm, which is important for solving problems and making a better future.
The great thing about this idea is that it gives us power over our lives. It tells us that our lives are mostly shaped by what we choose to do. By focusing on solving problems, creating things, and really living in the moment, we can move away from negative thinking and just wishing for things. This way, we're really involved in shaping our lives, living each moment with purpose.
Applying the Active States
So where is all this leading? Let’s look at two examples related to our money. For example, budgeting often involves overcoming past financial mistakes and fears of future crises. If you focus too much on the past, you’ll continue doing what you’ve always done: over-saving and not putting your money to work for you, or overspending and imperiling your financial future. The solution lies in a problem-solving approach, such as cutting unnecessary expenses and saving for long-term goals like retirement or education. It's also vital to enjoy the present, balancing saving with spending on occasional leisure activities. This balanced approach helps manage past regrets and future uncertainties for a healthier financial life. So your active states here are either to guiltlessly enjoy the blessings you've been given (experience what you are in), figure out how to do so now or later (solving the problem at hand), or implement your financial plan to make now and then better (creating the future you want).
There are a number of other examples we could go into, like risk management while trading, deciding to trade or invest (big difference between the two), whether to work a corporate job or start your own business, as well as other things. Take some time to think about this framework and apply it to these examples or others that you may have in mind. By embracing the present while releasing past and future worries we unlock our potential for a fulfilling life. If we were to die on that day, we wouldn’t have any regrets as to what passed or what’s to come. This mindset not only enhances our personal and spiritual growth but also guides practical decisions. It leads to a balanced life of enjoyment and responsibility. Ultimately, this philosophy urges us to take charge of our lives, building a future based on current realities and our aspirations, creating a path that is realistic yet optimistic.
Join 7k+ Subscribe to my Newsletters
|Thank you for Signing Up
|Thank you for Signing Up