It seems that these rather difficult and turbulent times make people more conscious of their past, present and future. At least this is what I have been observing when communicating with my family members, friends and colleagues in Finland and abroad. Lately many of them have undergone unexpected changes, major difficulties and sudden losses, and are now reflecting on what all that possibly means to them as well as how that influences their daily lives now and eventually redirects their paths in the future. Some of them keep saying that there is hardly any sense in life anymore, while some others remain rather optimistic regardless of their miserable experiences and rough circumstances.
Common to all these people is the simple need to understand what happened and why things went the way they did. Often these ponderings and wonderings come together with questions and concerns about “should I have done something differently to avoid this to happen” or “why on earth did I not see this coming”. In many cases – luckily so – once people get over the worst and the most acute phase passes, they usually try to learn from their experience and see a deeper meaning in their everyday lives. But sometimes people are in denial and have difficulties in admitting that they actually might have contributed to the negative developments themselves or the shock of the loss might be so tragic and dramatic that they cannot mentally handle it right away, but need more time and even external support to process it.
We humans vary in our ability to tolerate uncertainty. Therefore some people wish that they would know beforehand what the future holds for them. Knowing tomorrow’s news today would allow us to plan our lives ahead with a minimal level of uncertainty. But dealing with uncertainty – sometimes even with unusuality and unexpectancy – is an unavoidable part of daily life. No matter how great control freaks we may be, we can never ever have a complete control of all the developments unfolding in the world around us. We simply have to accept that it is fully normal to be a little uncomfortable with uncertainty, yet the positive aspect is that we can always develop mental and practical methods to be better able to cope with it.
Future consciousness is part of our awareness of time and it comprises the normal human abilities to anticipate and imagine the future, to have expectations towards the future as well as to define goals for the future. However, in our efforts to minimize the inconvenience caused by uncertainty, we should neither fall into the illusionary trap and think that the future can be predicted based on the past (i.e. if the past was good to us, then the future has to be good as well), nor should we fall into an imaginary wishful dream world either and pretend that we are so well protected – especially in the western world – that nothing bad can happen to us in the future. Life is not made like that.
But while thinking about the future, it is always good to remember where we are coming from. In today’s world planning ahead, evaluating different choices and possibilities, creating a positive vision for one’s own life, clarifying one’s own motives, beliefs, feelings and attitudes about tomorrow is crucial. Facing the future calls for endurance, persistence and adaptability as well as tolerance of uncertainty and most importantly acceptance of one’s own past with its goods and evils.