"Life is very short and anxious for those who..." A Powerful Quote & 3 Questions To Ask Yourself
In this powerful quote by the great Roman Stoic philosopher, Seneca,
“Life is very short and anxious for those who forget the past, neglect the present, and fear the future.”
you can find 3 useful questions to ask yourself. These questions will provide you with some insight into your own thoughts, decision-making processes, fears, and habits. As you work through these questions, you will see that they all tie into each other. Your past, present, and future are all connected and your feelings towards each of them will inform your thoughts about them.
1) What from my past am I forgetting?
The past can be both useful and burdensome, depending on how we look at it now. We may sometimes try to forget our past failures or mistakes. In trying to forget something uncomfortable or negative about our past, we may unintentionally be forgetting something positive as well. For example past successes or times in our past when we overcame the negative things we experienced. To truly start moving past these memories or experiences we should examine them for any lessons that we can take from them. These lessons could help you now or even tomorrow.
2) What am I neglecting in the present?
Is there something in your life right now that you are ignoring? Maybe a pain in your lower back, or your mental or spiritual health? Are there people in your life that might be feeling neglected? Are you really being present with whatever you are experiencing right now?
I think we’ve all felt this to some extent while we’re working or spending time with family or on a hobby. Some feeling or thought keeps gnawing at us that takes us out of the present moment. This is where asking yourself the previous and the next question can be useful. Is that feeling or thought coming from a past experience that we haven’t taken the time to process or is it a concern that we have about the future; something that hasn’t ever happened to us yet?
3) What about the future scares me?
I’m not a therapist or a philosopher, but from my readings about anxiety and feelings of worry, both therapists and philosophers allude to how both of these feelings can come from a place of fear of what might happen to us in the future; immediate or distant.
Ask yourself about future outcomes that scare you. Examine those fears, how rational and likely are they? Then re-examine your answers to questions 1 & 2. These fears may be derived from your past and your past successes may give you some strength to face these fears. Some of the things that you’re neglecting or putting off in the present could help you address some of the fears that you have about the future.
Ultimately these questions will lead you to more questions. That is a good thing, nowadays we don’t get a lot of quality time to examine our thoughts, decision-making processes, and fears. Start here with this exercise and see where it takes you. If it brings up some deeply uncomfortable feelings or you find this really difficult, consider working with a mental health professional. There’s no shame in asking for help.