The forever burden

2019-11-27

Okay, so it’s hard, right? It’s hard to work out, or get up early, or not drink, or practice for the Olympics, or whatever terrifying ongoing burden you’re carrying right now. It’s hard and it never gets easier.

And it’s terrifying to look into the future and see an endless series of struggles stretching out ahead of you. To imagine the future and realize that it’s just never going to end.

The ability to picture an abstract future is uniquely human, which means it’s pretty recent in evolutionary terms and it doesn’t play well with the parts of your brain which feel things like terror. That’s why people have discovered that that sort of burden is a whole lot easier to deal with if you just focus on today.

Or even just the next ten minutes. The next thirty seconds. All you have to commit to is doing the next rep, cleaning the next dish, not having the next drink. Consciously stop worrying about everything that’s not happening soon. Your animal brain gets scared when the challenge feels big and imposing, but it understands how to deal with here and now. You can bargain it down to doing the right thing just one more time.