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You don’t need to have it all figured out

1 Apr 2024

As someone who grew up with an anxious temperament, I was always hyper aware of potential outcomes, constantly steeling myself for the worst case scenarios.

I was a fearful planner. I thought I needed to know exactly what was going to happen and how it could go wrong, so I could be prepared.

I thought I needed to make sure everything was exactly right before taking action.

The result was that I never took action.

Projects were started with genuine excitement, but immediately abandoned because I couldn’t see how they would work. Or I’d imagine that they could become a burden. I was afraid of failure of not only the project, but failure as a person. Eventually I gave up on starting projects too because of the overwhelm that I knew was coming.

Something changed when I began to pay attention to the present.

I saw more clearly that the future only really exists in a thought, but that thought is happening right here and now. I saw that the future is wildly unknowable. The mind thinks it can predict the future, but only because it brings a false sense of security.

The way life turned out was like none of my predictions. All the preparation and worry was for nothing.

I realised that my fear about the future was always fear happening in the present. Fear that just wanted to be seen, held, and appreciated, now, without any interpretations. The fear ran deeper than any individual scenario happening in my life, it came from a belief that I was profoundly unsafe. That things never went right for me. This fear only ever wanted to be seen here and now, but I had been avoiding that by putting the problems in the future.

You don’t need to have it all figured out. You don’t need to know how it’s going to go. Life is a constant process of learning and discovery. By holding to a rigid idea of how things will play out we close ourselves to that discovery. It’s more fun to live life as if it’s all one endless surprise.

In this way life becomes the exhilarating moment between diving off the edge of the pool and entering the freezing water. The utter powerlessness and absolute freedom of knowing you can’t do anything to stop what’s coming. Boldly dive in. You’re standing on the edge shivering in the wind anyway. Enjoy the fear of the jump, the freefall, and the cold water, and there’s nothing left to worry about.

Trust your future self to deal with what you need to deal with when you need to deal with it. That’s all any of us are doing anyway. The rest is just imagination.

We must be willing to get rid of the life we’ve planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us

The old skin has to be shed before the new one can come.

If we fix on the old, we get stuck. When we hang onto any form, we are in danger of putrefaction.

Hell is life drying up.

— Joseph Campbell

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Jordan West

Sydney, Australia

jordan [at] west.io | twitter | github | youtube | instagram