Anxiety is Planning. Happiness is Letting Go.
We live in a planning society.
And I think this contributes to our collective anxiety.
Compared to the lives of our ancestors, we live a life of total comfort--a life in which we now have the ability to choose the precise path that we want to take.
With this ability to choose--to plan--comes a life that is fraught with consequences.
What if I choose the wrong path?
How do I know that the actions I take now will make me happy in the future?
Everything needs to be planned, so say our minds. You see it in our ever-growing to-do lists. You see it on social media. It's everywhere.
Because we have so much possibility, we now have the possibility for more and more anxiety. Because Anxiety lies in the planning.
Thinking back on when I was a child, my anxiety was always at its worst when I was stuck in the planning fallacy. I thought that things had to be perfect. I thought the only way to get it all right, to be liked, and to do the right thing, at all times, was to be perfect. Now I know that perfection is a myth. It's something that is never attainable, nor should it be.
I know now that happiness can only ever be found in the present moment. It's when I'm not looking for it that I can ever truly be happy.
It's a rush of sunlight poking through the leaves on a crisp, fall day. It's a wayward breeze that brushes against my cheek as I'm walking to the library, mindlessly thinking about the book that I want to get.
Happiness is the opposite of planning.
We have more possibility than ever before. There are more roads to walk down, more paths to take, and more people to meet than ever before. Yet, rates of depression are soaring, and anxiety is sky-high as well.
Why, with so much luxury, do we feel as unhappy as we do? Why, when the world is available to us, does our heart race, our mind spin, and our vision narrow?
It all comes down to planning.
I've had to learn to get out of my head and into my heart.
But how do I do this?
I take walks. I take a moment to become conscious of my breath. The silliest things, the things I never thought I would catch myself saying, are the things that bring me the most joy now. Life is meant to be lived as a series of moments, one after another. We're supposed to be present in our lives.
How often do we walk across an open field in wonder? Our ancestors did it all the time. But not us. Not anymore.
Instead, we try to plan out our entire lives. We say to ourselves, I need to do this by this certain date and when I have achieved this, then I will be happy.
At the age of 21, I wrote in a journal what I wanted to be doing for the next 10 years of my life. I laugh now as I think of this foolishness.
How could I have possibly known what I wanted to do with my life the age of 21?
What kind of arrogance did I think I had to control the whimsical hand of fate?
I was stuck in the planning trap. I was stuck thinking that I knew better than my future self, even though I didn't know my future self at all.
Control. It's all I wanted when I was younger. I wanted control of my life to be taken away from my parents. I wanted to be successful. I wanted to be in control of creating that success.
Now that I'm older and wiser, I know that control is another one of those myths. It's a myth just like the planning myth.
Planning and control are dangerous siblings. And happiness has nothing to do with them.
Planning and control are youthful. Actually, they're sophomoric.
Happiness just waits for its moment, like a flower in the ground waiting to emerge from its slumber. Does it know it's a flower before it appears? It doesn't matter. When it shows up, the flower stands tall and proud, simply because it's being what it is.
And that's how happiness is as well. It doesn't to explain itself. It just exists.
It's odd. The more I just let things happen and relinquish control, the happier I seem to get.