Major sources of noise in many people's lives are both regret for past 'failings' and lack of agency over what will happen in the future. In short, we are depressed about the past and anxious about the future.
Paul Conti, a renowned psychiatrist and author, recently mentioned something on a podcast that can help us reconcile both of these sources of noise: to be genuinely grateful for our past, both the ups and downs, and to believe that we have agency over what happens in the future (i.e., a growth mindset).
The Past: Gratitude vs. Regret
Regrets are very difficult to reframe. We can intellectualize that our past missteps helped us grow, but truly believing this and trusting that such growth was worth it is the hard part. But the beauty of our missteps is that the bigger they are, the more impact they will leave. The impressions they leave on us will result in a commensurate amount of growth in the future. Growth is guaranteed! So, all we need to do is trust and believe.
This doesn’t mean forcing ourselves to move on too quickly from hardships. They need the requisite amount of reflection for the lessons to be understood and integrated. Whether that's five minutes or two weeks, provide the space, then, when you're done, move on. The lasting imprint on your consciousness will take care of the rest.
The Future: Agency vs. Learned Helplessness
Feeling like we have agency over our lives is about believing that we have influence over how things will turn out. Once you believe, you can focus on the nudges—the smallest measurable actions—that will get you where you want to go.
We have a surprising amount of agency if we choose to take action. Start small and start with the obvious. Just make one change that you can build upon for the next change, and so on. We've all been taught that compounding is powerful. Now let's use that for something other than our bank accounts.
The power of now begins with clear guidelines on how we frame the past and envision the future. Only then can we be fully present without the needless noise from depression and anxiety.
And as always, when in doubt… Pause, Breathe, and Quiet the Noise.