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Time to Think about the Future—Really


We’re told to live in the moment, but if you don’t use some of them planning for the future, what will happen to you down the road? I don’t mean for you to worry which is not planning. I’m talking about realistically thinking about how your life will be 10, 20 or 40 years if you continue on your same path and don’t move healthfully forward. Specifically, what will middle or old age be like if you don’t change habits or face fears?

My client Grant , 41, was perfectly comfortable living at home with his elderly father. Grant worked part-time, had no health benefits and prided himself in spending his time as he wished. When his father, who had Medicare and social security, had a heart attack and needed more care than he could afford, Grant had no savings to help out. Although he had a college degree in political science and we’d often discuss his getting a full-time job, he kept putting it off. When his father died and Grant couldn’t afford to live in the house he grew up in, he was out on the street with nowhere to go.

Another client, Babette, 53, swung back and forth between working for a home health agency and starting her own business. She’d leave jobs with the vague intent of starting one, falter, and scramble to find another job. In the meantime, she was getting older and refused to talk about what her financial future might hold. The subject made her so uneasy she changed it whenever I raised it, all the while becoming more and more depressed. Eventually she left therapy and I don’t know what became of her.

Yet another client, Tawnette, 37, was at a very high weight and had compromised health. I tried to interest her in several intuitive eating programs, but she always found a reason not to join them. Nor would she exercise. She also drank heavily and her labs were starting to show a problem with her liver. Again, I tried to interest her in addiction groups and programs, but she refused to go, saying she’d cut back on drinking and she did, but it was already too little too late. She worked as a bank teller, but her inability to stand for hours on end and frequent hangovers made it difficult to do her job. 

Part of these clients’ reluctance to think about the future is what also causes eating problems and other unhealthy behaviors: impulsivity, the desire to avoid uncomfortable feelings, and denial of negative consequences stemming from current actions. Facing fears is difficult for sure, but I fear for you if you’re not able to push or drag yourselves into thinking realistically about your future and making plans for it. You can start by considering that the future starts now, today, this minute, and taking one step right this second that will give you a chance for a better life.