Having Something to Look Forward to is Crucial to Surviving Hard Times7 min read

I was thinking the other day about having something to look forward to.

What I realized was that it’s one of the things that can keep you sane. Especially during tough times.

In this article, I want to share with you some of my thoughts and why I believe this. And more importantly, I want to do that to help you push through hard times.

Keeping your sanity during tough times can be how you push through them.

But before we start, let’s clarify something.

I don’t mean to have something to look forward to in like 5 or 10 years into the future. Also, I don’t mean to have a clear vision for your future.

That can be nice if you have it.

However, I am talking about something a bit different.

Without something to look forward to, your current situation is permanent

And that’s scary if your current situation sucks.

That’s actually utterly frightening if you are in pain and are suffering.

Think about it.

If it’s bad and it will stay the same or just get worse, then it’s hell!

Some people might argue that you need to live in the moment and accept painful feelings without fighting them.

And that’s right. Fighting negative feelings is not good. Not living in the moment is exhausting.

But there’s a difference between ‘accepting the reality and the negative emotions’ and just ‘surrendering to the reality and the negativity in it’.

You have to live the painful feelings in your life. There’s no way around that. But that doesn’t mean you should accept them as your destiny.

Think of them as a place of reference rather than a place of residence. (I stole that from a famous quote.)

You are fully living them right now. You are mindfully here amid the pain and you wholeheartedly accept it. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that this is all you can be.

What gets people through tough times is both, their acceptance of the reality as it is and their mentality of having something to look forward to.

Without looking forward to something, you are just accepting the misery. And there’s no honor in misery.

There are benefits

It will make you move and accept the responsibility for getting yourself out of misery. And this is where honor is.

It will also give you some clarity and direction. You know where you are supposed to go. From there, it will help you use more of what you have and use what you have creatively.

Suffering makes sense only when it’s for a good reason.

Having something to look forward to in the midst of the suffering, and that can make the suffering worth it, can be life-saving.

So, all in all, it will not make life easier; it will make it worth it. It will make you do what it takes instead of giving up.

And as you take action and move closer to this thing, whatever it is, you will feel a sense of meaning and satisfaction, which will help you push more and create momentum that can get you through tough times.

Examples of good things to look forward to

They are goals, obviously!

But I believe that not all goals are created equally.

Goals efficiency depends on the values they are based on.

If the values are useful, authentic, strong, and growth-based, then they will breed goals that drive your life in useful, strong, and authentic ways. And help you grow.

If they are selfish, destructive, controlling, fake, and shallow, you will have goals that push your life in those directions. Goals that when you achieve them, you will get to experience more of the selfishness, destruction, and lack of authenticity. Not to mention emptiness.

Your values will determinate, to a great extent, what you will look forward to, a.k.a, your goals/milestones.

You can look forward to both of them. It will do the trick. But I want to give you more than the trick. I don’t think you want to reach what you are looking forward to and then feel emptier.

So, I will try to give you what I believe are goals that are based on good values in various contexts. This is important. I will be giving you situations and contexts.

But in the end, it’s worth investigating your own values and being honest with yourself, for every case is different.

Here are a few examples.

Now, they are goals but to some extent, they are also milestones.

  • Leaving the country to start a new job you have been preparing yourself for.
  • Learning some set of skills or finishing a course. You look forward to who you will become and how you will go about your life.
  • Starting a project/business that you are currently working on.
  • The opportunity of having the ability to travel the world.
  • Meeting someone you love after a long time.
  • Applying for a new job you are eager to have, and you are collecting the credentials you need.
  • Moving to a new place where you will be in a better, healthier environment.
  • Getting married/starting a family.

And so on.

I just have to mention that by looking towards those things I don’t mean sitting there hoping those things would happen.

In fact, ‘hope’ and ‘sitting still’ are totally different things.

We will talk about the idea of hope to illustrate this point.

So, how to find things to look forward to?

Two words: hope and values.

Let’s start with the latter, for you don’t want to chase an illusion.

When it comes to values, you need to examine them by yourself. You need to make sure your values are not terrible and selfish.

One fast way to do this is to look at how useful those values are to your life and to the life of those around you.

And I don’t mean ‘useful’ as something that will give you instant gratification. I am talking about things that are inherently useful in the long run. Even if they feel bad at the moment.

I may discuss this in a different article in detail.

Now, hope!

If you have a lot of things you can look forward to, but you believe you actually cannot get/reach those things, then you won’t be able to look towards them. How can you anticipate what can’t happen?

But hope is not an emotion. It’s a belief system and it’s a way of being and acting. It has nothing to do with what you are feeling.

It’s a belief system in the sense that you believe you are worth it, you are capable, and it’s your responsibility to act in a way that makes the probability of you having this thing higher.

And it’s a way of being and acting in the sense that you actually start moving towards what you hope for. You start moving regardless of how small your steps are or how you feel.

The act of doing something small consistently is what matters. It’s what will bring motivation and inspiration, which can accelerate how you move.

You create momentum by taking small actions. By doing this, you are telling your mind this is important for you. The rational parts of the mind, when enough momentum builds up, will believe it’s possible or at least worth the shot. And then your entire being is aligned to move down this road.

It’s now that it’s said you are in the state of looking forward to something. And that can be an antidote to the suffering around you because, no matter how hard it’s now, you have this thing which can justify getting up and doing something. That’s better than helplessly sitting there cursing the darkness, isn’t it?

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