One Day at a Time

By Sarah Scarisbrick-RoweJuly 27, 2015

We’re all familiar with fear. It doesn’t matter if it is fear of a person, a thing, or simply the shapes we see in the dark. We all know what it is like to have our hearts pounding in our chests, to feel on edge and jumpy, ready to run or hide. But what do we do when what we fear is something from which we can neither run nor hide? How do we cope when we are afraid of the future?

I can remember when I started my first full-time job and moved into a flat of my own. Suddenly I had to think about grown-up things like pensions and planning for my future. I needed to look ahead and work out in which direction I wanted my life to move; I needed to think about my career, my hopes, and my dreams. I’d graduated to the adult world, and I didn’t feel equipped for it. The future looked vast and scary, filled with uncertainty. I wanted to pull the covers back over my head and hide from it.

Fear of the future can leave us paralyzed, too scared to work toward what we want. It can stop us from chasing our dreams for fear of the day when we may fail. We can get stuck in a present we don’t want if we’re too afraid of where change may lead us.

It can be hard for us to appreciate the life we’re living now when we’re anxious about the future. We can become dissatisfied with our job when we imagine what it would be like to still be there in ten years. We can miss enjoying the freedom of being single because we fear it will always be this way. We can be distracted from cherishing times with our friends and family when we focus on the change that may be on the horizon. Fear and worry steal our peace and leave us torn, unable to face the future but not rooted in the present.

One of the challenging things about the future is how unpredictable it is. We don’t know what it will hold, what circumstances will come our way or how our lives will shift and alter. When we get scared, we imagine the worst. We think of the most difficult times in our life playing on repeat, year after year. We rarely take into account all the wonderful things that will happen to us: the amazing people we will meet, the opportunities that will come our way, and the times of laughter and celebration.

The truth is the future will be made up of good days and bad days. There will be times of joy and contentment but also times that are difficult. It’s these contrasting experiences that give life its richness. They shape and mould us, providing fresh opportunities to learn and grow. They build character and give us the tools and insight to help others.

But we won’t be alone. There will always be people we can lean on for support when times are hard. There will be people we can face the future with, giving each other courage when our own waivers. Whatever comes our way, it will never be more than we can handle with the help and support of others.

Some days the future can stretch before us. We can see year after year of time looming over us, clouded with doubt and difficulty. It’s no wonder we can feel afraid and overwhelmed. If the years ahead feel like too much, then it’s time to break it down. The future is made up of years and decades, but it is also made up of minutes and hours. We may not know where we will be next year, but maybe we can make a good guess at what the next minute will hold.

Sometimes the future needs to be faced in small increments. It’s OK to take it one day at a time, minute-by-minute or hour-by-hour. What matters is that we keep moving forward.

Let’s not be so preoccupied with the future that we miss the beauty of today. Perhaps it’s time to take a deep breath and notice what’s happening around us. Perhaps it’s time to feel the air fill our lungs and appreciate what it is to be alive. Let’s stop and celebrate the good times or find those golden moments within darker days. The future is yet to be discovered, but the present will always be ours to explore.

If you find yourself feeling afraid of the future, know that you’re not alone. We all get scared sometimes. While the future may feel huge and unpredictable, you can choose how you write the next chapter of your story. And you can do it one day at a time.

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Comments (10)

  1. Alyson

    I have a ring my mom gave me a few years ago, engraved is written “one day at a time”. Looking at it each day for one year got me through some of my darkest days! Whenever I get anxious I just replay the phrase over and over in my head. “One day at a time”

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  2. Leonie

    When I was younger, I struggled with the same fear. I have to remind myself that if I do the best I can, I can never be mad at myself if I fail. I do the best I can and that’s enough! If I still fail, it is just too hard to get. And it doesn’t matter. At least, I’m proud that I tried :). (Otherwise you’ll stay in a doubt with a ‘what if I tried..’)

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  3. Heather

    Perfect timing on this post, just what I needed to read today. THANK YOU!!!

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  4. Allison

    All of this describes me “to a T.” About 99% of the time I feel completely alone, isolated, distanced, and detached. After reading this, I felt a little less alone. Thank you.

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  5. Angie

    Thank you for writing this. It’s really what I needed to read. I’m 15 yrs. old and the future of my education is looming faster than I want it to…I have to figure out if I want to take the PSAT, what I want to study in college, where I want to go for college….and it doesn’t help that my mom and sister are putting so much pressure on me. I’m a grade above what I should be so my sister is always saying how I should enroll in college early and graduate by the time I’m 19 or whatever and get a PhD….and I tell her I don’t want a PhD, I’m not her child prodigy and she freaks out on me saying hurtful things that makes me wonder, “Gosh, maybe I’m not smart enough to do anything in life. Why am I so stupid?” It’s driving me crazy. And I’m trying to (secretly) get past self-harming and suicidal thoughts, so when I get pressured I have to stop myself from doing something crazy and it’s so hard. Ugh.
    So yes, this post has reminded me to hang on and not freak out about the future.

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    1. Claire Biggs

      Hi Angie,

      Thanks for your comment. We’re glad that this blog post was exactly what you needed to read during this time in your life. We saw your comment, and we want to reach out to see how you’re doing. It sounds like you’re struggling with self-harm and suicidal thoughts. Is that still a struggle you’re dealing with right now? If so, we encourage you to reach out for help. We’d be happy to provide resources and encouragement; if that’s something you’d like, please email us at please know you don’t have to struggle (or try to get past your struggles) alone. There are people who want to and can support you. We believe in you and your story, Angie. Please reach out for help.

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  6. Anon

    Beautifully written Sarah. The beauty around us in the present can be missed by our preoccupations with the future.

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  7. Byron

    Keep that positive attitude and jump into the world with 2 feet. Be a leader don’t follow others will follow you.

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  8. Emily

    I definitely needed this today. Focusing on the future comes as second nature to me and my anxiety kills when I realize all the small things I need to do now. Thanks for the reminder.

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  9. Corey Ann

    This popped up in my Facebook memories today. I don’t remember exactly what I was feeling or thinking when I shared it. I remember that it was a scary and exciting time. I had just announced that I leaving my job to return to school, and the future felt big, unknown and terrifying. Whatever my prediction of the future was that day is extremely different from what has actually occurred. There were many unforeseen downs and ups (and downs) this past year. However, I am in school working towards my goals and making new dreams.
    Reading this article again was a nice reminder that I need to stop choking on my fears, and stop worrying all time about the future. The future doesn’t like to happen exactly as planned. The important part is taking the steps towards the future, and enjoying as many of those steps as possible.
    I wonder what another year will bring.. Time is a peculiar thing.

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