This month Douglas Holwerda, American trained and licensed mental health counsellor, talks about making decisions and prioritising for the future


Dear Douglas,

I can’t seem to make decisions. Everyone says, “live in the present”, “seize the day”, “go with the flow”, which I have been doing since graduating from University 10 years ago. Now I see my friends back home settling down with wives and kids and I feel like the things that were fun for me — travelling, partying and meeting new people — don’t seem to give me the pleasure they once did. I feel stuck in Hanoi and hear myself complaining and feeling bored. But when I think of what to do next, nothing sounds good to me. I don’t want to go back home. So I am just floating along, undecided.

— Blind to the Future


Dear Blind to the Future,


I hear a lot from people who feel uncertainty about themselves and where their life is going. Travelling and living abroad can serve to expand who we are, but it can also create confusion about what we want and where we belong. It can also, for some of us, be a way of avoiding or escaping aspects of life we ultimately need to face. Maybe the feelings you are experiencing are telling you it is time to explore and understand yourself better.


I am also someone who is likely to say, “Live in the present”, but it can’t really be done if it is simply a way to avoid aspects of ourselves. Another way to say that is that it also includes listening to the feelings that are telling you, in the present, to pay attention to yourself. You have a negative outlook and are bored. It sounds like the right time to thoughtfully reflect on the life you are living and whether it is in line with the person you are (or want to be).


We all have the need to discover what gives our lives meaning, or, at least, tell us what it means to be true to ourselves. Travelling, partying and meeting new people was congruent with who you were (a chapter in your life), but now you are needing to look a little deeper and work out your priorities — the next chapter. Your friends have partners and children. We all face decisions to partner and have children or not. It sounds like you are wondering if this is something that you want for yourself. Or maybe not. We can easily feel a dissonance or a disconnect when what we see as our future is not in line with the way we are living now.


The challenge for all of us is not about planning the future…it is about being certain that we are living congruently with our priorities in the present, and listening to what our inner wisdom is telling us. The future takes care of itself. Sometimes psychotherapy is helpful in that kind of exploration. It can look at what is unresolved, issues from the past that linger in the subconscious and keep us from our natural growth and development. It can also update us to those things that have become our new priorities. We see life differently as we age and it requires us to adjust our perspective and to rearrange our priorities. My guess is that you are just ready for some thoughtful introspection — a chance to meet yourself in the next chapter of life.

I wish you well,


— Douglas


Do you have a question you would like Douglas’s help with? You can email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Personal details will not be printed

Douglas Holwerda

Douglas is an American trained psychotherapist, writer of the Dear Abby-esque monthly column in the Word, "Dear Douglas". He holds to the notion that the living of life is a creative endeavour... an eternal adventure without promises. And that we are both shaped by the journey and the shapers of what is possible. Our greatest hope is to find love and connection along the way. Live it all.

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