Start Now

As I have mentioned before, I enjoy spending my spare time reading about how I can become the best version of myself, and implementing some of the lessons I have learned. I enjoy practicing being a better version of myself because life is short, and spending some time upfront to correct habits and build new ones will allow me to better use the time that I have in my life. In doing all of my reading and practicing, I have discovered one issue which I am currently reflecting on: why we always put things off until tomorrow. If I were to ask most people “do you want to stop watching so much television”, the answer would be “yes”. If I were to ask those people “okay, so turn the television off now and get started today”, the answer would be “maybe tomorrow”. Everyone is guilty of putting something off until tomorrow — we don’t want to spend the time we have now doing something that may not provide us with immediate job.

Tomorrow is one of the most dangerous words in the English language. There are a few variations which I would like to cover. The first is when we try to put something off until the next day because we are “busy”. In most cases, we can likely make a few minutes of our schedule free to do something today, even if we are busy. Being busy is an illusion, and you don’t get any points for working all day. You get points for being productive, and yielding an output. If you are always saying that you will do something tomorrow because you are busy, then you will likely put that same task off when tomorrow comes, justifying it with the same excuse. The second variation of using the word “tomorrow” is when we don’t have the energy to do something. We say that we will do something tomorrow because it is undesirable, and then we either forget, or use the same excuse the next day — “I am out of energy”, or “I am tired”. This perpetuating cycle often leads to either the task not getting done, or being done poorly because you keep starting it and take a long time to finish.

The danger in using the word tomorrow is not just because it is easy to justify your doing something that is not in your short-term interests by saying that you will do it tomorrow, but because it occupies the mind until you have finished. Let’s say that someone wanted you to write an blog post today at work for the company blog. If you said that you would do it tomorrow, you would likely be able to wait that long. However, the thought of writing that blog post will be in your mind until you finish writing the post. We can never achieve a mental state of peace when there are commitments in the future that we have to worry about, which could have already been completed today. Delaying tasks until tomorrow can cause a lot of worry, and indeed, can cause many things to not get done.

The word tomorrow means the next day — not today. And in the moment it can seem easy for us to say that we will do something tomorrow — tomorrow is not now, and we may think that things will change. However, tomorrow is merely an excuse — it is an invention. Tomorrow does not exist. If we are always committing to doing something the next day, then circumstances may change and we may find it more difficult to do that simple task — perhaps we are busy, or out of office. We use the word tomorrow as if it exonerates us from doing anything difficult. The truth is, however, that tomorrow is not a good excuse. We don’t get rewarded for thinking about doing something, but rather actually doing something. Therefore, we should be committing to doing something today: when we can actually make a change.

Epictetus, the Stoic philosopher, famously said “How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?” Epictetus is implicitly warning us of the fact that we are always putting something off until the next day, and waiting until we can be our best selves. The problem is that tomorrow is an illusion, and we have no idea what is going to happen. So delaying something until the next day is not a solution — it is a deferment. We should not be waiting until tomorrow to implement something that will help us. Let’s use the example of watching television again. Many people who are trying to stop watching so much television will say “I will start tomorrow” — this gives them a temporary deferment and allows them to sate their short-term desires. That is an excuse, however. The correct strategy would be to turn off the television in the moment — today. If we do that, then tomorrow we can wake up with less of a desire to watch television because the previous day we demonstrated that we don’t need to watch television to be happy.

The same thing applies to self improvement. If you want to be the best version of your self, you do not say that you will start tomorrow. You say that you will start today. If you want to be more frugal, then you can get started toward implementing that virtue right now. Go through your accounting, look at how much money you spend, and cancel any subscriptions you do not need. If you start today, it is going to be easier to continue practicing that value tomorrow, because you already have a track record on which to look back. As we continue to make the commitment to do something today — right now — then we will start to realize that we can improve ourselves at any time in our life. Every moment is an opportunity for you to become a better version of your self. Every moment can be used to practice a virtue you want to adopt. Saying that you will be better tomorrow will do nothing to help; being better today is the solution.

We treat self improvement — and curbing our desires — as if it is a homework assignment that we have time to complete. However, life is short, and the sooner we internalize that fact, the easier it is for us to make immediate changes. When I try to cultivate a new value, I always ask myself the question “Would the best version of my self do this?” in any given situation. If the answer is no, I try to refrain from doing that thing. I understand that the amount of time I have is limited, and so spending a little time upfront removing the things that add no value to my life is valuable, and also compounds over time.

The game of life is being played right now, and every decision you make in the moment is a vote for the person you want to be. If you want to be a reader, buy a book and read five pages today. Then try to read five pages at the same time tomorrow. Then keep going and doing the same thing over until you are ready to read ten pages, and so on. You are what you do. If you read a book a week, you are a reader. If you watch four hours of television each day, you are a television viewer. If you practice frugality every day, you are a frugal person. Make positive changes every day, and don’t let tomorrow be an excuse. The best thing you can do to be the best version of your self is to start making changes now.

Start now. Make positive changes. Don’t delay until tomorrow; embrace today.