If not now, then when?

The allure of “Monday” and “tomorrow”

 

How often have you said to yourself, “I’ll start Monday”? If you’re anything like me, I imagine it’s a few. This habit of delaying work that needs to be done, putting off a challenging task, or giving up a poor behaviour can be like a drug in itself. On a Sunday afternoon, when you’re staring down a piece of chocolate cake or giant cheese board and know that really: you don’t need it, you’re not hungry, you’ll regret it almost immediately, you still choose to wolf down any remaining remnants, telling yourself, “I’ll start the diet Monday…” 

 

Now, this habit need not be about food, this is just an easy example that many can relate to (I know I can). This narrative of starting at some point in the future in whatever you want to do or need to do can involve a myriad of things. Another common example for myself, “I’ll start working on my side hustle tomorrow, I’m feeling really tired today after a full day at work and I deserve to just crash out to Netflix.” Now, there is nothing necessarily wrong with this in principle. The problem is, “tomorrow” never actually comes.  The next day, which is “tomorrow” to my past self, is now “present day” to my current self, and guess what. I don’t want to start today. I want to start tomorrow. And so the cycle of “starting tomorrow” or “I’ll start Monday” continues.

 

There is a distinct allure to this behaviour. In the moment when you are telling yourself that you’ll start tomorrow, or Monday, or next week, or whatever future point you’re choosing, there is pleasure in the narrative that you believe you will start whole heartedly on the endeavour in the future, but right now you deserve to rest, scroll social media, eat, or whatever your procrastination activity of choice is. I have often found myself feeling rather pleased with myself, scoffing a bag of pick and mix, whilst in my head I’m telling myself how I’ll be “super strict” after, and “no more sweets again!”

 

The reality is, these mindsets of starting our plans at some point in the future are never helpful. And in my experience at least, rarely boil down to me completing the plan at the designated future point.

 

The narrative of starting in the future is alluring because it becomes a “future you” problem, and because you’re “current you”, current you doesn’t have to worry about it!

 

Here’s the thing. There is no future you. You are never “future you”. You are just “current you” at a time further into the future. Mind boggling right? So what does this mean if “future you” never really exists?

 

 

The lie of our “future selves”

 

Now, I know what you’re thinking, of course there is a “future me” – future me is who I am tomorrow, or in a week or month’s time. The issue with believing in a “future version” of ourselves is that at any point in our lives, the only person we are inhabiting at any given moment is our “current selves”. We can only ever experience the present moment. We can reminisce about the past and day dream about the future, but we’re never “in” those moments. We are only ever in the present. So, it has to be “current you” that takes action, not “future you”.

 

I can tell myself all sorts of stories about “future me” (and believe me I have done). Future me is super organised, she meal preps regularly so is only ever eating healthily, writes every day, works on her side hustle for two hours a night, and still manages to fit in the gym, full-time job and family life. Future me sounds like an utter superhero. But future me doesn’t exist. It is current me, in each passing moment that has to make decisions, take action, and to stop procrastinating.

 

This can be a challenging concept to get your head around. Mostly because we don’t want to believe it due to how comfortable the narrative of “I’ll start tomorrow” and giving all our problems to our future selves is. The more we deny this reality, that we’re only ever truly able to act in the present moment, the more resistance we put up to making the changes we want to see.

 

However, the moment you start to accept that it is current you that has to take action, you realise how urgent the action you need to take is.

 

Urgent Action…

 

Tacking action in the moment is what I call “urgent action”. It’s “urgent” because you don’t wait until tomorrow, next week, or the new year to start. It’s important to note that the action you take does not need to be huge or dramatic. You don’t need to sit and write your masterpiece in one sitting, or re-design the entirety of your website in one go. You simply need to take a small step towards your goal. This could be as small as writing out a list of all the tasks that you need to complete, prioritising them and setting a schedule to achieve them. It could be choosing not to have that extra biscuit or going for a short walk.

 

Small, consistent steps win the day when it comes to achieving your ambitions. By taking small steps on a regular basis, you build momentum, and momentum is your greatest friend. Newton’s law of motion states, “a body of motion will remain at rest, and a body in motion will remain in motion unless it is acted upon by an external force”. By procrastinating, putting off action, you are remaining “at rest”. The longer you stay at rest, the harder it is to get moving and therefore the more likely you are to stay doing nothing. Alternatively, small steps and actions get you moving, you start to build momentum, and that momentum is what will ultimately help you achieve your goals.

 

So, the next time you start telling yourself, “I’ll start tomorrow…”, notice the thought and instead remind yourself to take urgent action. Even if it is the tiniest step in the right direction. Get that momentum building, because if not now, then when?

 

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