Today Is Not Forever

 Photo by Sven Scheuermeier

Photo by Sven Scheuermeier

Today is not forever, but it does shape tomorrow like stacking dominos the way Gary Keller mentioned in his book, “The One Thing.”

You’ve probably asked yourself, what dominos can you stack today? What strategy can you use to build the future you want?

Maybe it's:

  • This job

  • This routine

  • This isolation

Why is it that one day can feel like forever?

There must be a better way to handle the day, to improve circumstances, and break the chains that a “day” can have on your future outlook.

It’s short-sided thinking that makes one day, week, or even a month, feel like eternity. The dialogue you have with yourself is the type of content that inspires you to sleep for days.

It might go something like this:

  • Will it be like this forever?

  • Nothing will get better because every day has been the same.

  • No change. No progress. Nothing matters.

In “ The One Thing,” the author suggests doing only the one thing that is most important to get you to your goals. It’s reducing the 80/20 rule further, and cutting out runner-ups on your todo list.

Your job, and it’s difficult, is to ask yourself what is the one thing you can do that would make everything better, that will get you closer to your goal.

What a hard question to answer...

I wish my attention and interests were more one-dimensional; there are some people who never stray from what they set out to do, and almost with supernatural powers, are able to accomplish fantastic things, while we wonder how they pulled it off.

Every day counts—you have responsibilities and choices to make—but it does not mean one future guaranteed over another. You can make good decisions and bad ones, but be no more blessed or cursed.

An accumulation of days is what makes a life, not a single day.

Days are dominos, but not a fatalistic end. Yes, there are windows of opportunity that you can maximize (which singular focus helps scout these opportunities), but if you miss the domino today, pick it up and place it tomorrow. There’s time to do it.

Time matters in the sense that it passes and effects us, but the time is less important.

Most of our dissatisfaction comes from comparing the ultimate result of what we want with our current situation (the gap of time is what separates them). They are nothing alike, which creates resentment, fear that it will never be, and influences what you think you can change with your actions today.  

I’m a very goal driven person, but comparing everything I do and have right now with my potential is the fastest way to fall into despair. It’s like standing at the base of a jagged mountain, looking up, seeing dragons and death at the top. It seems impossible to get to the top from here.

People say a lot of unhelpful things like, do whatever it takes, never surrender etc..

You might think I’m crazy for saying that these statements are unhelpful…

Here’s why—the concept is easy to understand but this type of thinking does not take into account the power of emotions. They are what drive us to make decisions and act, like Jonathan Haidt mentioned in his book, “The Happiness Hypothesis.” In studies conducted on patients who had damage to the front part of their brain, the orbitofrontal cortex, they lost their emotions. Interesting things started to happen.

They maintained their reasoning and logical abilities. One would think that they would be able to focus on their goals without emotional baggage, to accomplish more without the clutter that we manage on a daily basis.

The opposite happened though; the patients couldn't make any decision, not moved to act one way or the other.

The lesson here is that, for better or worse, it’s our emotions that prompt us to act, not some principle that we tell ourselves. Principles do not give us the energy to move, to act, or to decide. It’s the emotions behind them that make us what we are, and allows us to decide what to do next.

So, emotions are important after all!

Going back to cliche and practical sounding advice like, do whatever it takes and never surrender, we will only do whatever it takes if we have the will and faith to do it.

It seems like persistence is built out of the fabric of these cliche statements, but i’m sure you’ve experienced how quickly your attitude dries up when you don't get closer to your goal of scaling the mountain.

Phrases like this don’t take into account that our faith and willpower need to be restored every day. If we don’t, then we wouldn't have the energy to pick up the mantle again.

How do we restore it so that we can do whatever it takes, and focus on stacking our dominos?

It’s more important to focus deeper on a given day, almost like in a vacuum. Narrow down on it instead of bogging down on your ultimate goals.

Yes, have the goals, but don't let them drive you crazy, so much so, that what you accomplish in a day is nothing compared to what you have to do to get over those jagged cliffs.

We need to refuel our motivation. It’s our emotional drug that makes us act, like the gas pedal to our dreams. Telling yourself to just get over how you feel only works for so long. Eventually, we have to confront our disbelief in ourselves, and the lack of progress that is a stigma to our efforts. Talk about motivation…

Today is important, but it’s not a clear indication of what the future will look like. Even when you stack the deck in your favor, who can really be sure?

The best we can do is be proud of the work we do in a day, and not hold our happiness hostage because we are small in stature compared to the future self that burns bright in our soul.

What am I doing today? Right now? Does it have my full attention? Is my effort there?

The future in our mind, most of the time reprimanding our current self, is what harms our progress the most. That future may never be reality. That’s ok. We can still be something great.

It’s difficult to figure out the one thing that will get you to where you want to go, but there is transcendence in obliterating thoughts of the future, and giving the tasks at hand your full devotion, inspiration, and gratitude.

This is the way to restore your emotion, your faith, and willpower—to act in complete focus with the order of the day, and know that that is enough.

The result of your efforts will lay down dominos for your future, one way or another, but don’t think of the 1,000 pieces that you haven’t stacked. That is where the pain comes from. Instead, restore your willpower and faith in yourself by concentrating your power, every day.

Today is not forever, but it is the path to forever.