You’ve been wanting to change something about you, your mindset or lifestyle, for what seems like forever. Deep inside you know that in order to take your health and happiness to the next level you need to cut back on late-night TV, your coffee, weed or wine consumption. Perhaps you're craving mind-expanding experiences in the form of trekking, learning Spanish or how to tango, all while making new friends? You tell yourself you'll get to it soon, usually “tomorrow”. Tomorrow you'll start feeding yourself the nourishment you crave.
But Tomorrow Never Comes…
“Tomorrow” takes various forms: next week, next year, when I have more time or money, the perfect partner, a place to myself, or when this project is all wrapped up. You get the idea. Somewhere in the future. But if you look back six months, a year or five from now, haven't you been waiting for that perfect time to act for a while already? What if every moment was a perfect moment to take action and it had been waiting for you to show up?
But you've been so future-oriented, so busy making lists about what you'll do when [fill in the blanks] that you've missed a most important fact: tomorrow never comes. When tomorrow comes, well, it's now. Hence, change is now or never. That’s what Mahatma Gandhi meant when he said “The future depends on what we do in the present.” In other words the choices you make today will create or transform your so-called future. “So-called” because when that future comes it will be a present experience. I know I’m repeating myself but there's no escaping that fact. On top of that, each now moment is a perfect expression, however imperfect it may feel subjectively, of all the choices you've made leading up to it, each one of them made in the now. Of course.
The Journey of a Thousand Miles Begins With One Step
Embedded in the “Tomorrow I'll change” mindset is another impediment to change, the belief that tomorrow I'll do this one thing and I'll be set. Yet most changes we aspire to make in our lives are rarely one action step away. Whether it's improving our diet, broadening our circle of friends or quit smoking, deep, lasting shifts often require a series of action steps, repeated over and over. As the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “The journey of 1000 miles begins with one step.” And I assure you, that one step you will not take “tomorrow.” (wink, wink). We're back where we started. Change is now or never.
To really grasp that there is no “tomorrow” is more uplifting than it sounds. It also means there is no past, and helps us realize that our power resides in the now, as explained so eloquently by Eckhart Tolle in his book The Power of Now. In the end, whatever you did or didn't do, only has so much power on your present that you confer to it. It’s a mind thing. We can all drop the past in an instant. Learn from it, yes. But schlepp it around? No thanks. The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurthi has spoken at length about psychological time, here’s an audio where he discusses the subject, Psychological Slaves to Time. Psychological time is a mental construct, and it can be discarded. When you do, new possibilities emerge. No longer bound by your past, it’s easy to re-orient your trajectory in a direction of your liking, however out of whack your current state of affairs. Each moment becomes an opportunity to create anew.
What's Your One Step Today?
I’ll share a personal example. Meditation is central to my well-being. I feel smarter, happier and all-around more together when I meditate regularly. Yet it doesn’t come easy! I have "failed” to meditate on many mornings (note, that feeling of failure only exists when I keep the past alive in my mind, through memory). Who cares. Every day I get a new chance. But if I am to get up early and rested enough to be able to sit, I need a good night sleep, and therefore need to arrange my evening schedule accordingly. So what’s my first step to develop the habit of morning meditation? Unwinding at a decent time the night before. The magic of such discipline, when we find it, is that it slowly creates a momentum that carries us forward effortlessly…for a while. The same happens for any new habit. At first it’s work, then it’s not. It all begins with one step, now.
What’s the change you’re longing for? What’s your one step?