Scott H Young

If Not Now, Then When?


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If not now, then when? Perhaps more importantly, why then and not now?

I’ve been thinking about those two questions a lot lately. I feel like most of the time answers to the second question are just a weak excuse. Someday isn’t better than today, often that someday is never.

The problem is worse for growth-minded people. When you see your life as successive waves of improvement, it’s easy to feel that tomorrow really will be a better time. You’ll have more money, freedom and wisdom. Why not wait until someday?

The Principle of Now

Given this problem, a good principle I’ve been suggested is to only expect the future to resemble the content of the present. If whatever you feel is important doesn’t exist in some form today, it won’t show up in the future.

Following this idea, the would-be entrepreneur should do something entrepreneurial—even if it’s impossible to start a full business yet. The future philanthropists should give a dollar or two to charity, even when they are broke. If you want to be passionately engaged in your work, you should find some element in your work that you can love today.

This rule of thumb won’t work in every case. Not all waiting is procrastination. Not all delays are delusions about future motivation. But it works enough of the time to combat the vice of “someday” that I think it’s a worthwhile principle.

Content Before Commitment

The principle doesn’t mean every project, goal and lifestyle you want to pursue should begin today. Sometimes that’s impossible. Sometimes trying to do so would be foolish.

Rather, the principle is a litmus test. If you hope to have something in your life someday, you should be able to have some piece of it in your life today. If the content of today doesn’t resemble your hoped-for future, you’re probably fooling yourself.

The idea is to not just act on your goals, but to live them in some small way right now.

The Difficulty in Beginning Today

Following this principle isn’t easy. Sometimes I feel I’m getting it right, making those small adjustments to my current life to hopefully create the seeds for larger change in the future. Other times I fail miserably.

One of my “someday” dreams is to work on a humanitarian project. To donate money and time to a cause I care about that has no personal benefit. But this has always been a “someday” task—something I’d start when I had greater income, more time or the right idea.

Sometimes I feel I’ve held up to my principle in this regard. I’ve volunteered as a fundraiser in the past and I donated money to the Haiti relief effort.

Other times I feel I’m a long way from reaching my standard.

Several months ago, as I was preoccupied with growing my business and living in France, I was speaking with my friend Maneesh, who was also growing an online business. Except he was also in India, building an NGO teaching kids how to use computers. Wait, had I just fallen into the trap of “someday”?

I’ve also had an idea for a novel in my head for the last couple years. But I’ve yet to set hand to keyboard in writing anything for it. There’s always something more practical or expedient I should be working on. But if not now, then when? I don’t have an answer to that question.

Like most of life’s worthwhile principles, making the content of today reflect the ambitions of tomorrow is far from easy.

Starting Early

Although I’ve failed to meet my standards in some places, I’ve also had successes using the principle of now. This blog, business and what will soon be my full-time career all started after posing a similar question to myself.

I was interested in personal development and had an interest in sharing my ideas about it. At the time though, I was hesitant to write anything. After all, I was only 17, had little life experience, zero writing experience and anything I could say would probably seem naive sometime in the future.

However, I couldn’t answer the question of “when” the someday I’d be ready would come. So I stopped waiting.

Of course, it started with content before commitment. I wanted to share my ideas, but being hesitant, I started by making a game (something I had more experience with at the time). Only later did I transition to doing writing exclusively.

Time will tell whether my early ramblings were half as profound as I’d hoped they were. But the results in my life, offering me a career, interesting friends and incredibly opportunities were certainly worth it.

When is Your Someday?

The answer to all of life’s problems isn’t to just get started. I think most of us can appreciate that. But when is the “someday” you plan to pursue? And are those ambitions of tomorrow justified by today?

Image courtesy of Nicki Varkevisser


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20 Responses to “If Not Now, Then When?”

  1. Stanley Lee says:

    Just came across this post while I was reading Steve Pavlina’s book. It sounds like an argument about living and accomplishing goals in the present moment (as past and future don’t exist). Personally, I set my “someday” goals far enough away that it’s a low-hanging fruit to catch, and adjust that timeline according to the realistic situation when I’m reviewing my performance. I may sound pretty critical or vague, that’s just my 2 cents.

  2. I think doing things in the now is very important. And sometimes even if you do want to do it in the now, the task can seem too big for you to even comprehend on where to start.

    Thats why its important to do focus doing things on the now and also chucking things down, so you can take a small action NOW that is alignment with your future goals.

    When we make an important commitment in our lives its important that we back this with immediate action. The bigger the action the more the commitment, but if you can chuck the actions into something very doable now, you are more likely to complete that action =)

    Love your post, great work!

  3. Al fred Hung says:

    Delay to future often because of feeling not ready now……
    and it is not clear what criteria for it to become ready enough……
    so one will wait forever……as the task looked too big and vague……

    maybe one of possible approach (related to one of ur previous excellent email) is “taskifying” your work……

  4. […] If Not Now, Then When? « Scott H Young. […]

  5. Chase says:

    Great post, Scott. I wasted most of my twenties waiting for this mythical “someday” when the stars would align just right to make my dreams come true. When I’d be out of debt. When I’d finally finish my degree. When I’d be able to buy a home. Why I’d get married. When I’d finally get time to be independently wealthy and have nothing to do all day but write brilliant novels and screenplays to astonish the world. I’ve only recently realized how detrimental this thinking was to my growth, and I’m scrambling to undo the damage I did making all those excuses in the name of “someday.”

    I think the hardest part about living in the now is just how fast the now goes by. You tell yourself you’ll just relax for 30 minutes and watch The Office and then suddenly it’s already next Thursday and you’re watching The Office again and somehow failed to do anything in the intervening seven days and you aren’t quite sure how that happened.

  6. Jen Gresham says:

    Interesting idea, Scott, and well worth integrating into my thinking. I especially resonated with the not making more time for community service, though I think a broadened perspective on what “service” is can help. For example, while I was working full time, I made it a central part of my work ethic to build morale and community where I worked. I took on a lot of mentoring that wasn’t required. It was Habitat for Humanity, but I do think it contributed to the greater good.

    The only difficulty is that I have lots of hopes and aspirations, but not enough time to make them all a part of my present. Do you suggest scaling back on the goals, or dividing my time into smaller bits? I think focus is a key to making progress, but I do agree that the tendency is for someday to turn into never.

  7. Scott Young says:

    Jen,

    I’m not sure. As I said, it’s just a rule of thumb. Obviously you can’t pursue every dream today–you have to start somewhere, prioritize and choose some over others.

    I think the heart of the principle is more about the way we live on a core level, than the specifics. So wanting to someday be a successful entrepreneur is about deciding what that means to you in a core way (creative thinking, initiative, etc.) and living that way in the present–even if your dream can’t be acted upon.

    On the idea of charity, it’s not whether I should always be working on a charitable project, but am I always living in a charitable way? Am I helping people around me? Am I making the selfless sacrifices I claim to admire?

    It’s easy to delude ourselves into thinking we’ll be happy, passionate, charitable, loved, etc. but are those fantasies grounded in the way you live right now?

  8. Scott,

    Many of have someday syndrome without realizing it. Looks like friend Maneesh has it right, doing something for his business as well doing good for others.

    One time, I was so focused my blog that I ignored one of the family member at the time, and I realized that I was putting priority on wrong thing! But we all make this mistake. How do you deal with it right now? You focused on business, personal, social goals? Sometimes there are no easy answers.

    Preeti

  9. Steven says:

    I think there is always something we can do NOW for a better tomorrow. At the same time, many of us have so many goals and aspirations that we need to let some sit on the backburner. We have a limited time on this Earth, so we can’t be too hard on ourselves for not doing everything we ever wanted.

    Good stuff!

  10. Kent Healy says:

    Again, great article Scott. Very good points to think about. I like to say, “There is never a perfect time, only some that are worse than others.” If we always revert to filling all of the time we have, then we best first selectively fill the vessel with the “big rocks” that reflect what we want most in/from life. For example, I write this from Providence, RI, but I am from Manhattan Beach, CA. I just booked a ticket and went.

    I always find myself saying “I can’t go now” and when I say this, I never go. Now, if I feel it’s the right thing to do, I act upon that feeling before too much analysis and sure enough, everything works out just fine. We have more time in life to do what we want most but we often confuse “can’t” with “won’t.”

    Another great source of inspiration on this topic is a poem by the great author/speaker/psychologist Dennis Waitley: Someday Isle.

    Good work Scott. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Ruslan says:

    Hey Scott,
    Thanks for motivating. I am 26 and I have not done nearly as much in life as I could if I lived according to principles you lay out here. I like your blog because I get the sense that you write honestly and realistically. I don’t like eloquent “motivational” rhetoric “you can fly if you believe” you get from some other sources.
    I will stay in touch with your blog
    Ruslan

  12. Nathan Clark says:

    Scott,

    This is a fantastic post. I hope some day I will be able to articulate my thoughts onto a page like you do. It’s funny that I just came across this blog yesterday, and saw this post today. I’ve been thinking about that very thing for quite awhile now, albeit not changing anything about my current situation.

    I tend to think that I will be able to pursue my goals later rather then now, and still have the same affect and desired outcome.

    Much like you, for instance, I would love to start a blog and have a sustainable income with it. Early in my college years I realized, through the encouragement and pushing of others, I had a skill for writing. I tend to think of myself as just a “normal person” without any skills, because of this I tend to waste my days.

    When I look at your blog, its focus, and the age you started it I am honestly astonished. The only thing I was interested in when I was 17 were females.

    At 21 right now I still haven’t made progress on my goals but they continue to haunt my thoughts. I hope I will be able to, as you say:

    “But when is the “someday” you plan to pursue? And are those ambitions of tomorrow justified by today?”

    Poetic, beautiful, and true.

  13. Scott Young says:

    Nathan,

    Perhaps if I had been better with women when I was 17, I wouldn’t have been thinking about starting a blog, either. ;)

  14. Niro says:

    Scott,

    This is an awesome post. It made me re-evaluate some of the things I’ve been procrastinating on.

    I agree it is a balance – you can’t have it all now but you can certainly start enjoying a little bit of the future you want starting today. For me, some of the things I’ve always wanted to is have a personal development based business, have more time off and be able to travel around the world regularly.

    However, rather than wait until ‘the time was right’, I started in a small way.
    – I started my blog http://www.undergroundsuccess.com which I thoroughly enjoy updating
    – I scheduled time off to read
    – I set a goal of taking at least one small holiday every year… that’s now become at least one if not two overseas holidays per year which is brilliant.

    However, I have never actually looked at this the way you did in your post. It’s made me look at other parts of my life that I’ve put off and see where I can bring my future into the present.

    Thanks so much,

    Cheers, Niro

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  17. Vlad Dolezal says:

    I find that some of my “someday” goals are a matter of “Okay, I need x, y and z before I can do this. How do I go about getting those as efficiently as possible?”

    Then there’s of course the “forever delayed” type. Thankfully, I’ve recently started taking specific action on some of the goals that have always just been “someday” for me!

  18. Great post. Thanks for this! Obviously, over-thinking is the ego’s attempt to delay taking a risk.

  19. R. Amin says:

    The past is an experience, the present is an experiment and the future is an expectation. So we can use our experiences in every experiment to achive our expectation. The moment of best use of experiences is the present not deffering for the future unknown to us.

  20. ALFRED says:

    Excellent topic.
    I have for years been fighting bad dreams of being lost and incapable. I finally realized that instead of seeking psychoanalysis, I needed self-help, such as the ideas offered in this blog. I knew that my dreams arose from my 7 year-old subconscious, which is when these ideas of incompetence were planted in my mind, and that I had to change this elemental core of my mentality. I attacked with autosuggestion and self-hypnosis, however these petered out.
    That was when I hit on the idea of NOW as a means of day-to-day control and consistency of my efforts in order to beat the bad dreams and succeed. I went to the internet to search for “Principle of Now” and was surprised at the size of the database on this topic, chief among them this blog.
    NOW and it’s principles of awareness, memory, and control of one’s life are I think the way to beat a lifetime of 7 year-old nightmares and arrive at sanctuary.
    I am now using what I learned of autosuggestion to implement the NOW program. I have written up my scripts and affirmations and have these read to me throughout the day using a free text-to-speech converter, DeskBot. I had my TV service disconnected, very important. If anything bad happens, I use EMDR to neutralize and reverse any bad effects just as the Senoi Indians taught their young to vanquish dream monsters and extract a gift. This is a dream NOW concept.

Debate is fine, flaming is not. Pretend that this comment form is a discussion taking place in my house. That means I enjoy constructive criticism and polite suggestions. Personal attacks, insults and all-purpose nastiness will be removed especially if it is directed at other readers.

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