MONDAY BEFORE TUESDAY
“The one thing we know about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”
“How am I going to keep this up?” I ask myself—and I’m on Day 2. Then I remind myself that it is Sunday. All I need to do today is write this piece. Tomorrow, I’ll write the next one. And the day after, the next one. That is how goals are achieved—you do what needs doing today, and you allow tomorrow to take care of itself. Of course, tomorrow doesn’t take care of itself, you do. But take care of tomorrow—tomorrow. First, you need to take care of today—today.
It is my experience that one of the greatest reasons we don’t achieve our goals is not because we can’t, but because we keep taking ourselves out of the present. We plan, we scheme, we spend, we dream—and, in the process, we don’t actually do anything. Whenever I find myself paralysed by fear or worry, I literally stop and say, “Monday before Tuesday”—this allows me to do what I need to do today. If there is nothing to do today, then so be it—I do nothing. I will do what needs doing tomorrow—tomorrow.
Human beings are not mind readers, but we think that we are. We spend so much time anticipating what someone might do and say that, when we are finally face-to-face with that person, it does not go as we imagined it would. The lesson is the same: deal with reality—deal with what is.
If the past ‘was’, and the present ‘is’, what, then, is the future? When I have asked this question at my training sessions, I get all sorts of answers: “What will be”, “What could be”, ‘What may be”, and so on, but that is not the answer.
The truth is that the future ‘is not’.
Many people are skeptical when they first hear this. What do you mean the future is not? Of course, there is a future. It is now Monday and tomorrow will be Tuesday. But when it is Tuesday, it will not be the future—it will be the present. The only control I have over Tuesday is what I do on Monday. Ditto for any time in the future. So, protest all you want. Worry all you want about tomorrow and all the future days of your life, but today is the day that needs you to give it your all.
[I was introduced to the above exercise at a workshop called ‘Breakthrough’ that I did in 1988. I do not know who the originator of the exercise was, but s/he is acknowledged with humility and gratitude. This concept changed my life.]
This lesson is nothing new. The ‘power of now’ has become something of a cliché—popularised by Eckhart Tolle in his book of the same name. [Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now, Hodder & Stoughton, 1999]. I highly recommend this book, as well as ‘A New Earth’ by the same author.
That is the thing about clichés—they are so true.
The only thing we can really do with the past is forgive or take revenge. It is unfortunate that English speakers have put the words ‘forgive and forget’ in the same phrase—as if they are the same thing. But they are not. Because so many people can’t forget, they think they can’t forgive. Human beings are not forgetters—not of the things that really matter. The big things—the things that require forgiveness—do not require forgetting. You can, however, forgive what is past, recognising that it is the past. At the same time, you can allow the future to be—recognising that it does not exist until it is the present.
And so, we are left with the present. What a delightful word it is in English—a synonym for the word gift. Today really is a gift. It is Life’s gift to you. One day, today will be your last day—that’s how it works. Don’t waste today regretting the past and worrying about the future.
Many people think that living in the now means that they must not have dreams or set goals. This is not true. In fact, one of my heroes, Viktor Frankl, said the following:
“Man cannot really exist without a fixed point in the future. Under normal conditions, his entire present is shaped around that future point, directed toward it like iron filings toward the pole of a magnet.”
[Viktor E Frankl, The Doctor and the Soul:
From Psychotherapy to Logotherapy, page 104.
Souvenir Press, London, 2004]
By all means, set goals and dream big, but remember that your goals and dreams require action—and action can only be taken in the present. Do not miss today’s rainy day by dreaming of sunshine tomorrow. There is as much joy to be found in today’s rain as there is to be found in tomorrow’s sun. Today’s rain is certain—tomorrow’s sunshine is not.
My father died when I was twenty-three. He was much older than my mother and, growing up, we were reminded of his life insurance policies that would ensure that we—my mother, my sister and I— would be taken care of once he was gone. After he died, my mother, in a desperate attempt to save their ailing business, ceded all his policies to the bank (and other creditors) leaving us with nothing when the business eventually closed.
My father spent his entire life being future-focused. There were no overseas trips and there was no lavish spending—he wanted to be certain that his family would be taken care of in the future. But when the future came—surprise, surprise—he was gone, and we were penniless. [This does not mean that I think one should not save money or take care of the future by investing in policies and annuities. But find the balance between enjoying today and saving for tomorrow.]
I wish my father had taken an overseas trip. His life would have been richer for it and, in the final analysis, we would have been no poorer.
Carpe diem, dear ones, carpe diem. Seize the day.
Do not miss today’s rainy day by dreaming of sunshine tomorrow.
Today’s rain is certain—tomorrow’s sunshine is not.
MONDAY BEFORE TUESDAY – CORONA TIME
If ever there was a time for present moment awareness, this is it. We are truly in a situation where all we have is today. Yesterday, in response to my post, I reconnected with someone I last saw in 1999! She asked if we could Skype this morning and we had an amazing 90-minute chat. There was no way I could have anticipated that yesterday. No amount of thinking (on Saturday) about what I was going to do on Sunday could have anticipated a beautiful reconnection on Sunday. So, today, I intend to focus only on Sunday. I will take care of Sunday and Life will take care of Monday for me. Today I heard about people who are planning what they intend to do on 17 April, when the lockdown is over. That’s 18 days away! Don’t spend too much time thinking about the ‘after’. It’s neither guaranteed nor predictable. Sunday before Monday; Monday before Tuesday. Whenever I feel myself going into what ‘isn’t’, I imagine an invisible string between myself and the future and, in my mind, I pull myself back into today. Today, today, today … be here and stay here. Enjoy the gift of the present. The future is really not ours to tell.
Written by: Trevor Waller – View on Facebook
Contact Trevor: firstname.lastname@example.org