It’s likely been a month since you promised yourself you’d do things differently this year. The start of a new year has the effect of prompting us to start anew with decisions to make our lives or careers better. That’s the good news. The difficult part is turning those decisions into real changes in our lives or careers. What is the difference between wanting to be better and actually realizing a goal or resolution? Here’s the answer; it’s what you do daily to manifest that change.
In a famous episode of “Seinfeld,” Jerry approaches an airport car rental desk only to be told they don’t have any mid-sized cars available. He wonders why since he made a reservation for a mid-size car. When the frustrated attendant says she understands what a reservation is, he disagrees and says, “I don’t think you do. You know how to take the reservation, but you just don’t know how to hold the reservation, and that is really the most important part, holding the reservation.” Similarly, the most important part of making a decision is managing that decision regularly.
John C. Maxwell, a leading author and speaker on leadership, writes in his book, Today Matters, that successful people make decisions early in life and manage them daily. Today does matter because it is all we have to work with. What we do today impacts tomorrow. The converse is also true, what we fail to do today also impacts tomorrow.
Why then do we fail to manage our decisions on a daily basis? What can we do to take full advantage of the time we have today? Here are three things I think hold us back from making the most of today:
TUNNEL VISION. Each of our todays look a lot like our yesterdays. In all likelihood, this week will look a lot like last week. Before you know it, this year will begin to look the same as last year and then one year turns into 10. To stop this process, be intentional about spending 30 minutes each morning in reflection of what you will do with today to follow through on the decisions you’ve made. Whatever your decisions are, ask yourself, what can I do today to make it closer to reality?
EXAGGERATE FAILURES. We put too much emphasis on yesterday, beating ourselves up for all the times the decisions we made to change fell by the wayside. But there is little value in dwelling on what is already done. Some people spend much of their lives regretting past decisions. If earlier you made a choice that you now regret, then change it. A bad decision does not just get better with time. If anything, it is likely to get worse. Yesterday ended last night. Today is a new day.
EXAGGERATE TOMORROWS. We convince ourselves it will be better to start tomorrow, or this weekend, or at the beginning of the next month. There are always reasons to put off what we know needs to be done. We tend to be optimistic about tomorrow but pessimistic about yesterday, isn’t that odd? Believing that tomorrow is the best time to make a change ignores the reality that today is all that we really have to work with. If we constantly exaggerate the value of tomorrow, all our tomorrows quickly become our yesterdays.
Today is our only and best opportunity to make tomorrow all it can be and make yesterday irrelevant. Today is all that matters.
This article originally appeared in the February 2017 edition of INVISION.