About a year ago, I was talking to my aunt about my plans for the future, discussing all the things I would like to accomplish before I die. During the conversation, she told me about some of her own dreams from the past, things she always wanted to do but never got around to. I asked her what the problem was, why she had never tried to do the things she said she wanted so much.
“I kept telling myself how much I’d love to do those things when the time was right,” she replied, “and then one day I woke up and I was sixty-five years old.”
Those words were like an arrow through my heart, because it suddenly dawned on me that I was halfway to being a repeat of her story. Ever since high school I’ve been talking up some pretty big goals, but as of yet very few of them have even been started, much less realized. It’s the same old line we all tell ourselves and others when something seems inconvenient to start on right now: “I’ll do that when the time is right.”
Waiting for the right time is the biggest killer of dreams. We all want something — to write a novel, to finish our education, or to start our own business. We know that these things require action on our part, but we always seem to find a way to put it off. Things that could be started today don’t get started for many years, or never at all. Sometimes it’s lack of self-confidence that keeps us from pursuing our goals, but mostly we just make excuses to keep things the way they are. And of course, that’s exactly what happens.
It’s not just the grand gestures that need immediate action, though — it’s the little, daily things, too, that can contribute to the bigger things we want. How many of us put off eating right until the new year? Has that ever worked? Most January resolutions get forgotten by February, because the focus is on semantics rather than on action. The truth is, if you’re not excited enough about something to want to get started on it right this second, then you’re probably not excited enough, period. So what are you waiting for? This moment right now is your life, it’s not the dress rehearsal for some fictional perfect time that will happen in some magical future.
We mourn the loss of our comfort zone before it’s even gone, and that can contribute to inertia. You can’t possibly quit smoking today, because if you did that, you wouldn’t get a chance to enjoy those wonderful cigarettes anymore! All that comfort of smoking, gone forever. You’d rather wait a couple of weeks. It’s scary to think about it if you haven’t experienced the benefits of being a non-smoker yet. It’s the same with the leap to self-employment. It’s difficult to want to make a plan for your own business if you’re afraid it’s going to involve financial risk and taking a chance on something that’s not certain. It’s much easier to stay at your job where the paycheck is regular, and put off your business plan for “someday”. But working toward your dream doesn’t mean you have to quit your job right this second — just get some things down on paper, do some research online, start getting your plans in motion before they stagnate completely. Once you get moving, these things have a way of snowballing in a positive direction.
Of course there are things that do require some consideration as far as timing is concerned — getting married or having children, for example. However, most of the things we put off are things that we’re absolutely certain we want to do, but we just keep procrastinating because it’s easier than actually getting a move on. Personally I don’t want to wait another moment, let alone another year or another decade, to stop dreaming about my goals and start acting on them. We’re only on this earth for a short period, and none of us knows when that clock will stop ticking for us. So if you want to get something done, big or small, now’s the time to get started.