July 19, 2017

Eventually We Will Get Something Done

Suspense had a moment in social media yesterday. One of the biggest catch phrases of the day was “Eventually we will get something done.” This happened after a news organization attributed this statement to a prominent U.S. political figure. I don’t know if it was an accurate verbatim quote or just a summary of a position, and it’s fair to guess that most people repeating the line hadn’t checked either, but it scarcely matters. It’s a rip-roaring statement if you take the liberty of reading it at face value — “eventually” implies that so far and on most days, we don’t have a prayer of accomplishing anything, while “we” implies the hope that someone else will step forward to do the heavy lifting.

Nothing will change, in this view, until future good luck and better circumstances finally allow action. Coming from a man who sees himself as a leader, this kind of statement is practically an abdication, and that’s where the humor in the statement lies. Imagine yourself saying something similar about your own life, though, and the humor vanishes. The feeling of waiting and waiting, while not doing anything, is all too true to life.

This point of view, of course, is exactly the kind of suspense I warn about. As soon as you resign yourself to a fate in which tomorrow is a continuation of yesterday, you lose all the excitement that naturally goes with your own efforts. You might as well go play golf while you wait for someone else to do something, someday. It’s just harder to motivate yourself to action with the thought that there is a slight chance a change will come on any given day — much easier if you believe you can certainly create immediate results.

Brush your hair, for example, and if you have a mirror available, you see the results right away. This is one reason why more people brush their hair than buy lottery tickets. Yet this feeling of certainty is always available to you. There are always many things that you know you can do today to make a difference in your own life and your surroundings.

Unfortunately, most people on most days think of the arc of their lives using thoughts like “eventually.” Today does not look like much — and so, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, nothing really new gets done and tomorrow is an extension of yesterday. As dismaying as it might be to see a politician suggest that it is too late to solve problems this year because the year is half over and next year won’t work either because that is an election year, this approach is even worse when you do it to yourself. You know this is you if you’re waiting for action by anyone but you, that might happen anytime but today.

It’s trite to say, but true: your own power is located in your own action and in the present moment or at most, a period of one day. Compare the two questions below, focusing on the degree of power each one implies:

  • Why can’t someone do something?
  • What can I do to put myself in a better position at the end of the day?

The first is powerless and diffuse, focused on no particular person, action, or time; the second, by contrast, is almost certainly leading to something immediate. Don’t give up your power by focusing on what others may do or on what may happen on other days. Reclaim your power and gain the benefit of the feeling of certainty by putting most of your attention on what you can do today.

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