If Not Now, Then When?


This essay first appeared in my newsletter, The Weekly Pep Talk. If you’d like to subscribe for a big old dose of positivity in your inbox every Sunday, you can sign up here.

We spend so much time dreaming about our futures. We plan holidays to look forward to, we set goals to achieve, we tell ourselves that on some far off date, usually years from now, we’ll finally live the lives that we dream of. We promise ourselves that one day all of our hard work will pay off, that one day, we’ll finally be happy and content with our lot.

Those dreams of the future keep us going. They allow us to work the long hours, to put up with jobs that make us miserable. Those dreams help us to justify the safe decisions and compromises, they prevent us from taking risks or rocking the boat. Those thoughts of happier times help us to go for days or even weeks without doing anything that brings us joy.

I don’t have an issue with people having dreams. In fact, I think that the world would be a happier place if we all fully embraced our big, wild dreams, if we committed to them with as much gusto as humanly possible. But what makes me sad is the thought that so many people are putting their dreams off, that they’re saving them up for the future.

Because really, all we’re guaranteed is today. Time is our most precious resource - in fact, it’s the only thing we have that we can’t make more of. We can’t buy ourselves more time once we’re rich and successful, we can’t get back those lunch hours and evenings and weekends that we’ve sacrificed. We can’t claim back the missed birthdays or lazy Sundays or afternoons spent laughing with the people we love once we’ve made it.

None of us know if we’ll be lucky enough to get a long and healthy retirement period. None of us know how many days or months or years we have left to enjoy on this earth. That’s a lesson I’ve learned the hard way, but one that deep down, no matter what our experiences and circumstances are, we all know to be true. Nothing is guaranteed other than this moment right now.

And when you remember that, you realise that we need to start treating those dreams of ours with a little more urgency. We need to stop filing them away for the attention of our future selves, and start taking action right now. We need to breathe some life into them, to turn those whispy thoughts and hopes and ideas into tangible, meaningful plans.

Because, as the saying goes, if not now, then when? Your to do list will always be busy, your diary will always be full. The expectations of others will always weigh heavy, the path that you’re “supposed” to take will always be well trodden. The circumstances will never be perfect for you to pursue the life of your dreams. There will always, always, always be something standing in your way. But if those dreams really mean something to you, then surely you have to at least try?

And so this week, make a commitment to take your big dreams out of hiding. Take them out, shake them off, and start to think about the steps you need to take in order to make them a reality. And then, over the next couple of days, take the first step. It doesn’t matter how small or insignificant that step may seem, so long as you’re finally starting to take the action that moves you closer to the life you dream about.

Because if not now, then when?