On your 99th birthday, your foot is amputated because you stepped on a chainsaw. Terrible, I know. But what if, in your 100-year-long life, your foot was amputated at the age of 25? There’s a big difference between living 75 years without a foot and living one year without a foot.
Within that stupid example is today’s topic, which is that the decisions you make now will ripple for the rest of your life.
When I was young, I would sling my backpack over my right shoulder because it wasn’t cool to wear both straps (I was a genius). Twenty years later, I have a lot of tension on the right side of my upper back. Coincidence? Probably not. That small choice many moons ago can be felt as I type this (especially because it was repeated)!
There are other choices I made that have been very helpful to me now. I grew up playing a lot of sports, which gave me a solid athletic foundation. While playing basketball with younger guys these days, they usually tire out before I do. I’m almost always the one asking for “one more game.” My prior choices have conditioned me for that.
Think of Today As 100x More Important Than Tomorrow
You know how you sometimes look forward to things? Careful! I’m guilty of this too, but when you begin looking forward to an exciting event in your future, in doing so, you devalue today. You’re telling yourself that this event is going to be more important to you than today’s events. And it may very well be important, but we can’t let that influence our effort today, because today is always critical.
The concept I’m talking about is called “Senioritis” in high school. It’s when high school seniors sense the end and look forward to entering the real world and mentally “check out.” I did it. You probably did it. But we made a huge mistake!
The closing line in the opening speech in my favorite movie Gladiator goes: “What we do in life, echos in eternity.” Taking that concept and applying it to the length of our lives, we get, “what we do today, echos for the rest of our life.” Even smaller, “What we do right now, echos for the rest of the day.”
The earliest actions echo for the longest time.
This is why I think in concepts. What’s true in one instance is often true across a large number of related things. It’s true that some actions echo louder and longer than others, but all things equal, earlier actions have far more impact on a lifetime (and the world) than later actions over time.
For your life, this means that a small investment today will be more significant than a large investment much later. This is huge in terms of saving time, money, and effort. All who have been educated in basic finance know this about compound interest, but far too few think about their decisions in the same way, even though it works the same way.
It’s no coincidence that people with troubled childhoods tend to have more difficult and troubled lives as adults. Those early years echo for the rest of their lives, for better or worse. But it doesn’t matter if you’re already 85. It’s never too late to apply this concept to your life, because the takeaway isn’t that “I should have done XYZ when I was 25.” That’s useless sentiment because it isn’t actionable. The takeaway is simply — today is massively important, regardless of how it seems.
Even on a day where nothing exciting is on the schedule, it is still the most important day of your life, because every day after today will have less time to compound and impact your life.
To me, maximizing my choices today means paying attention to my physical health, mental health, relationships, and productivity. Too many self-help articles imply that working yourself into the ground is ideal, but if you neglect your mental health and don’t relax, that unnecessary stress will compound over time, too. This is not to say that you must try to balance every day perfectly, either. Maybe some days will be work days, some days will be social days, and others rest days. All will compound positively!
For me, this perspective is additional power against my bad habits. It’s one thing to do something one time, but when you think about it in terms of compounding for the rest of your life, you might be more hesitant to choose the quick reward over the long-lasting one. Don’t feel guilty about your choices, just know and respect the power of your choices.
Check Yourself Constantly: Are You Giving Today the Respect It Deserves?
I write this post because I’m guilty of devaluing today based on what I have planned compared to other days. I’m guilty of trying to burn time until I get to a more exciting part of my life. It’s easy to forget the importance of today because it often seems so plain and and ordinary when it gets here. It’s not like each day is given an Olypmic ceremony opening to signify its importance to us. We just wake up and it’s another day.
But it isn’t just another day. It’s today. Today should become a sacred and precious word to all of us, because we will never have a more important day than the one we’re living now. It may seem less important than say, your upcoming graduation, wedding, or vacation, but don’t be fooled, because today’s choices will always have the greatest opportunity to compound and echo for the rest of your life.
Today is the one you’ve been waiting for. Today is the BIG day. Don’t be deceived by its humble appearance. This is it, a huge opportunity.
Make some decisions today that you’ll thank yourself for making this time next year. I’ve added an event to my calendar exactly one year from now titled: “Your life right now is owed to the way you treated every ‘today’ for the last year+.” Knowing that event is on my calendar will remind me to treat each day like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because that’s what it is. This is not about getting motivated to “live each day to the fullest,” it’s about the nature of compounding over time. You don’t need to trick yourself into making today great — its importance is built-in.
How you view today is a general mindset that can be changed. I for one plan to approach it with more respect, sacredness, and diligence. Today isn’t just a normal day. It’s today. It’s the most important day of our lives.
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