Like most bloggers, I have a variety of goals and milestones that I hope to achieve. I also have a carefully crafted timeline (read: spreadsheet) upon which these ambitions are judiciously plotted. One month, six months, one year, five years, and on down the line.
My situation is not unique. Think back to the five most recent blog posts you read. Were they about monthly budgets or net worth updates? Compound interests or dividends? IRAs or pension plans? As a society, we are incredibly future-focused.
The future is where we store our dreams, our passions, our goals. Yet, the present is what matters most.
The Past Has Passed
You got yourself in debt? Join the club. You waited a long time to invest? Been there, done that. You made some really kick-ass financial decisions in college? Kudos. You snagged your dream job right out of school? Amazing. You started a blog, you developed a side hustle, you penned a book? Right on. All of those milestones will unquestionably shape your future.
But the past is still the past.
This is not to say that you cannot learn from the past, regret it, or celebrate it. Past accomplishments helped get you where you are today. But in order to keep moving forward and to make the most of each day, we have to hold on less tightly to the past. If something failed, find the lesson and move on. If something succeeded, find the recipe and improve it.
Today Shapes Your Tomorrow
Everything you do today influences your tomorrow. That coupon you clipped, that money you transferred, that stock you bought, that item you sold? All of these things set you up for a brighter tomorrow. Today is your one opportunity to make your next move. Whether it is the smallest of steps or the longest of leaps, take action. This action is the only thing you immediately influence, and it is the sum of these actions that will catapult you towards your goals.
Whether you are looking ahead at early retirement and weight loss or marathon running and language acquisition, whatever you envision for your future self has to start today. Today is the only thing any of us can control. Today is the only thing that is guaranteed.
Tomorrow Isn’t Guaranteed
Sometimes I think that personal finance is another iteration of existential crises. As humans, we are all grasping at things that we can control and influence; we are desperately seeking purpose. We crave security. That foundation, that footing, that certainty does not exist in tomorrows. Storing your happiness in the promise of a brighter future is problematic. Undoubtedly, we are all charting courses. The ways in which we navigate the waters, utilize the resources, execute the decisions, capitalize upon lessons, affirm our attitudes all help direct the ship. But that vessel is still steering into the unknown.
This post is not intended to discourage or disparage anyone. Set lofty goals. Devise grand plans. Dream bigger than you ever imagined you could. Then remember that everything you want to accomplish tomorrow actually starts today.
So Tell Me…What baby step or big leap are you taking today?
Originally written November 2015; updated March 2020