Image by Эльвина Якубова
“There is only one day left, always starting over: it is given to us at dawn and taken away from us at dusk.” — JEAN-PAUL SARTRE
Here comes a hard truth.
Maybe you’re excited about the path that lies before you. Maybe you can’t wait to get started.
I hope so. I find myself hopeful for you. I hope like hell for your success.
But as I said, I have some hard truth for you now. Ready?
Here it is: People quit on their dreams all the time. It’s easy to give up. Very few people on this planet make their honest-to-goodness dreams come true. Most settle for second or third tier at best.
More often than not, they settle for nothing at all. They move through this life without direction or ambition, falling into the path of least resistance. They travel like water down a mountain, meandering meekly to the bottom.
Then, one day, they look back on their lives and wonder why they allowed so many opportunities to slip through their fingers. They can’t understand why they surrendered so easily. How did they give up on their dreams so quickly and without so much as a fight?
Then they die.
Most people live a life like this. Most people suffer this fate. They die with regret.
I don’t want this fate to befall you. I don’t want you to end up wishing you had more time to finally do something. Yearning to turn back the clock. Angry with yourself for all that you could’ve done but failed to do.
Optimist or Pessimist?
I have something to offer you. This might be the most important of all. The thing you will need every day to keep moving forward: optimism.
There are two types of people in this world: optimists and pessimists.
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Some people claim to be realists, but you need to understand two important truths about realists:
They are not optimists.
They are simply pessimists who are too afraid or too embarrassed to acknowledge who they really are.
As a creative soul, and a person pursuing your dreams, you can’t afford to be a pessimist. Too many negative forces are already aligned against you. Making your dreams come true is already an uphill battle.
Along the way, there will be people who find your progress threatening to their own ego. They will try to impede you whenever possible as a means of self-preservation.
There will also be competition. People trying to achieve the same or similar goals. People vying for limited resources and space that you want and need.
There will be bad luck. Stupid people. Bureaucracy. Traffic. Blizzards. Broken bones. Paperwork in triplicate. Slow mail service. Flat tires. Bad hair days. Mosquitoes. Hangnails. Broken shoelaces. Potholes. Cavities.
A lot of stuff will get in your way. It will sometimes feel like the universe is pitted against you.
That is why you need to be an optimist. You must believe that things will turn out right.
Even if a pessimist is proved correct in their doomsday prediction, the only advantage they will possess is the smug self-satisfaction that comes with being correct. But being smug and correct about negative outcomes is the goal of soulless ghouls, chronic complainers, jealous siblings, bullies, frenemies, and other varieties of awful people.
Happily, Pessimists Are Wrong More Often Than Not
Martin Luther King Jr. wisely pointed out, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Humanity marches forward in fits and starts, but progress is unrelenting.
Research also shows that optimists are happier and live longer, because even when the planet is struck by a pandemic, optimists experience the pandemic only for its duration. Pessimists worry about it for years before it ever arrives, and worry like that can wear you down quickly. Assuming the best allows you to avoid the pain of assuming the worst, even if the worst is on its way.
History is filled with artists, writers, scientists, designers, entrepreneurs, and other creative souls who toiled for years before finally achieving greatness. While overnight success and the instantaneous realization of your dreams is preferred, it’s unlikely — so only those who believe in their craft, themselves, and their future will persevere.
When I began writing this book, I asked my wife, Elysha, “What do I do that has allowed me to succeed?”
Her answer was instantaneous: “You believe that everything will work out, then you work it out.”
You must do the same. When you feel like you can’t, try what I call “throwing my present to the future.”
Don't Waste Energy on What Won't Matter Later
It’s early June. Two weeks left in the school year, but summer has already arrived. The school bell is minutes from ringing in the start of the day, but it’s already ninety degrees outside. Even hotter in our non-air-conditioned school.
Except for a select few offices, of course. Those spaces absent of children. Let the kids and their teachers bake while the suits stay cool.
One of my colleagues pokes her head in the classroom and begins to complain about the heat. I cut her off. “Listen,” I say, “in less than eight hours, the school day will be over, and in less than two weeks, the school year will be over and we’ll be heading into summer vacation. Pretty soon today’s temperature will be meaningless to us, so let’s just make that moment now. Let’s pretend it’s 3:30 or June 15 already, since both will be here soon enough. Let’s not waste time and energy on complaining about something that we won’t care about soon.”
To my colleague’s credit, she smiled and said, “Okay. But I’m eating lunch in my car with the AC running.”
“Throwing my present to the future” is based upon the assumption that many of the problems we face today are temporary, fleeting, and ultimately forgettable, but in the moment, they can feel awful, momentous, and painful. In these cases, I try to avoid those negative feelings by acknowledging that the problem will be irrelevant in a day or a week or even a month and then pretending that the next day, week, or month has already arrived.
The future is often better than the problematic present, so maintaining an awareness of that more pleasant future and assuming the emotional disposition of that future version of yourself can alleviate the short-term suffering caused by troublesome but temporary struggles.
I use this strategy all the time. I believe that everything will work out, then I work it out. When throwing my present to the future, I work out the problem in my mind first before working it out in real life. I remain optimistic that the toils and troubles of the present will appear trivial in the future. I work hard to maintain that optimism in the face of disaster.
Feeling Great About Yourself
There’s also nothing wrong with feeling great about yourself. Look around. How many people do you know who are truly chasing their dreams? I don’t need to look very far to find a whole lot of people working in careers that they stumbled into because it was convenient or easy or afforded them a good salary. It’s not hard for me to find people who spend their days at jobs they do not love and their evenings in front of the television and do little else to fill their hours.
Unhappy people are everywhere. They are like weeds.
I see a hell of a lot of people living ordinary lives, but very few grew up dreaming of one day being ordinary. Yet here they are. Everywhere. Ordinary.
I see these people. I look hard at them, because they serve as reminders to me that if I had chosen the easier pathway, that could be me, too. Good job, Matt!
Even if I’m falling on my ass or landing on my face, at least I’m failing while trying. Climbing and slipping and falling but then picking myself up and trying again.
Chasing Your Dreams and Working It Out
If you’re chasing your dreams — if you’re trying to make great things or carve a new path or bend the universe to your will — you’re already doing better than most of the human beings on this planet. Many live in circumstances that tragically don’t allow them to chase their dreams. Others have the means and ability but simply don’t.
Kurt Vonnegut once posed the question: “Who is more to be pitied, a writer bound and gagged by policemen or one living in perfect freedom who has nothing more to say?”
Many people are living in perfect freedom but have absolutely nothing to say. Truthfully, most people are average. It’s the mathematical definition of the word. If you’re climbing a mountain, and truly chasing the dream, you’re doing better than most.
You’re above average. Probably a lot better than just above average.
Remember that. It will help. I promise it will.
But maybe don’t say it aloud very often. No reason for the world to think you’re an arrogant jerk. As I’ve said, there are already too many pitfalls awaiting you. But nothing wrong with holding your head high, believing in the future, and, most importantly, believing in yourself.
I’m rooting for you. I am in your cheering section, making a hell of a lot of noise on your behalf.
I can’t wait to see what you will do. What you will make. How you will change your life. How you might even change the world.
Your future is bright. I know it. Make sure that you know it, too. Remind yourself every day of how extraordinary you are.
Believe that everything will work out, then go and work it out. Get moving. Remember: someday is today.
Copyright 2022, Matthew Dicks. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher, New World Library.
BOOK: Someday Is Today
Someday Is Today: 22 Simple, Actionable Ways to Propel Your Creative Life
by Matthew Dicks
Are you good at dreaming about what you’re going to accomplish “someday” but not good at finding the time and getting started? How will you actually make that decision and do it? The answer is this book, which offers proven, practical, and simple ways to turn random minutes throughout your days into pockets of productivity, and dreams into accomplishments.
In addition to presenting his own winning strategies for getting from dreaming to doing, Matthew Dicks offers insights from a wide range of creative people — writers, editors, performers, artists, and even magicians — on how to augment inspiration with motivation. Each actionable step is accompanied by amusing and inspiring personal and professional anecdotes and a clear plan of action. Someday Is Today will give you every tool to get started and finish that _______________ [fill in the blank].
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as an Audiobook and as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
Matthew Dicks, a bestselling novelist, nationally recognized storyteller, and award-winning elementary schoolteacher, teaches storytelling and communications at universities, corporate workplaces, and community organizations. He has won multiple Moth GrandSLAM story competitions and, together with his wife, created the organization Speak Up to help others share their stories.
Visit him online at MatthewDicks.com.