The Trap of Later

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the Occoneechee Speedway

One of the easiest things to say is “later”. You’ll take on learning that skill later. You’ll exercise more later. You’ll have that difficult conversation later. These kind of statements, which we all make at times, remind me of the Occoneechee Speedway. This speedway was once a flourishing home of auto racing. The last win there was by Richard Petty in 1968 and here’s how it looked at that time:

Here’s how it looks today:

It’s beautiful, make no mistake, and a great place to go for a walk or run (you should do it!). But you can see how quickly it’s become something very different. “Later” changes things.

The point is this: “later” often makes things more difficult rather than easier. And sometimes later turns into never.

There are two primary reasons we postpone things:

  1. We think we have to do it all at once. This notion has killed so many ideas. Just because, for example, you can’t do a Spanish immersion course right now doesn’t mean you can’t start learning Spanish in your car during your commute.
  2. We think we have to be perfect. Maybe you aren’t going to master a skill right now, but you can be a happy beginner. (Remember, we’re all beginners in some way.)

I started taking piano lessons a couple of years ago and it’s going well. One of the reasons, I think, is that I’m fine with small, incremental progress. If I only practice 20 minutes a day instead of the suggested 30 minutes, that’s 20 minutes of skill development I didn’t have yesterday.

Think of those things that are most important to you. Spend just a few minutes each day on the one or two most important of these. Before long, the progress you make will make a difference in you.

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