The Right Now Paradox

Time is a funny thing.

Or maybe it’s the way we think about time and make choices around time that are strange. Tomato, tomahto.

For example, sometimes we think there is plenty of time to put off that due-in-a-few-days task. We watch the show, stay up later than we should, and say to ourselves “I’ve got time.” We tell ourselves that Right Now isn’t critical.

At other times, we think there is no time to accomplish our long-term career goals. Any failure now means certain career death and life is surely over. Right Now is all that matters.

Sometimes, these mindsets hit at the same time, which is something I call the Right Now Paradox, where we think the current moment simultaneously isn’t all that critical but is all that matters. When these hit together, the compounded stress often leads to even more procrastination.

The solution to the first pitfall is to learn how to manage ourselves emotionally. And when we need to relax, it’s better to take a deep breath and a screen-free break than to numb our emotions with mindless distractions. In short, minimize the shiny distractions and maximize the leisure activities that have a higher value or more relaxing affect: take a walk outside, read a book, message an old friend you’ve been meaning to talk to.

The solution to the second is to keep a healthy perspective when failure strikes. Look at Lincoln, Morgan Freeman, Thomas Edison, Michael Jordan–all men who are famous for things that happened long after they had attempted many other ventures. Remember that failure is a stepping stone to success in most circumstances, and that success doesn’t have to come early to be impressive.

In sum, if you need a break, take a break that is high-value. If you’re feeling stressed about a potential failure, remember that failure is a key ingredient in the recipe for success. Right now IS critical, but you’ve got enough time to try and fail.

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