The Second Best Time Is Now
“The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.” – Chinese proverb
What were you doing twenty years ago? Some of you believe that was the very best time of your life. Maybe it’s true that you missed a great opportunity and it would have been the perfect time for you to embark on an important goal or dream. Did you want to acquire an advanced degree, write a novel or start a family and somehow life got in the way and you didn’t do whatever it was you thought you wanted? It’s true that sometimes when we miss the perfect moment, the moment when the all the stars are totally aligned, it is not easy to recreate the conditions that would have supported our optimal possibilities. Fortunately I know many people who did not let the lack of perfection stand in their way. When they realized they still had a burning desire to do something and they made a commitment to take care of their unfinished personal business, nothing was able to hold them back.
When I was young, older folks used to tell me repeatedly that time seems to speed up as you age. I thought that was ridiculous and defied logic. Now I know what they meant. The reality is that we never get today back. While we have it, let’s not waste it. I don’t mean we have to be doing busy work all the time or creating something every day, but we need to be mindful about the things we find important and we need to understand our most important values as people. We need to resist worrying about what we can’t control because if things are going to happen, they will happen and we will have thrown away our lives worrying. The same thing goes for obsessing about what might have been. If we truly believe there is something we “should have done” then there is no time like the present to begin to do it, or as close to whatever it was as is reasonable within the framework of the life we now lead. Regrets just weigh us down, paralyze us and prevent us from fully living the life we have..
Sometimes we really beat ourselves up over not having reached a goal, or for not having achieved something. We probably torment and batter ourselves better than almost anyone else could do it. We might even find ourselves engulfed in jealousy of others who have done what we believed we were meant to do. This creates an excellent opportunity to sit down and to engage in some introspection. Do we really have the same interests as when we were younger? How about our values and beliefs? Have they shifted as we have matured? Is the old dream or hope relevant to us in the here and now? Have we discovered new and fascinating things that would not have had meaning for us years ago? Sometimes we merely cling to the old dreams as a way of continuing to punish ourselves or to make excuses for why we are not moving on and finding something new and just as wonderful. If we know what it is we want to do and don’t do it, we also may be clinging to an old plan out of fear of failure.
The truth is that we have no way of knowing how things might have turned out if we had followed a certain path when we were younger. During the passage of years, though, we have gained experience, wisdom, insight, and maybe even have developed a sense of humor we were too single-minded or rigid to have in our youth.
One thing we can do is think about what gives us the most joy and satisfaction now. Has this changed over time? What inspires us at this time in life? Do we know anybody who launched a new career or who picked up on a previous interest or passion? How about making up a small list of questions for that person? Most people find it flattering to know that someone is interested and enjoy sharing their process and their experiences with others.
Now that I have reached a “certain age” and one long career is behind me and another has been unfolding, I too, have mulled over what I left in the past that I would want to once again pick up and reexamine. Once-upon-a-time, I used to enjoy doing watercolors. I wasn’t a great artist, but I had fun and it was one more form of self-expression for me that could be quite beneficial and relaxing. On the other hand, some of the academic goals that seemed important to me when I was a young mother no longer interest me. I remember feeling so frustrated at my lack of funds and time to pursue my goals. I know I want to write more and to spend more time building my coaching practice. I have done a lot of traveling for my previous work as an adoption agency director, but there are many places I never got to see that I definitely want to. I also always wanted to take courses in subjects that fascinated me, but that were not required for any type of degree program. It seemed too impractical and expensive to do back then. This is definitely an area I plan to work on. I want to spend time learning just for the sake of learning and for nourishing my brain and soul.
Several times in my past I went back and looked at some early yearnings that were still unfulfilled. When I was widowed young, I wanted to add a fourth child to our family but it didn’t seem realistic or possible. In my 40′s I did just that, realizing that this was indeed significant unfinished business for me, though many in my life thought I was nuts to do it.
Do you have a burning desire to change the world, to make a greater difference than you have in the past? Maybe you think you missed your chance the first time around, but maybe not? If you want it badly enough, I would venture a guess that you may have more skill and determination now than you did before. You can’t reverse time but you can still plan, dream and implement goals once you have figured out what
you want. Stop making excuses.
Would you consider making up a list of potential resources to kick-start your plans? They could be people you already know, people you want to research and contact on the Internet, or books you want to start reading to help you focus and figure out your first action steps. How about sending an e-mail to as many friends as you can, informing them of what you are thinking about, asking for ideas and contacts they may know whose brains you can pick? What's holding you back?
Is it possible, then, that this isn’t the second best time at all, but the very best time for you to shine?