A Little Happier: Don’t Wait for the Right Time. It May Never Feel Like the Right Time.

I wrote the book Better Than Before, which is all about how to make and break our habits.

In Better Than Before, I identify the 21 strategies that we can use—21 may seem like a lot, but it’s good to have many to choose from, because some strategies work very well for some people, but don’t work at all for others.

One of my favorite chapters is the chapter on “The Strategy of Loophole-Spotting.”

When we try to form and keep habits, we often search for loopholes; that is, for justifications that will excuse us from keeping this particular habit in this particular situation. However, if we catch ourselves in the act of loophole-seeking, we can perhaps think better of them.

One of the ten categories is the “Tomorrow Loophole.” We think, “I’m going to start my good habit tomorrow. Tomorrow, it will be easier. Tomorrow is better than today.”

The fact is, today feels hard. Whatever we’re trying to do feels like such an effort; it’s easy to believe that if only times were different, things would be easier. (To be sure, we wouldn’t want to try to start a taxing habit at a truly bad time—most people might not want to start training for the marathon right before moving to a new city—but those times are fairly rare. Usually, now is the best time to begin.)

This observation reminds me of a related idea—that we often assume that the times are unusually challenging for whatever we’re trying to do. We think, well, during some other time period, this undertaking wouldn’t be as difficult as it is now. “When I was in college.” “Before I started this job.” “In the summer.” “Thirty years ago.” (And again, there may be truth to that, but nevertheless, usually, the best time to begin is now.)

 Here’s a funny example. After completing his work on the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo wrote to his father in 1512:

I have finished the chapel I have been painting; the Pope is very well satisfied. But other things have not turned out for me as I’d hoped. For this I blame the times, which are very unfavorable to our art.

Michelangelo was then living in the middle of the High Renaissance, a period that’s considered a pinnacle in the history of Western art, with a flourishing of painting and sculpture throughout Europe, especially in Italy. But that’s not how it seemed to Michelangelo.

I remind myself: Once I’m ready to begin, begin now. Waiting until some other time probably won’t make things easier.




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