The now-or-never rule

I’ve been stuck on gratitude.

With jobs I’d rather not do, where I know that every second doing them is a second I cannot devote to what I love, it’s been tricky finding time to say thank you.

This has puzzled me.

I’ve been trying to untangle why I can’t deal with it. Why do certain environments have such a negative effect? Why can’t I resist them? Why do I struggle to find something of value in them?

But the struggle has been worthwhile. I’ve realised something. I call it the now-or-never rule:

If you can’t be happy with what you have now, you will never be happy with anything you have in the future.

It is hard to define exactly what happiness is, but I know it has two major components: gratitude and surrender.

Gratitude is an appreciation of what you have. You find it by asking, “what more do I need?” The answer is usually less than you think. When you realise you need less and start to understand the true value of what you already have then you have found it.

Surrender, in relation to Stoicism at least, is recognising the dichotomy of control.

There are few things we can truly keep a hold of, namely, our own thoughts, our own actions, our own intentions. The rest remains either uninfluenced by us, or can only be partially controlled. We are in danger when we attach our own happiness and well being to what we do not control.

This is the most difficult part of surrender to master. The smallest component of surrender, the easiest to achieve, I found whilst reading this morning. The breath.

“Every time you stumble, start over. Take it one breath at a time. This is the level of the game where you can actually win.”

How often do we play and participate and set ourselves goals we cannot achieve? That ten year plan is intimidating. How about we reduce it? How about we focus less on being great for decades, and switch our attention to winning today’s battle?

When I was up in London for Molly’s graduation, we were in a book shop. On a display table was one of those palm sized books with short paragraphs and quotes that look nice but often are devoid of substance.

There was one on mindfulness and I found some substance in it. Said Jon Kabat-Zinn: “You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Waiting to be happy, delaying our contentment until we’ve done this or achieved that is dumb.

When it comes to surrender and gratitude and happiness, the only perfect moment is right now.

I also think Jon Kabat-Zinn would agree that we cannot calm the sea.

We have a choice.


Now or never.