The title of this article is actually a quotation from the Trappist monk Thomas Merton, a well-known theologian. I first came across his words while reading a book by Caroline Myss (a fantastic writer whose books I highly recommend) and it struck a profound cord with me.
Merton wrote this passage while contemplating the scene of a hot summer day in the country. There wasn’t anything remarkable about the day itself, that particular moment, or its relevancy to his future. It was a day much like any other, with the exception that Merton happened to take notice of the fact that day, that moment, and that instant would never come again.
It seems like such an innocuous observation, and rather obvious, too. Of course, that day would never come again. When has any day ever repeated itself? But it’s not so much the recognition of that fact, but its appreciation that I find so poignant.
This Day Will Never Come Again
This moment where you’re sitting here reading this post and the actions that led up to this moment will never be repeated even if we waited an eternity. That very fact should give us an appreciation for each day as if it were our last.
Because, in a way, it is — this is the last time these circumstances will ever exist and the choices you have in front of you will never line up in quite the same way again. What you chose to do now, the actions you take based on what you know and don’t know, will have a resounding effect throughout tomorrow and every day after that.
Think back through this last year. Think about the moments that had both big and minimal impact on you. Do you find yourself wishing for a chance to go back and take advantage of an opportunity you didn’t think was important at the time? Or was there a risk you didn’t take due to a fear that turned out to be unfounded?
Let’s play a game. I want you to count out five seconds on your fingers.
Most likely, nothing happened to you during those five seconds. Even so, during those five seconds, other peoples’ lives were irreparably changed:
- 21 babies were born
- Lightning struck the earth 500 times
- 500,000 chemical reactions took place in every single cell of your body
- Americans consumed 7,500 water bottles
- 80-million tons of water evaporated from the earth’s surface
- Bill Gates made $1,250 dollars
- 9 people died somewhere in the world
That is a small sample of what just took place and what is happening again as I write this and you read it. While these things are going on without your awareness, you also have no idea what may have taken place somewhere else that might impact your life.
There’s an infinite number of possibilities that may influence what happens to you next — and, thus, this day, this moment, and this instant will never happen again.
You can use this new awareness to apply a new perspective to the coming year and to the opportunities that haven’t yet presented themselves. When that next opportunity presents itself, knowing that moment will never come again can be a powerful motivator.
Apply This New Perspective to Your Pursuit of Fitness
The workout you do today won’t be the same as the one you do tomorrow. The movements and structure will be different. Your energy level, strength, and motivation will not be the same. Each training session is an opportunity to reaffirm the uniqueness of this moment and use that awareness to motivate you in a way you may not have been able to before.
What it all comes down to is what you’re willing to make of the time you’re given. Will you try to gain every ounce of benefit from the next hour of class, the coaching you receive, and the energy level of the group? Or, will you let it pass?
We have to think in both the long term and the short term. “If I train really hard today what will be the immediate benefit and the long-term benefit?” If you refocus and push hard when your motivation seems to be lacking, you’ll find yourself starting to make progress and achieving your goals, despite a few down days. On the other hand, if you push hard when you have a sore wrist, continue squatting despite constant knee pain, or keep running on a foot that has been sending jolts of agony up your shins, then you’re not doing yourself any favors, are you?
Learning to recognize your good days and bad days, as well as where the best opportunities are is a life skill that will pay huge dividends in the long term.
Every Day Is a Chance to Take Action
Possessing the awareness that you are the master of all these decisions is an empowering place to be. Given that what we can control in this world amounts to diddly at best, using our ability to control the choices we can make day in and day out will have far-reaching implications.
As a new year dawns, give yourself the gift of forgiveness for the things you could have done “better” in the previous year. Move forward with a new focus on the coming year and take control of the things you can.
Every instance is a chance to do something, whether it’s making a decision that changes your life and the lives of those around you or it’s a decision to simply sit quietly and contemplate the five seconds that have just passed. Both are filled with an infinite amount of potential and, in that, I find a truly unique and wonderful beauty.