“How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”

Many people like to start January 1 with New Year’s resolutions. Here’s something to consider: You didn’t just come up with the resolution on the morning of January 1st. You’ve known it for a while. You’ve been putting it off. You said, January 1st, that’s when I’ll finally do it.

OK. Better late than never, but the ultimate resolution this year would be to do away with that kind of thinking and do away with it right now. What makes you think you have the luxury of waiting? Why do you think so little of yourself that you’re willing to defer improvement to a later date? As Epictetus famously put it: How long are you going to wait before you demand the best for yourself?”

So yes, it’s very responsible that you’ve decided to get in shape, to stop this bad habit or that one, to try to give back more, to re-dedicate yourself to a relationship or a philosophy. But it’s strange that you pushed it off for so long, like a kid with a school project they hoped might go away. The Stoics knew we were better than that. It’s why Epictetus commanded us thusly:

“From now on, then, resolve to live as a grown-up who is making progress, and make whatever you think best a law that you never set aside. And whenever you encounter anything that is difficult or pleasurable, or highly or lowly regarded, remember that thecontest is now: you are at the Olympic Games, you cannot wait any longer, and that your progress is wrecked or preserved by a single day and a single event.”

Can you do that? Can you start right now? No more putting stuff off. No more “in the future, I’ll do better and expect better.” No. Demand the best for yourself now. It’s what a grown up does.

It’s what we must do in a world where nothing is certain but the present moment.