No matter how many times I have failed to live up to my past visions of my perfect future self, I am still tempted to soothe myself with this thought: Tomorrow I’ll be perfect, and that it will more than make up for the less-than-perfect decisions I am making today.
When I looked at the heart-stopping total on my credit card bill, I knew I had to change my behaviour with money. So I would plan to change everything. Big time. "Starting next month, I'm going to be perfect with my money. I will save half of what I earn, and always bring my lunch from home, and never buy anything that I don’t absolutely need, and prepare and freeze meals at the weekend so I’ll never buy take-aways again…”
It never happened. I was always the same as I was today – determined to be perfect, failing, feeling awful, and then making the situation worse while trying to make myself feel better.
The “perfect tomorrow” myth has these two features:
- The standards we expect of ourselves tomorrow are unrealistic (tip: words like “never” “always” and “should” feature highly in unrealistic standards.)
- There is no thought given to how we will find the time and energy to be able to save (or earn) more money
The good news is: if you want to change your habits and behaviours, you can do it. What it takes is some compassion for yourself; realistic standards; and some small, achievable steps.
Just by tracking my spending and being realistic about where I spend my time, energy and money, I’m already doing better than I was.
I’m still not “perfect.” But “better” is absolutely good enough.