“Your future depends on what you do today.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

I recently read somewhere that taking care of yourself properly doesn’t just mean taking what you feel you need today. The gist of it was that proper care of yourself also means taking care of who you want to be five years from now, ten years from now, and ultimately what legacy you want to leave. That idea really got my attention.

In earlier cultures, delayed gratification was something that was widely held. Probably out of necessity because the availability of material goods was not as readily at hand. You had to save and work for it. Attaining knowledge was the same. Now, with the advent of credit cards, and the vast amount of information on the internet, there seem to be shortcuts to attaining whatever it is you feel you need or want right now.

As an example, just a little over a decade ago, you used to have to really consider which CD or vinyl record you wanted to invest $14 into. Now, for less than $14 a month you can access almost any song you want immediately. And then of course there’s the seemingly limitless amount of movies, TV shows, You Tube videos, podcasts, etc.

Believe me, I enjoy all this… but is there an unintended consequence to all this? Somehow, this seems to me to have resulted into a diminishing of the appreciation for these things for many people. Many take these things for granted.

The bigger issue though is how immediate gratification extends to hindering aspects of character development. It seems to me, that the idea of sacrificing immediate gratification or relief, for some future gain is less.

This a human dynamic. Some of our earliest accounts show it. Take the story of Jacob and Esau. If you’ll remember, Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob for a bowl of stew. It’s may be easy to judge Esau but, Jacob was a good cook and Esau was starving- the stew looked and smelled so good! And so he was satisfied in the moment.

Nevertheless, later on, Esau was bitter.

And that is what happens for us all when we exchange great possibility in the future for immediate comfort in the now.

I can’t tell you how often I encounter people who are the midst of huge relational breakdowns which have come about due to putting off difficult conversations when they needed to be had, opting instead for comfort and control in the immediate. Or they are facing egregious health issues because they opt for the ease of a sedentary lifestyle and the pleasure of eating whatever they want. Or foregoing financial constraints today in order to have whatever they want right now.

The question I’m asking you to consider is, what does it mean to really take care of yourself? I believe in the concept of self-care and even pampering yourself on occasions. Especially in our culture which can tilt so heavily toward achievement at great cost to people’s stress levels and even health. And I am seeing that for many people this has expanded to a lifestyle that primarily seeks comfort and indulgence.

I’m arguing that failing to take on difficult situations or even conversations, settling for ease and comfort in the area of physicality, and not engaging in tough emotional work, equates not taking proper care of your future self. It’ll assure you stay on the current trajectory you are on. If you are not growing and getting stronger in these areas, you are getting weaker. There is no staying pat because life keeps throwing hardships at you and the situations/scenarios you avoid get worse over time.

Take a moment and do a quick survey of your life. What areas immediately come to mind that you know you should be addressing. Relationships. Physical health. Emotional health. Financial health. What are you pretending not to know? Which do you tell yourself you’ll get to soon but when you’re being honest you see that you’ve been saying that for quite a while?

Your future self is calling to you. Waiting for you, hoping you act now. Each decision you make, or fail to make, is already affecting that future person. Won’t you take care of that expression of yourself?

So, what domains of competence will you expand? What is one thing you know you need to start or stop that your future self will thank you for?