The Myth of “Someday”

I used to play a game with a friend of mine. It was like word association, but instead of taking turns saying the first word that came to mind, we’d take turns telling one another our wishes.

We ended each turn with the word “someday.” We used it like people with two-way radios use the word “over” — to indicate whose turn it was to speak. A typical conversation resulting from our game went something like this:

I want to travel the world someday.
I want to backpack across the United States someday.
I want to go to Hawaii someday.
I want to go surfing someday.
I want to learn to sail someday.

and it continued in that manner, always in the form of

I want to (do something) someday.

My friend and I agree that although this game helped us learn about one another’s aspirations in life, it did not help us actually accomplish them. The problem was clear:

“Someday” is too ambiguous. It’s not a goal, a deadline, or an estimation — it’s an unspecified time in the future so indefinite that it’s borderline fantasy. As a result, it tends to promote inaction rather than action.

Telling yourself that you want to do something someday doesn’t accomplish much — yet it’s human nature to think this way. People commonly proclaim “I want to get married someday,” or “I want to be rich someday.”

They have good reason for being so unspecific: It’s comforting to make goals that lack a due date. There’s no pressure to get it done immediately because there’s always tomorrow. In other words:

There’s always the rest of your life for your perfect “Someday” to arrive. Unfortunately, that’s the myth.

The truth is, you won’t experience that “Someday” you’re looking forward to unless you take action today. When you convince yourself that you have the rest of your life to do something, you’ll experience day after day of inaction until you’ve lost your chance to actually do it. I learned this through a close friend of mine who, tragically, learned it the hard way:

His mother went to the hospital for routine surgery. She died. She was among the few “one in a million” cases where the patient doesn’t wake up from the anesthetic.

Suddenly, all of the plans that my friend hoped to do with his mom “Someday” could no longer be done. She was gone, and she took all the future opportunities with her. There was no time left to learn how to make her deviled eggs. There was no time left to make a cookbook. There was no time left to even say goodbye.

That’s why you can’t make plans for someday. One of my favorite authors writes how “folks who have one foot in the future and the other in the past and spend their time pissin all over today because of it.” (Stephen King, from Four Past Midnight) — I agree wholeheartedly.

If you find yourself saying “I wish I had (done something differently),” the thing to do is let it go. Don’t live in your past.

If you find yourself saying “I want to (do something) someday,” the thing to do is change your outlook. Don’t live in your future.

Remember, “Someday” is a myth — all you have is the present. Live in it.

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7 Responses to “The Myth of “Someday””

#1 yaijik on 18, Sep, 2007 at 9:01 am

Someone said that one’s dream become a goal when he sets a (reasonable) date. That simple. According to one’s goal will be one’s actions. Dreaming become planning.

#2 Bob on 18, Sep, 2007 at 9:12 am

I’ve been reading your blog since the “10 reasons it doesn’t pay” and I find it very interesting some of the topics and conclusions that you draw are almost mirrors of my own.

I lost my best friend to cancer on Christmas Eve, 2004. A year later, on Dec. 17th 2005, my mother died unexpectedly of complications from surgery. October 2006 my wife had a health emergency that almost cost her life and led to a 6 month recovery before she could walk unassisted. A year later to the day, Dec. 17th 2006, a close friend of mine, my mentor in the IT field, committed suicide.

It took all of the above for me to stop saying “someday” , start making goals, and start going for them.

Good luck on your quest to achieve your goals.

#3 Lawrence Cheok on 19, Sep, 2007 at 11:17 am

Nice article Shaun.

I cannot agree more. There’s been too many ‘…someday’; too many regrets; too many ‘Only if…’

We’ve heard this before, ‘live each day like it’s your last’. It’s not easy, but at least we’ve got to try.

I hope you achieve your dreams too!

#4 Eric on 21, Sep, 2007 at 10:15 am

The examples you’ve used in your someday game…travel the world, learn to sail, go to Hawaii, etc., seem more like “dreams” or “wishful thinking” to me, (unless you’re a multi-millionaire, then it might be considered just another boring week.) Wishful thinking is an important part of our development so I don’t want to minimize this, but I think it’s important to set attainable and worthy goals.

For example, I’d love to “travel the world by December, 2007”. But that would mean I’d have to quit my job, empty out the savings account, and say goodbye to my wife and two kids. Of course I’m not completely without compassion, so I’d try my best to help my wife find a second job so that she doesn’t lose the house right away. When I get back home in January 2008, I’m quite sure my wife won’t want to even talk to me nor will my employer give me my old job back. I guess I could use that spare time to learn to sail.

(Okay, enough of the sarcasm.)

How about goals like these:

– I will develop a better relationship with my mother within the next three months
– I will volunteer at a homeless shelter this winter

Am I going to give up my dream to travel the world “someday”? Nope. Am I ever going to achieve this goal? Probably not, unless I win the lottery. I’m just a working stiff trying to scratch out a living for my family. Don’t take away my “someday” dreams.

#5 A Long Long Road » 100 Resources To Improve Your Career, Relationships And Money on 22, Nov, 2007 at 10:29 am

[…] The Myth of “Someday” – you may have thought of doing something special for your love ones someday. Do you know that “someday” may never come? […]

#6 A Long Long Road » 100 Resources To Improve Your Career, Relationships And Money on 22, Nov, 2007 at 10:29 am

[…] The Myth of “Someday” – you may have thought of doing something special for your love ones someday. Do you know that “someday” may never come? […]

#7 anthony on 25, Oct, 2009 at 1:30 pm

Why isn’t traveling the world a goal, instead of just a dream. Don’t need to be a multimillionaire at all. Learning to sail was my dream along with owning my own boat and sailing when I felt the need.

Will I achieve this goal/ probably not. BS. I will achieve these goals because its my dream with a plan to succeed. All I need to do is work it.
Dreams are fantasy, a goal is reality. I dream of winning the lottery, will it happen, probably not, pure luck.
A goal happens because I make it happen, not rely on luck.

5 years ago I was unemployed. Decided on my goal, put a plan into action. Today I am employed doing what I love, bought a newer car and took sailing lessons this spring. June 2009 bought my first boat (albeit a smaller one). Next step, more lessons, certifications and my instructors license (3 years). 2 years from today, buy my 30-35′ boat and do more sailing. Start giving lessons on weekends. Quit my job, give lessons one day a week, give 1 day sailing cruises (with lunch on board) 1 day a week of English Bay, Howe Sound. Work 2 days a week for 7 months of the year, then sail to Hawaii for a vacation. Or fly to Europe and rent a boat, or fly to the Mediterranean and rent a boat or or or or….

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