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Why do the wars continue

between Now and Next?

The good guy and the bad guy

Creating a good guy and a bad guy

Since prehistoric times, several related factors explain why humanity has been cursed with an unresolved war between Now and Next.


The most fundamental mistake is that we made Next the good guy and we made Now the bad guy. Why did we do this? It was because we believed (and continue to believe) we could not satisfy both at the same time. We also noticed that, when Now is spoiled and Next consistently loses, it causes major damage and problems in our ability to have a long and “successful” life. In contrast, the person who has somehow managed to have Next dominate Now (through discipline, will-power, toleration, blame, and fear), will often appear to have an outwardly successful life, even though it’s been accomplished with the sacrifice of enjoying the journey, happiness, self-expression, and joy. We continue to believe that Next is the good guy whom we should encourage and support and Now is the bad guy whom, through blame or fear, we must get to submit to the “wisdom” of what Next wants.


Laudative words praise Next


This attitude, woven into our culture and language, is reflected by the large set of laudative words and phrases that praise our Next, both as he or she occurs in ourselves and in others. These include:

  • accountable

  • ambitious

  • busy

  • committed

  • conscientious

  • dependable

  • deserving

  • diligent

  • does one’s best

  • dutiful

  • effective

  • efficient

  • enduring

  • has fortitude

  • has self-discipline

  • doesn't complain

  • doesn’t give up

  • doesn't procrastinate

  • does a good job

  • hard working

  • has integrity

  • keeps promises

  • mature

  • meets deadlines

  • motivated

  • patient

  • persevering

  • persisting

  • planning for the future

  • reliable

  • resolute

  • responsible

  • makes the right choice

  • saves for the future

  • saves time

  • saves resources

  • self-controlled

  • sets goals

  • strong

  • successful

  • tenacious

  • listens to the angel on their shoulder

  • uncomplaining

  • has will power

  • worthy

  • as well as many others.

Pejorative words blame Now


Just as telling, this same attitude is expressed in another large set of pejorative words and phrases that blame our Now, both as he or she occurs in ourselves and in others. These include:

  • addict

  • alcoholic

  • bums around

  • careless

  • complaining

  • consumerist

  • decadent

  • derelict

  • dilatory

  • does-nothing

  • drifting

  • druggie

  • drunkard

  • feeling entitled

  • failure

  • fickle

  • forgetful

  • freeloading

  • gives up

  • gluttonous (one of the seven deadly sins)

  • good-for-nothing

  • half-hearted

  • idle

  • immature

  • impatient

  • impulsive

  • inconsistent

  • indifferent

  • indolent

  • indulgent

  • ineffective

  • inefficient

  • irrational

  • irresponsible

  • lackadaisical

  • lazy

  • lethargic

  • loafer

  • loser

  • makes the wrong choice

  • moocher

  • negligent

  • not accountable

  • not caring about the future

  • not committed

  • procrastinating

  • quitter

  • selfish

  • sexually indulgent

  • skirt chaser

  • shiftless

  • shirker

  • slothful (another one of the seven deadly sins)

  • sluggish

  • slut

  • spoiled

  • has the devil on their shoulder

  • thoughtless

  • undeserving

  • unmotivated

  • unreliable

  • unworthy

  • wastes time

  • wastes resources

  • work-shy

  • as well as many others.

We identify ourselves as our Next

We have disowned our Now


Reinforcing this dichotomy and discord, we most often identify ourselves as Next (at least the self we like to think we are and we like others to think we are), with Now getting little official recognition, consideration, and respect. Now becomes the disowned self, the immature child that we think we’ve outgrown (or should have outgrown). 

For example, your Next makes a plan to exercise the next day, but doesn't consult with your Now to ensure that when the time comes to exercise (and your Now is more in control), your Now is likely to want to do the exercise. You tell your friend, "I'm gong to the gym tomorrow." Since you didn't take the time to consult with your Now (your body-mate for life), you are not speaking for him or her because you didn't stop to bring him or her on board in the plan.

Two days later your friend asks you about going to the gym and you reply, "I wanted to but I ended up playing some games on my phone and felt guilty afterwards." 

In both cases, the "I" that was speaking was your Next, with no direct acknowledgement of the "I" that wasn't consulted (your Now) in the planning process, the "I" that wanted to play games on the phone rather than going the gym.

The parent as Next

The child as Now


In a parent/child relationship, when the parent (as Next) does not show respect and consideration for the child (as Now) and for what the child wants and needs, the parent resorts to criticism, praise, and blame, trying to dominate the child into doing what the parent wants. The child then responds with begrudging “obedience,” withdrawal, refusal, and/or often outright rebellion. Having been consistently treated with lack of respect and consideration, the child loses most, if not all, respect and consideration for the parent.

Somebody has to be sacrificed

And it should be your Now


Both Next and Now become entrenched in the belief that one of them has to be sacrificed to the desires of the other. Next will “win” for a while, but finally, it will get too much for Now and he or she will take over. Now may dominate, but Next is always trying to wrest control back. For most of us, these painful life-destroying skirmishes continue until we die. A common example of this is when Next is trying to stick to a diet, but, after a while, Now can’t take it anymore and starts indulging again, with all the lost weight (and often more), pouring back onto our hips or belly.

Our resignation to the dominance of Next

Robert Frost's final stanza of "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" sums up our missing integrity:

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   

But I have promises to keep,   

And miles to go before I sleep,   

And miles to go before I sleep."

Almost everybody agrees that we must fight within ourselves


The assumption of the necessity of these continuing battles between the angels and the devils on our shoulders is perpetrated as unquestioned and axiomatic truths by our parents, our teachers, our mentors, our schools, our friends, our colleagues, our churches, our religions, our governments, and even by the stories and dramas that entertain us. As one example of these war-like moralisms in our movies, consider the crowning speech that Frank Slade (played by Al Pacino) delivers in the movie, “Scent of a Woman.” He said, “I always knew what the right path was. Without exception, I knew. But I never took it. You know why? It was too damn hard. Now here’s Charlie. He’s come to the crossroads. He has chosen a path. It’s the right path. It’s a path of principle...that leads to character.”


Or consider Aesop’s fable entitled, “The Ants and the Grasshopper.” The ants are shown as the hard-working good guys who are saving for their future. The grasshopper, in contrast, is shown as the foolish layabout who is focusing on having fun now. We all know that, as the fable reminds us, when the winter comes, the grasshoppers will die...whereas the ants will survive.


With these convictions about Next and Now embedded deeply into our culture and into our psyches, it’s no wonder that most of us, much of the time, are continually struggling and fighting within ourselves. Only in those circumstances where Next and Now happen to agree, do we have any semblance of peace. Even then, with this temporary truce, we remain aware of the ongoing animosity and know that the family feud will soon begin again.

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