“You Only Live Once” is a popular catchphrase these days. Many people use it as a lighthearted joke, and I can appreciate when others use it as a sentiment for living in the present moment and making the most of life. But it highlights our natural tendency to sabotage ourselves. It celebrates a major cause for a lot of grief and a lot of broken resolutions.
As Viktor Frankl explained so well in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, everything in life ultimately comes down to your reason WHY. As emotional beings, with a slight sprinkle of intellect, if we don’t have a good enough reason to do something – especially when it’s hard – we won’t do it. According to Frankl, a person with a strong enough WHY can endure any HOW or WHAT.
So let’s say you have a meaningful reason why you should change. You want to lose weight so you can live long enough to see your granddaughter marry. Or you’re going to stop smoking because you just caught your 6 year old with one of your cigarettes in his mouth. Whatever your reason to change, as long as it’s powerful enough, it can get you moving and, more importantly, keep you moving. That is, unless you defeat yourself.
We all do it sometimes. We have every good intention to do things the right way, but find ourselves slipping into old behaviours that just make things worse. It happens and, when it’s not a regular occurrence, it’s really not a big deal. You recover, and then you move on.
But what happens if it keeps happening? Deep down, no one truly wants to fail. We may tell ourselves that we do, because we’re afraid of what might happen if we succeed; or worse, if we actually do try and then fail. But if you lifted every limitation, both real and perceived, then I think anyone you asked would agree that they want to succeed.
Because you inherently want to succeed, every time you act contrary to your nature, you create inner tension and frustration. This feeling is natural and supportive, telling you that you’re doing something wrong. When you take it seriously, you change what you’re doing and you get back on the path to success. Or alternatively, you can justify what you’re doing, reduce the amount of pain you feel and take away your natural desire to change course.
YOLO does just that. It shifts your focus away from the long-term cost of your actions and towards the short-term pleasure that it offers. That small shift sabotages your WHY for change by intensifying your WHY for staying the same. It breaks the natural tension by minimizing the problem in your own eyes.
It’s the same as saying, “Well it’s really not that big of a deal.” “I’m not as bad as my neighbour Jim.” “It’s not my fault, it’s genetics!” There are countless ways that we can reason that we shouldn’t feel THAT bad about the choices we make. And when we don’t feel the need to change, we won’t change.
A friend of mine often jokes about this. When making a decision that will cost him later, he will say, “That’s future Scott’s problem. Let that guy deal with it!” While Scott makes a joke of it, he’s the kind of guy who diligently pays the price now so that he won’t have to suffer later. The YOLO philosophy, on the other hand, puts the opposite into regular practice. It helps you make it ok to hurt yourself by justifying the very things that defeat you.
I’m not trying to be a downer about celebrating life, because I believe in making the most of it. All I’m suggesting is that you don’t let it be a reason to throw away the abundant life you deserve.
Yes, you only live once. Let that be your reason to live your best life.