Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR) was the thirty second president of the United States. As a democrat, he won a record of four elections and served his country from March 1933 to his death in April 1945. Long before he became the President, during the summer vacation of 1921, FDR was enjoying a day of sailing when he fell overboard into the icy waters of the Bay of Fundy, and felt as if his body was paralyzed. The following day, he felt lower back pain and went swimming, hoping it would ease the soreness. But as the day progressed, he felt his legs becoming weaker, and by the third day, could not stand without support. The diagnosis was infantile paralysis i.e. polio.
Dealing with his sudden illness, he retired from his political life and turned his focus on recovering from his paralysis. He began physiotherapy and swam regularly with the result that by the winter of that year, his arms regained strength, his nervous system began to function normally, and his stomach and lower back became stronger.
Throughout his rehab process, FDR insisted that he be surrounded by “good cheer”. He would exercise constantly, even while surrounded by family and friends. He made remarkable progress, as his efforts and exercises clearly paid off, but he still remained a paraplegic. With the encouragement and support of his wife, Eleanor and political advisor, Louis Howe, he ventured back into political life. He ran for Governor of New York in 1928 and held the Governorship for two terms. He decided to run for President in the 1932 election, and the rest is history.
This great man had said that “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today”.
Yesterday, today, tomorrow – three different words, that in the normal course of conversation, stand for the three different aspects of time – past, present and future. So, how then can we justify the topic – that the present equates to the future ?
In the story mentioned above, between 1921, when FDR went through a seriously debilitating illness, until 1932, when he became the President, he lived through more than 4000 ‘todays’. So, how did he use or manage these ‘todays’ ? First, he was clear on his priorities. His health came first. Every ‘today’, he spent many hours exercising his muscles relentlessly. The result – he became physically stronger to face the ‘challenges’ that every tomorrow brings. Second, he surrounded himself with the positive – cheerful conversation, family and friends, activities to restore his health. The result – the emergence of a confident and optimistic personality, who did not allow a paralyzing illness to dominate the talents and potential within. Third, in line with his passion, he continued to follow the political developments in his country, by maintaining contact with the people on the ground, even through his recovery period . The result – he paved the way for his political career and stepped into the highest political office, in one of the most powerful countries in the world.
No wonder that Pope John Paul II said “The future starts today, not tomorrow”.
Let’s pause for a moment and reflect on ‘Yesterday’, and the role it has to play in the shaping of ‘today’, and thereby ‘tomorrow’. The past is ‘history’, ‘an expired cheque’, ‘water under the bridge’ and ‘spilt milk’ – so let go of the past is the oft heard refrain. But while letting go of the past, we should not let go of the lessons we learnt through our past experiences. Because ‘Yesterday will be your tomorrow, unless you change today’.
What we sow today, is what we reap tomorrow. It is very important that we have a clear vision or goal in mind for the future, towards which we take small but sure steps every ‘today’.
“Yesterday is but today's memory, and tomorrow is today's dream”, said Khalil Gibran. This dream or vision for tomorrow could be with respect to anything – character, health, wealth, profession and family. If we would like to be considered as an ethical or honest person, our behavior today should reflect the same. If we would like to be healthy and fit during our middle and old age, we need to start adopting good diet habits and exercise routine today. If we would like to retire a wealthy person, we need to make the right investments today. If we would like to make it to the top of the professional ladder, you need to give our best to your work today. If we want our family to flourish, our children to grow up into exemplary men and women, we need to inculcate the values and ethics into them today.
Sir William Osler has been called the ‘Father of Modern Medicine’. He was one of the ‘Big Four’ founding professors of Johns Hopkins hospital in Canada. It has been said of him that… The life and philosophy of William Osler continues to serve as a standard of excellence and a model for the evolution of the medical profession and its practitioners. This man, whose life serves as an example for medical students the world over, spanning across generations, has said “The best preparation for tomorrow is to do today's work superbly well”.
Gary Ryan Blair is the President of a training organization, whose mission is to help their clients build and sustain superior performance. One of his famous quotes reads “Self-discipline is an act of cultivation. It requires you to connect today's actions to tomorrow's results. There's a season for sowing, a season for reaping. Self-discipline helps you know which is which”.
In a broader context, this applies to our planet too. The melting of the glaciers, global warming and increasing pollution levels are a warning that if we continue to dump several million tons of pollutants into soil, water and air, we are bound to face an increasingly bleak ‘tomorrow’. If today, we do not take immediate steps to address the factors leading to the contamination of our planet, tomorrow we are going to live in an environment without fertile soil, pure air and clean water resources.
Till the end of life, each of us is a work in progress, continuously evolving; and through our thoughts and deeds today, we are shaping our tomorrow. Every today well-lived takes us closer to our dream of tomorrow. As Jackson Brown, Jr, the renowned writer said, “The best preparation for tomorrow is doing your best today”.
What better way to close this article than from this quote from Poetic Evolution : “The woman I was yesterday, introduced me to the woman I am today; which makes me very excited about meeting the woman I will become tomorrow. ”