In the science-fiction classic, Back to the Future, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) journeys 30 years back in time—from 1985 to 1955. While in the past, he saves his father (then only a teenager) from being hit by an oncoming car. In doing so, Marty unintentionally breaks the chain of events that led his father and mother to fall in love. Realizing he has jeopardized his future existence (by accidentally keeping his mom and dad apart), Marty spends the bulk of the movie attempting to repair the consequences of his actions. Before he can travel back to the future, he has to set the past aright by getting his parents back together.

Preparing or Repairing?

Unfortunately, many of us spend our days like Marty McFly, trying to clean up the messes we’ve made. We would rather be pushing ahead into the future, but we’re stuck dealing with the adverse consequences of past actions. Before we can move forward, we have to restore broken family relationships, pay off debt, regain our health, or rebuild the trust of a boss. On account of poor decisions that we made yesterday, we’re forced to be reactive rather than proactive.

Preparing vs. Repairing
Lets you focus on today vs. Makes you focus on yesterday
Increases efficiency  vs.Consumes time
Increases confidence vs. Breeds discouragement
Saves money  vs. Increases costs
Pays now for tomorrow vs. Pays now for yesterday
Takes you to a higher level vs. Becomes an obstacle to growth

Today Matters

If I could shadow you for 24-hours on a typical day and observe your routine, I could tell you, with over 90% certainty, whether you’ll be repairing the past or enjoying your future 10 years from now. At first blush, that claim may sound overconfident or entirely too premature. However, I’ve found that the secret of our success is determined by our daily agendas. We cannot escape the weight of our habits and patterns of behavior. The only hope for changing our lives is to change something we do daily.

In life, we can either play now and pay later, or pay now and play later. Either way, we have to pay. However, if we choose the easy route now, and delay making good decisions and developing sound habits until later, then the price of the payment rises. On the other hand, good decisions are like good investments; they compound over time. The earlier in life we make them, the better off we’ll be.

Today may seem like an ordinary day, but where we end up in life largely depends on how we spend our ordinary days. Our behavior today can either prepare us for an amazing future or shatter our world so that tomorrow is spent putting the pieces back together and making repairs. What changes do you need to make today so that, instead of continually patching up the past, you can get back to the future?


  1. Tara Drexler on July 15, 2020 at 3:23 pm

    I am trying to find a citation for a quote attributed to John Maxwell: “If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you end up focusing on repairing.”

    Could you please help me out? I am working on a dissertation introduction and would like to include it in the paper, but won’t if I don’t have a proper citation.

    • Jason Brooks on July 16, 2020 at 10:35 am

      Tara — you can find the quote in John’s book, Today Matters: 12 Daily Practices to Ensure Tomorrow’s Success. The quote comes from Chapter Two, “Today Can Become a Masterpiece”, and you’ll find it under the third point of the section titled, “The Advantage of Today.”

      I can’t give you a specific page number because I’m not sure which version of the book you might have, but hopefully this is enough specific information to get you what you need for your introduction.

      Good luck with your dissertation, and happy writing!

      • Tara on July 16, 2020 at 10:38 am

        Thank you! This should be more than enough information for me to find it.

  2. sheila 28 on July 16, 2020 at 2:36 pm

    thank you

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