Have you ever heard of the “one-day wager”? It’s a concept that one of my favorite dating/relationship coaches, Matthew Hussey, talks about. The one-day wager is essentially this: you invest time, energy, emotion, connection, etc. in someone hoping that one day they will be everything you want. Matthew describes this as the riskiest wager you can possibly make with yourself. 

I totally agree. I think this is a brilliant concept. The one-day wager is a lens that I regularly use to look at my professional life.

I grew up hearing that I needed to struggle and suffer and “put in my dues” in order to enjoy life. Climb the ladder. Do the time. In other words, I was socialized to believe in the merits of the one-day wager.

And, I bought in. I tried putting in my dues so that one day I could do what I wanted career-wise. I barely lasted six months. During that time, I was making the one-day wager on a regular basis. Thinking: even though they don’t appreciate me or invite me to the important meetings, or care about what I think, and have me copying and pasting things in Excel all day (seriously, I have a Ph.D. and I was copying and pasting things in Excel all day), I kept thinking: one day, they’re going to realize that I’m really smart and I work hard, and I have a lot to offer and I’m going to get to be in the exciting meetings, and I’m going to get to make the world a better place.

I was miserable. I cried a lot. I drank a lot. One day on my lunch break – I cracked and I tendered my resignation. I couldn’t do one more day.

I felt like I was put here on this earth to do something, and I couldn’t wait for someone else to decide I’ve earned the opportunity, or continue to hope that if I put my head down and worked hard enough on someone else’s agenda for long enough, eventually I’d get to have my own agenda. It was time to stop waiting and start giving myself permission to thrive.

Like all important life lessons, this situation repeated itself later on in my career. I landed a client that I poured my heart and soul into. I ran myself ragged working for them because I believed in the cause and even though I didn’t feel valued or appreciated, I was sure if I kept working hard one day, I would be.

That day never came.

After nearly a year, I couldn’t take it anymore. The toll on my mental and emotional health was too much. I had to pull my investment. 

The only person you should every make a one-day wager with is yourself. There is no wasted investment in yourself if you stay true to your values.

Nowadays, the minute that I realize I’m making the one-day wager on someone else, I speak up and prepare to leave. I truly believe there is nothing more important than acting in alignment with your values. It’s critical that we learn to communicate what we need and then give people the grace, and kindness, and opportunity to change. I’m all for creating space to change our circumstances – but I also know I can’t control the outcome. Sometimes things resolve and I stay; other times, I leave because fit matters and today matters.

Some jobs, some clients, some people can’t give you what you need and that’s okay. It doesn’t make anyone bad or wrong. It just means it’s not for you. It’s not a match. You could get mad about it (and, it’s not wrong to get mad about it), but you can’t wait for one day. This is your life. Be clear about what you need and ask for it. If you don’t get it? Don’t wait. Walk Run away. 

Instead of forcing myself to tough out bad situations, hoping that one day things will improve, I take the one-day wager on myself. I invest my time and energy in myself. I believe that if I keep showing up, being authentic, and doing what I can to make the world a better place, one day it will pay off. The difference is, even though there are some moments of pain and suffering, whether it’s financially or mentally, at the end of the day, I control my life. I get to spend my time how I want to, and I get to feel good about the investment I’m making. Now. Not one day.

That is such a beautiful gift. Whatever happens, whether the investment pays off tomorrow, six months or a year from now, I’m making myself happy today. I’m living out my life purpose today. I don’t have to wait. One day is today. 

You don’t have to struggle now to be happy later. That’s an old belief that it’s time to let go of. You can be happy today, and also you can be happy one day when everything else has panned out.

Are you sinking your time or energy into a professional relationship because one day it might pay off? One day you might be appreciated? One day things may get better?

Look inside and see what matters to you. What do you value? What do you want? What do you need? Start thinking about how you can infuse more and more of that into your current day. Maybe you have the luxury to rip the bandaid off like I did (thank you American Express for footing my bills every time I said goodbye to a job that wasn’t serving me), and just get rid of all the one-day wagers that you shouldn’t be making. If you do, amazing. Go for it. But if you don’t, take five minutes of your day to intentionally create the life you want to live. Focus on what lights you up and what feels good and start giving that space.

Your job is to get clear on what you want and to practice moving away from what you don’t. Focus on investing more in yourself, because you know that will pay off. Now and later. If you’re investing in others, that’s great. I invest in others too but make sure there is a balanced, loving exchange and that you’re not just getting all of the energy and hope sucked out of you. 

As you realize you’re making a lot of one-day wagers and begin to pull your investments, discomfort will surely come. The process won’t necessarily be quick or perfect, but you will have your values to ground you in a reality that is infinitely more fulfilling. 

Choose happiness. Choose yourself. And, choose now. Don’t wait.

Make one day today.

What can you do today, that would make you smile? What can you do today that feels light? What can you do today that moves you toward your goals? Do it. And then, do more of it. Keep practicing investing in yourself and living life in a way that aligns to your values and see how the world around you changes.


  • Kirsten Lee Hill, Ph.D.

    Researcher, Creative, Entrepreneur

    Kirsten Lee Hill, Ph.D. is an expert in creatively leveraging traditional research expertise to support community-driven change, and has worked with global leaders in innovation such as Virgin Unite and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Kirsten partners with people and organizations with inspiring ideas for how to change the world so they can leverage the powers of research and personal wellbeing to advance their cause. She also inspires changemakers to embrace gracefully breaking rules through her podcast, Graceful Rulebreakers.