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What Does It Mean If You Do Something "like There's No Tomorrow"?

J.E. Holloway
J.E. Holloway

To do something "like there's no tomorrow" means to do it with reckless abandon and enthusiasm, heedless of the consequences. This common idiomatic English expression draws on a long tradition of thought about recklessness and consequences. "Like there's no tomorrow," like other similar expressions, has both positive and negative connotations.

To say that someone does something "like there's no tomorrow" can mean that he does it energetically, but also that he does it with disregard for the consequences. "Tomorrow" in this expression serves as a symbol of the future in general, in which the consequences of present actions will become clear. To act "like there's no tomorrow," then, means to behave as if the effects of your actions will never be felt.

Woman standing behind a stack of books
Woman standing behind a stack of books

In modern English, this is often used as a compliment. A related expression, "live every day as though it were your last," urges the listener not to let the fear of future consequences deter her from pursuing activities which will give her pleasure, although it can also be interpreted as reminding the listener that vital tasks ought not to be delayed. In either case, it suggests an admirable focus on the present, neither worrying about the future nor procrastinating. Those who live life like there's no tomorrow, in this construction, are liberated free spirits who show a healthy disregard for the future serve as an example to others.

Not all uses of this expression are admiring. To describe someone as doing something "like there's no tomorrow" often carries a small implied criticism. Tomorrow, after all, always comes, whether we behave as though it will or not. This criticism reflects a more general ambivalence about the careless enthusiasm often associated with youth: we simultaneously envy those who act with "live in the now," while also being conscious of the dangerous effects this type of behavior can have in the long run.

Because of its prevalence as an expression in modern English, "like there's no tomorrow" has permeated popular culture. It appears as the title of a large number of works, including songs or albums by Selena Gomez, Justin Moore, Freddie Mercury, Aaron Tippin, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, Mary Jane Kelly and others. Similarly, it appears in the titles of books on subjects as diverse as cooking and funeral planning.

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      Woman standing behind a stack of books