“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
This morning a close friend of the family passed away far too early. While I’ve spent most of the day grieving, I’ve spent the last couple hours thinking about the fact that our lives are sometimes much shorter than we expect them to be, and that each moment is a miracle – perhaps an obvious thought that simply sinks in a bit more on a day like today.
As I sit here, one question keeps dancing around my mind: What can you do with your moments to maximize their value?
An answer that immediately comes to mind: Use them to give yourself priceless gifts nobody else can give you…
1. An open mind in full acceptance of life’s changes.
You’re not the same person you were a year ago, a month ago, or a week ago. You’re always growing. Experiences don’t stop. That’s life.
Sometimes there are things in our lives that aren’t meant to stay. Sometimes the changes we don’t want are the changes we need to grow. Growth and change may be painful sometimes, but nothing in life is as painful as staying stuck where you don’t belong. The bottom line is that you can’t reach for anything new if you’re holding onto yesterday. You may think holding on makes you strong, but often it is letting go and starting anew in the present.
2. A meaningful path and purpose.
If your life is going to mean anything, you have to live it yourself. You have to choose the path that feels right to YOU, not the one that looks right to everyone else. It’s always better to be at the bottom of the ladder you want to climb, than the top of the one you don’t. So don’t wait until you’re halfway up the wrong ladder to listen to your intuition. Every morning, ask yourself what is really important, and then find the courage, wisdom and willpower to build your day around your answer.
In the end, it’s not what you say, but how you spend your time that counts. If you want to do something, you’ll find a way; if you don’t, you’ll find an excuse. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Goals and Success” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
3. The time to do what truly matters.
Identify what’s most important to you. Prune nonessential commitments. Eliminate as much as you possibly can of everything else. No wasted time, no fluff, no regrets.
The mark of a successful person is the ability to set aside the “somewhat important” things in order to accomplish the vital ones first. When you’re crystal clear about your priorities, you can painlessly arrange them in the right order and discard the activities and commitments that do not support the ones at the top of your list.
4. The space to BE, without needless worry.
If you think and you think and you think, you will think yourself right out of happiness a thousand times over, and never once into it. Worrying doesn’t take away tomorrow’s troubles, it takes away today’s peace and potential. Stop over-thinking everything. Life is too short.
Your biggest limitations are the ones you make up in your mind. The biggest causes of your unhappiness are the false beliefs you refuse to let go of. You are capable of far more than you are presently thinking, imagining, doing or being. You will, however, become what you habitually contemplate, so clear your mind and let your hopes, not your fears, shape your future. How? Meditate. Run. Set your mind free.
5. Permission to be imperfect as you grow.
You may not be where you want to be yet, but if you think about it, you’re no longer where you once were either. You have good reason to believe that you can trust yourself going forward. Not because you’ve always made the right choices, but because you survived the bad ones, and taken small steps in the right direction.
Focus on the right things and just do the best you can. Don’t allow yourself to be crippled by stress and self-loathing. Everything is only as it is. There’s no reason to let it destroy you. Breathe. Let every moment be what it’s going to be. What’s meant to be will come your way, what’s not will fall away. And remember that a great gift may not always be wrapped as you expect. (Read The Last Lecture.)
6. Reassurance of being ENOUGH.
Tell yourself, “I am ENOUGH.” Accept your flaws. Admit your mistakes. Don’t hide and don’t lie. Deal with the truth, learn the lessons, endure the consequences of reality, and move on. Your truth won’t penalize you. The mistakes won’t hurt you. The denial and cover-up will. Flawed and vulnerable people are beautiful and likable. Liars and phonies are not. Every beautiful human being is made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions and finished with unique edges.
You are YOU for a reason. Ignore the distractions. Listen to your own inner voice. Mind your own business. Keep your best wishes and your biggest goals close to your heart and dedicate time to them every day. Don’t be scared to walk alone, and don’t be scared to enjoy it. Don’t let anyone’s ignorance, drama, or negativity derail you from your truth.
7. The right relationships.
Not everyone will appreciate what you do for them. You have to figure out who’s worth your attention and who’s just taking advantage of you. If your time and energy is misspent on the wrong relationships, or on too many activities that force you to neglect your good relationships, you can end up in a tedious cycle of fleeting friendships, superficial romances that are as thrilling as they are meaningless, and a general sense of wondering why you always seem to be running in place, chasing affection.
Choose yourself rather than settle for those who treat you as ordinary. YOU certainly aren’t. Never settle for being someone’s “option” when you have the potential to be someone’s “first choice.” You are the sum of the people you spend the most time with. If you hang with the wrong people, they will bring you down, but if you hang with the right people, they will help you grow into your best self. The RIGHT people for you will love all the things about you that the WRONG people are intimidated by – that’s what you need to look out for.
As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” Life is a book and those who do not educate themselves read only a few pages. When you know better you live better. Period.
All education is self-education. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in a college classroom or a coffee shop. We don’t learn anything we don’t want to learn. Those who take the time and initiative to pursue knowledge on their own time are the only ones who earn a real education in this world. Take a look at any widely acclaimed scholar, entrepreneur or historical figure you can think of. Formal education or not, you’ll find that he or she is a product of continuous self-education.
9. A chance to touch your dreams.
Everyone dreams, but not equally. Too many people dream only at night in the quiet of their own minds, and then awake to find it was all an illusion. Don’t be one of them. Dream by the day instead. Be one of the people who dream with their eyes wide open, and who works to make them come true.
Rest when you are tired, but don’t give up. You never know what’s just around the corner. It could be everything you’ve been working for, or it might be just another mile marker on your journey. Either way, when you keep putting one foot in front of the other, one day the next step you take will be the one that carries you to your goal. (Read Tuesdays with Morrie.)
10. The freedom to express your whole truth.
The greatest and most gratifying experiences in life cannot be seen or touched. They must be felt with the heart from the inside out. There’s nothing more inspiring than the complexity and beauty of human, heartfelt feelings. Sadly though, many people let the fear of judgment numb and silence them. Their deepest thoughts and feelings often go unspoken, and thus barely understood.
Do NOT let people invalidate or minimize how you feel. If you feel something, you feel it and it’s real to you. Nothing anyone says has the power to invalidate that, ever. No one else lives in your body, or sees life through your eyes. No one else has lived through your exact experiences. And so, no one else has the right to dictate or judge how you feel. Your feelings are important. Don’t let anyone lead you to believe otherwise.
Which of the points above are you struggling with? What gifts do YOU need to start giving yourself? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
Photo by: Trey Ratcliff