How often are you stuck deep in a cycle of worry, fear, and other forms of destructive overthinking? How often are you aimlessly distracted from what matters most? And how often do you feel like you’re running in place, with zero to show for your efforts?
I used to struggle with all of the above.
But, after carefully working through these struggles, I’ve become reasonably proficient at making the most of my limited time each day.
Today, for example, I calmly visited my doctor to check up on a health issue I’ve been overcoming, edited a chapter in a new book Angel and I are co-writing, coached three of our Getting Back to Happy students, responded to emails from dozens of students, worked on business planning and strategizing for the upcoming year, meditated, exercised, spent a quality late afternoon and early evening with my family, and of course now I’m writing this blog post.
It might seem like a lot, but it happens one step at a time with presence and focus. My mind is tuned in to what matters, and my actions reflect it.
With that said, however, I’ll be the first to admit that certain detrimental habits still occasionally sneak up on me and get in the way of my inner faith and overall effectiveness. And these are super common habits among my friends, family, peers, and students alike – these are the little things we all do that end up wasting our precious time. The word “waste” may sound a bit dramatic, but it’s really not. After spending the past decade coaching thousands of people, and working through my own personal struggles, there’s little doubt that these are the most popular ways we all collectively waste the beautiful days of our lives:
- We waste beautiful days holding on too tightly. – Nothing is permanent. When you understand this, you can do almost anything you wish because you’re not trying to hold onto anything anymore…except the present moment.
- We waste beautiful days fighting against where we are. – Trust the journey, even when you do not understand it. Sometimes what you never expected turns out to be what you need. Try not to waste your time and energy fighting against where you are – invest your time and energy into getting to where you want to go, one day at a time, one step at a time. (Angel and I build daily, life-changing rituals with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of Getting Back to Happy.)
- We waste beautiful days with meaningless distractions. – Don’t numb yourself with relentless noise. Don’t let distractions hold you back. Control your distractions before your distractions control you. Feel the genuine, positive power that flows from your decision to rise above the widespread distractions that don’t really matter.
- We waste beautiful days chasing the wrong things. – You might think more and more (and more) outward success will make you happy because you live in a world where you’ve been taught that once you have the right career and the right title and the right friends then you will be happy. In reality how it really works is the complete opposite – once you are happy, then you attract the people, the career and the abundance you seek. It starts on the inside.
- We waste beautiful days postponing our happiness. – Happiness is a how, not a what. A mindset, not a destination. It’s about enjoying all the little things, while chasing after the big ones. Happiness does not start when “this, that or the other thing” is resolved – it happens now, when you appreciate what you have. So no matter what else may be going on, always remember that you have been blessed with this moment and the ability to live it as you choose.
- We waste beautiful days in a state of overwhelm. – The best time to take a deep breath is when you don’t feel like it. Because that’s when doing so can make the biggest difference.
- We waste beautiful days being busy (but not productive). – There’s a BIG difference between being busy and being productive. Don’t confuse motion with progress. For instance, a rocking horse keeps moving but never makes any forward progress.
- We waste beautiful days avoiding growth and change. – Growth is painful. Change is painful. But in the end, nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere in the past.
- We waste beautiful days fearing failure. – If you are too afraid of failure, you can’t possibly do what needs to be done to be successful. Remind yourself that failure is actually not the worst outcome – succeeding in life at the wrong things, or not even trying, are both far worse.
- We waste beautiful days with constant indecision. – Decide. Commit. Do. It’s really that simple.
- We waste beautiful days with constant complaining. – Stop focusing on how stressed you are and remember how blessed you are. Complaining won’t change your reality, but a positive attitude will.
- We waste beautiful days blaming others for our troubles. – You will be changed by what happens to you, but you don’t have to be reduced by it. In fact, the extent to which you can rise above adversity, or achieve any of your goals, depends on the extent to which you take responsibility for your life. When you blame others for what you’re going through, you deny responsibility – which means you effectively give others power over that part of your life.
- We waste beautiful days engaging in needless drama. – Positivity is a choice. So choose wisely. Be smart enough to walk away from the needless drama, gossip, and negativity around you – it is never worth engaging in, ever.
- We waste beautiful days talking down to ourselves. – Refuse to accept any more nonsense. Refuse to settle for the same old self-inflicted negativity. The way to overcome negative thinking and destructive self-talk is to develop opposing, positive thought patterns that are stronger and more powerful. Listen to your inner voice and replace redundant negativity with positive alternatives. Ask yourself: Who would you be, and what else would you see, if you erased the thought that’s worrying you? What could you be excited about right now, if you really wanted to? What could you be grateful for right now, if you really wanted to? Etc.
- We waste beautiful days doubting ourselves. – You have good reason to believe that you can trust yourself going forward. Not because you’ve always made the right decisions, but because you’ve survived the wrong ones, and you’ve taken tiny steps forward. So cry for a moment if you have to – get it out of your system. Crying doesn’t indicate that you’re weak; since birth, it has always been a sign that you’re alive and full of potential. And you are FULL of potential again right now!
- We waste beautiful days completely neglecting ourselves. – Remember to take care of yourself… Rest. Exercise. Eat healthy. Read. Be creative. Laugh. Don’t burn out. We need you for the long haul. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
This Moment is Your Life
I want to end this post by reminding you of something incredibly important that’s been on my mind today…
Where you are and what you’re doing at any given moment is essential.
Because this moment is the only moment guaranteed to you.
This moment is your life.
You are not on your way somewhere else.
Right now is not just a stepping-stone to another place – it is the ultimate destination, and you are already here.
You are not progressing to a more important moment in your life.
This might seem obvious, but I forget sometimes, and I’m betting you do too.
For example, imagine you’re…
- Brushing your teeth, washing your dishes, getting dressed for the day, etc. – these are often moments of rushing to the next thing. But they are also priceless destinations in and of themselves, if you pay close attention. These are quiet moments of space…to breathe, to notice, to practice patience, and to express gratitude for the healthy teeth in your mouth, the food that dirtied your dishes, the clothes you can afford to wear, etc.
- Driving to work in rush hour traffic, hurrying into a meeting, etc. – these are moments when you’re quite literally on your way to another place. But these moments are not less than any other moment in your life. They are full of sights, sounds, interactions with other people, and the ability to be present and appreciate life…to practice patience, to breathe, to calmly cope with the emotions you’re feeling, to give yourself space before the commotion ahead of you.
Too often our minds are set on getting somewhere else. Another beautiful day comes to an end with hundreds of unnoticed moments behind us – we didn’t notice them because they were insignificant to us. And over time our entire lives become a massive pile of unnoticed and insignificant moments on our way to more important things. Then the important things get rushed through too…to get to the next one, and the next, until our time is up and we’re left questioning where it all went.
But it doesn’t have to be this way anymore.
Not for you. Not for me.
We can notice the beautiful moments.
We can make the most of this beautiful day.
Which point above resonated with you the most? What other habits drain your energy and waste the precious and beautiful days of your life? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts and insights with us.
Also, our next annual Think Better, Live Better conference is taking place February 18-19, 2017. You can get a discounted early bird ticket right now, while they last. Note: you can watch short clips from our 2016 event here, here and here.