“Though the road’s been rocky, it sure feels good to me.”
About a decade ago my grandmother, a woman whom I respected and cherished dearly, turned eighty years old. I’ve written about her before, but I’ll do her justice once again by restating that she was one of the wisest and most humble people I’ve ever known. Although a bit soft-spoken, every time she did speak priceless wisdom rattled the eardrums of those lucky enough to be around.
On the evening of her eightieth birthday, in a moment of genuine humility but obvious self-doubt she asked me, “Marc, at my age, do you think I still matter? Do you think I still have more to achieve?” I was completely speechless and I stumbled over my words for several seconds. Here I am in the presence of someone whom I have an undying respect for, and she’s asking me whether or not she matters.
I finally collected myself and said, “Grandma, yes – 110% yes! You matter and you still have a lot to look forward to. I’m not telling you this because I love you, but because it’s the truth. As time rolls on you will prove this truth to yourself, and I will be there to support you every step of the way.”
My grandmother sat silently for a moment, smiled and replied, “Thank you dear. I needed to hear that. I’m honestly looking forward to the journey ahead.”
Over the course of the next decade, until she finally passed away at 90, my grandmother lived intently and joyously. She wrote, painted, volunteered at hospitals and community centers, and learned several new skills (my favorite of which was playing the piano). And of course, she remained a beacon of wisdom to everyone around her.
Her moment of self-doubt always stuck with me though and I still think about it from time to time. Now, all these years later, I realize that people in all walks of life lose hope every day – sometimes for just a few minutes and sometimes for prolonged periods of time.
What’s most important is to remember that, regardless of our specific situation, there’s always hope to be found. While we’re alive there’s always something meaningful left to experience and appreciate. Here are some thoughts on what we all still have to live for…
1. The power of now.
Every moment is equally special. Every moment is a gift.
Your life is not between the moments of your birth and death. Your life is between now and your next breath. The present moment is all the life there ever is.
Your entire lifespan is simply composed of ‘right nows.’ The best is not in front of you or behind you. It’s within you always in each moment.
So my challenge to you is this: Open your eyes. Wake up. Be attentive. Appreciate this moment for what it is. Regard the present as another chance to enjoy the sights, sounds, smells and sensations life has to offer. Enjoy the big things that we often mistake as little things. Read 1,000 Little Things.
2. Your ability to learn something new.
Gandhi once said, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” What this means to me in the simplest of terms: Every day is a gift, and the gift is learning.
Be a student of life. Indulge in it, learn from it and absorb all the knowledge you can. The purpose of your life is to live it in full, to experience it to the utmost, to reach out with an open mind for the newest and richest experience being offered at the time.
3. Knowing you gave it your best shot.
Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of leaving the rest of your life unlived. You don’t have to live forever; you just have to live passionately right now while you have a chance. Keep in mind that life hasn’t afforded everyone this chance. You have been gifted a priceless opportunity.
Forget about how you thought things were supposed to be. Just because some things didn’t work out as you had expected, or didn’t happen as fast as you thought they would, is no excuse to give up on yourself. Time passes one way or the other. Do what you need to do so that, at the very least, you can look back someday and say, “I gave life my best shot.” Read Tuesdays with Morrie.
4. The wisdom and strength you have within you.
Human beings don’t become wise by reading books – they become educated. Living out experiences firsthand in the real world, one day at a time, is what gives birth to wisdom. Ultimately wisdom is what you get when you test out the waters for yourself. This kind of life experience is the most valuable asset you own.
Sometimes on the road to acquiring wisdom life will beat you down, but you have to stand back up. Because nothing is more beautiful and powerful than a soul who has weather and grown through life’s difficulties. Don’t regret your time, even the moments that were filled with hurt. Smile because you learned from it all and because you gained enough strength to rise above it all.
In the end, it’s not what you have been through that matters; it’s how you got through it that defines your life and your legacy.
5. The positive difference you can make.
Learn to give, even if it’s just a smile, not because you have too much, but because you know there are so many others out there who feel like they have nothing at all. You always have the ability to be kind, and kindness really does make the world a better place.
Smile at people who look like they’re having a rough day. Give them a hand if you’re able. Kindness is the only investment that never fails, and wherever there’s another human being there’s an opportunity for kindness.
As a bonus, when you’re kind to others and bring happiness into their lives, you will not be able to keep it from yourself either. Read The How of Happiness.
6. You are worthy.
The greatest thinking trap is self-rejection. When you begin to believe the negative voices in your head that sometimes call you worthless, then the thought of leaving this world can seem like an attractive option. What you need to realize is: these negative voices are lies.
As soon as someone accuses you or criticizes you, as soon as you are rejected, left alone, or abandoned for a short time, you might find yourself thinking, “Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody.” What you need to realize is, these other people are NOT worthy of YOU.
Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of emotional growth because it contradicts the sacred inner voice that calls you “worthy.” And being worthy constitutes the core truth of every human existence.
Say it out loud if you have to: “This is my journey, and I am worthy of the trip.”
As Hemingway so profoundly said, “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
You may feel discouraged. You may feel upset. You may feel too old. You may be sick. You may be divorced. You may be unemployed. You may be financially strapped. You may be… etc.
But you’re not dead – YOU ARE ALIVE. Your journey is not over.
NO matter what, this simple fact alone is proof that you still have something meaningful to achieve.
What makes you feel most alive? What gives your life meaning? Leave us a comment below and let us know.
Photo by: Jhong Dizon