“May you live every day of your life.”
I just received an email from a young reader named Diane that nearly brought me to tears. The opening lines of her email read: “I’m dying of Leukemia at age 18. I was sent home from the hospital for my final few weeks 156 days ago. But now I’m back at the hospital being treated again, because my doctors now believe there is hope.”
I pray a miracle continues to work on Diane’s behalf, and I’m also selfishly grateful for the reminder she has given me. Our lives are fleeting, and the best day to fight for the right to live a full life is today. For those of us lucky enough to have our health, this means doing something amazing today. And by “amazing,” I mean taking small, positive steps forward on a purposeful path.
Because everything you want to do takes daily practice. Whether it means to learn to dance by practicing dancing or to learn to live by practicing living, the principles are the same. In each, it’s the performance of a dedicated precise set of acts, mental and physical, from which comes the sense of achievement, clarity of one’s meaning, and a satisfaction of the inner spirit. One becomes, in some way, an athlete of Life itself. And practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, faith, or desire. It’s the only means of lifelong fulfillment.
As Mae West so profoundly said, “You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
And you know you’re on the right track when you can repeat each of the following headlines to yourself, honestly. (And if you can’t, this short list gives you something positive to work on.)
- I have kept an open mind to new ideas and experiences. – As they say, a ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for. Accepting some level of risk in life is important. You cannot be both close-minded and wise. You have to open up to the unknown. Close-minded people who pretend to be wise to the ways of the world are mostly just cynics. Cynicism masquerades as wisdom, but it’s the farthest thing from it. Because cynics don’t learn anything. Cynicism is a self-imposed blindness, a rejection of the world that occurs when we’re afraid it will hurt us or let us down. Cynics always say “no.” Do the opposite. Saying “yes” begins things. Saying “yes” is how things grow. Saying “yes” leads to firsthand experience and knowledge. “Yes” is for strong, open-minded people. So for as long as you have the strength to, say “yes.”
- I am following my heart and intuition. – Don’t be pushed by your problems. Be led by your dreams. Live the life you want to live. Be the person you want to remember years from now. Make decisions and act on them. Make mistakes, fail and try again. Even if you fail a thousand times, at least you won’t have to wonder what could have been. At least you will know in your heart that you gave your dreams your best shot. Each of us has a fire in our hearts burning for something. It’s our responsibility in life to find it and keep it lit. Because it’s far better to fail in originality, our own way, than to succeed in imitation every day of our lives. (Read Start: Do Work That Matters.)
- I am being honest with myself. – Be honest about what’s right, as well as what needs to be changed. Be honest about what you want to achieve and who you want to become. Be honest with every aspect of your life, always. Because you are the one person you can forever count on. Own your choices, and be willing to take the necessary steps to improve upon them. Either you take accountability for your life or someone else will. And when they do, you will become an instrument of their ideas and dreams instead of a pioneer of your own.
- I am making a difference. – Act as if what you do makes a difference. It does. Is it true that we all live to serve? That by helping others we fulfill our own destiny? The answer is a simple “yes.” When you make a positive impact in someone else’s life, you also make a positive impact in your own life. Do something that’s greater than you – something that helps someone else to be happy or to suffer less. You are only one, but you are one. You cannot do everything, but you can do something.
- I don’t need anyone else to complete me. – There’s far more to life than finding someone who will want you, or getting upset over someone who won’t. There’s a lot of important time to be spent discovering yourself without begging someone to fall in love with you along the way… and this journey doesn’t need to be empty or painful. YOU need to fill yourself up with love – self-love – first. Become a whole being on your own. Go on adventures, explore your passions, wander around the city and see new sights, sit in coffee shops and read, write on bathroom stalls, leave notes in library books, dress up for yourself, give to others who can’t pay you back, smile and have fun. Do all things with love, but don’t romanticize life like you can’t survive without someone giving it to you every second. You can. And once you give it to yourself, you will feel healed, and you will ultimately open yourself up to the possibility of healthy relationships with others. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Self-Love” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
- I have been brave enough to be vulnerable. – So many of us feel alone, even when we’re surrounded by others we call friends and family. Inside, regardless of present company, we feel misunderstood and scared. We worry that telling people about our fears will make them think less of us. We wonder if anyone else feels the same way we do. We convince ourselves that we’re weird, that no one else hears the voices in their head, that we’re the only one who needs a hug. Well wake up! YOU aren’t alone. Be brave enough to open up to those you love, and you’ll see that I’m right. Tear down any emotional brick walls you have built around yourself. Owning your story can be hard, but not nearly as difficult as spending your life running from it. Embracing your vulnerability is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and friendship and personal growth – the life experiences that require you to be the most vulnerable.
- I have forgiven those who once hurt me. – We’ve all been hurt by another person at some point or another – we were treated badly, trust was broken, hearts were hurt. And while this pain is normal, sometimes that pain lingers for too long. We relive the pain over and over, letting them live rent-free in our head and we have a hard time letting go. Grudges are a waste of perfect happiness, it causes us to miss out on the beauty of life as it happens. To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you. (Read What’s So Amazing About Grace?)
- I persevered through tough times. – Sometimes you have to die a little on the inside in order to rise from your own ashes and believe in yourself and love yourself again. Call it growth. Call it finding yourself. Call it whatever you want. The key is to live moment to moment when times are tough, and push forward, until moments become minutes… minutes become hours… hours become days… days become weeks… weeks turn to months… and time again has meaning… and life becomes a reason to smile. The process is almost like learning to walk or speak for the very first time. It isn’t easy, but in the process we grow and we find ourselves, stronger, wiser, and possessing talents we didn’t know we had. When we refuse to give up on ourselves, the toughest of times can lead us to the best.
- I have no regrets. – This one is simply an amalgamation of the previous eight, and then some… Follow your heart. Be true to yourself. Do what makes you happy. Be with who makes you smile. Laugh as much as you breathe. Love as long as you live. Say what you need to say. Find the courage to feel different, yet beautiful. Find it in your heart to make others feel good too. Know that you don’t need many people in your life, just a few great ones, so don’t lower yourself and your standards for the wrong reasons. Be strong when things get tough. Remember that the universe is always doing what’s right. Recognize when you’re wrong and learn from it. Always look back and see how much you’ve grown, and be proud of yourself. Appreciate all the things you have. Celebrate your small victories. Forgive. And let go of the things you can’t control.
The floor is yours…
Many moons from now, when you’re on your deathbed, what’s one thing you absolutely want to be able to say about yourself and your life?
Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
Photo by: Fausto Di Goethe