“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.”
— Benjamin Franklin
I recently received a thank you email from a reader and course student named Hope. She said our work helped motivate her through an arduous recovery process following a serious car accident last year. Although her entire story was both heartbreaking and inspiring, this one line made me pause and think:
“The happiest moment of my life is still that split-second a year ago when, as I laid crushed under a 2000 pound car, I realized my husband and 9-year-old boy were out of the vehicle and absolutely OK.”
Dire moments like this force us to acknowledge what’s truly important to us. In Hope’s case, it was her husband and son. And in the remainder of her email she talks about how her family spends significantly more time together now, sharing daily stories, telling little jokes, and appreciating each other’s company. “The accident made us realize how much time we had been wasting every day on things that weren’t important, which prevented us from spending quality time with each other,” she said.
It’s hard to think about a story like Hope’s and not ask yourself: What do I need to stop wasting time on?
Here are some things to consider that I’ve been examining in my own life:
- Distractions that keep you from special moments with special people. – Pay attention to the little things, because when you really miss someone you miss the little things the most, like just laughing together. Go for long walks. Indulge in great conversations. Count your mutual blessings. Let go for a little while and just BE together.
- Compulsive busyness. – Schedule time every day to not be busy. Have dedicated downtime – clear points in the day to reflect, rest, and recharge. Don’t fool yourself; you’re not so busy that you can’t afford a few minutes of sanity.
- Negative thinking about your current situation. – Life is like a mirror; we get the best results when we smile. So talk about your blessings more than you talk about your problems. Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing. Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there.
- The needless drama around you. – Be wise enough to walk away from the nonsense around you. Focus on the positives, and soon the negatives will be harder to see.
- The desire for everything you don’t have. – No, you won’t always get exactly what you want, but remember this: There are lots of people who will never have what you have right now. The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for. Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they already have.
- Comparing yourself to everyone else. – Social comparison is the thief of happiness. You could spend a lifetime worrying about what others have, but it wouldn’t get you anything.
- Thinking about who you were or what you had in the past. – 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.
- Worrying about the mistakes you’ve made. – It’s OK if you mess up; that’s how you get wiser. Give yourself a break. Don’t give up. Great things take time, and you’re getting there. Let your mistakes be your motivation, not your excuses. Decide right now that negative experiences from your past won’t predict your future.
- Worrying about what everyone thinks and says about you. – Don’t take things too personally, even if it seems personal. Rarely do people do things because of you; they do things because of them. You honestly can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react and who you choose to be around.
- Self-deception. – Your life will improve only when you take small chances. And the first and most difficult chance you can take is to be honest with yourself.
- A life path that doesn’t feel right. – Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. When you truly believe in what you’re doing, it shows, and it pays. Success in life is for those who are excited about where they are going. It’s about walking comfortably in your own shoes, in the direction of YOUR dreams.
- Everyone else’s definition of success and happiness. – You simply can’t base your idea of success and happiness on other people’s opinions and expectations.
- Those who insist on using and manipulating you. – What you allow is what will continue. Give as much as you can, but don’t allow yourself to be used. Listen to others closely, but don’t lose your own voice in the process. (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Boundaries & Expectations” chapter of “1,000 Little Habits of Happy, Successful Relationships”.)
- Trying to impress everyone. – One of the most freeing things we learn in life is that we don’t have to like everyone, everyone doesn’t have to like us, and that’s perfectly OK. No matter how you live, someone will be disappointed. So just live your truth and be sure YOU aren’t the one who is disappointed in the end.
- All the fears holding you back. – Fear is a feeling, not a fact. The best way to gain strength and self-confidence is to do what you’re afraid to do. Dare to change and grow. In the end, there is only one thing that makes a dream completely impossible to achieve: Lack of action based on the fear of failure.
- Doubting and second-guessing yourself. – When in doubt just take the next small step. Sometimes the smallest step in the right direction ends up being the biggest step of your life.
- People who continuously dump on your dreams. – It’s better to be lonely than to allow negative people derail you from your sanity. Don’t let others crush your mood or dreams. Do just once what they say you can’t do, and you will never pay attention to their negativity again.
- Thinking the perfect time will come. – You can’t always wait for the perfect moment. Sometimes you must dare to do it because life is too short to wonder what could have been.
- Band-Aids and temporary fixes. – You can’t change what you refuse to confront. You can’t find peace by avoiding things. Deal with problems directly before they deal with your long-term happiness. Build sustainable habits that move your life forward. (Angel and I build small, life-changing daily habits with our students in the “Goals and Growth” module of the Getting Back to Happy course. And we’d be truly honored to work with YOU.)
- Close-minded judgments. – Open your mind before you open your mouth. Don’t hate what you don’t know. The mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work when it’s closed.
- Other people’s mistakes and oversights. – Today, be tolerant of people’s mistakes and oversights. Sometimes good people make bad choices. It doesn’t mean they’re bad; it simply means they are human.
- Resentment. – Kindness is not to be mistaken for weakness, nor forgiveness for acceptance. It’s about knowing that resentment is not on the path to happiness. Remember, you don’t forgive people because you’re weak. You forgive them because you’re strong enough to know that people make mistakes.
- Any hateful thoughts at all. – Set an example. Treat everyone with kindness and respect, even those who are rude to you – not because they are nice, but because you are. Make kindness a daily habit; it’s what makes life happier and more fulfilling in the long run.
- Regrets of any kind. – You don’t have to be defined by the things you once did or didn’t do. Don’t let yourself be controlled by regret. Maybe there’s something you could have done differently, or maybe not. Either way, it’s merely something that has already happened. Leave the unchangeable past behind you as you give yourself to the present moment.
- Every point in time other than right now. – Don’t cry over the past, it’s gone. Don’t stress too much about the future, it hasn’t arrived. Do your best to live NOW and make this moment worth living.
Now, it’s your turn…
Truth be told, the most important decision you will ever make is what you do with the time that is given to you. So let’s revisit the question I proposed in the intro: What do you need to stop wasting time on?
Leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
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