“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 every day. Over the past decade, Angel and I have gradually learned to pay more attention to the beauty and practicality of living a simpler life. A life uncluttered by most of the default busyness people fill their lives with, leaving us with space for what’s truly meaningful. A life that isn’t constant rushing, worrying and stress, but instead contemplation, creation, and connection with the people and projects that matter most to us.
- Negative thinking about your capabilities. – Just because you’re struggling doesn’t mean you’re failing. Every great success requires some type of worthy struggle to get there. And don’t wish away all your days waiting for better ones ahead. Just appreciate where you are. You’ve come a long way, and you’re still learning and growing. Be thankful for the lessons. Take them and make the best of things right now.
- The needless drama around you. – A big part of maturity is learning to gracefully walk away from situations that threaten your peace of mind, self-respect, values, morals, or self-worth. Practice letting go gradually. Remind yourself that you don’t need to attend every argument you’re invited to. Give yourself the space to value your time, genuine relationships, and peace of mind, above all in the weeks ahead. Because little else will matter more in the long run.
- 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. Some of the things you take for granted, someone else is praying for. Happiness never comes to those who don’t appreciate what they already have. So remind yourself: You did not go to sleep hungry last night. You had a choice of what to wear today. You have access to clean drinking water. You have access to the internet. You can read. The secret to being grateful is no secret. You choose to be grateful, for the little things.
- Comparing yourself to everyone else. – Social comparison is the thief of personal joy and progress. You could literally spend a lifetime worrying about what others have, but it wouldn’t get you anything worth having.
- Obsessing over 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 evolving and growing. Experiences don’t stop. That’s life. And it’s a privilege!
- Worrying about old mistakes. – It’s OK if you mess up in life — that’s how you get wiser. Give yourself a break. Great things take time, and you’re getting there. Let your mistakes be your motivation, not your excuses. Decide right now that yesterday’s little mistakes and frustrations won’t get in your way today.
- 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. And remember that 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. Because 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.
- Self-deception. – Your life will improve only when you take small chances. And the first and most difficult chance you can take every day is to be honest with yourself.
- A life path that doesn’t feel rewarding. – Life is to be enjoyed, not endured. When you truly believe in what you’re doing, it shows, and it pays in the long run. Success in life is for those who put there heart and soul into their daily efforts. And as you struggle, remember, it’s far better to be exhausted from little bits of effort and learning, than to be tired of doing absolutely nothing.
- 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.
- People who keep trying to manipulate you. – In many cases, what you allow is what will continue. Give as much as you can, but don’t allow yourself to be continuously used. Listen to others closely, but don’t lose your own voice in the process. Set some boundaries when you must! (Angel and I discuss this in detail in the “Boundaries & Expectations” chapter of “1,000 Little Habits of Happy, Successful Relationships”.)
- Doubting and second-guessing yourself. – Give yourself some extra credit. Remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can, and that sometimes it takes an overwhelming series of little breakdowns to have an undeniable breakthrough. 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. Truly, there’s a time and place for everything, and every step is necessary. Just do your best right now, and don’t force what’s not yet supposed to fit into your life. It will happen, when it’s time.
- Thinking the perfect time will come. – Some people wait all day for 5pm, all week for Friday, all year for the holidays, all their lives for happiness. Don’t be one of them! 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, again and again.
- Band-Aids and temporary fixes. – You can’t change what you refuse to confront. You can’t find peace or progress by avoiding things. Deal with problems directly before they deal with your long-term happiness and potential. 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.)
- 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 long-term happiness and healing.
- Hateful thoughts and gestures. – 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.
- Close-minded judgments. – Open your mind before you open your mouth. Don’t resist what you don’t understand. The mind is like a parachute; it doesn’t work when it’s closed. Build friendships with people who aren’t your age. Spend time around those whose first language is different than your own. Get to know someone who doesn’t come from the same social class. Listen. Be humble and teachable. This is how you learn. This is how you see the world.
- Yearning for control over the uncontrollable. – You can’t calm the storm. What you can do is calm yourself, and the storm will eventually pass. The most powerful and practical changes happen when you decide to take control of what you do have power over, instead of craving control over what you don’t.
Now, it’s your turn…
Yes, it’s your turn to treat your limited time today with extra care. Because there’s such a big difference between empty fatigue and gratifying exhaustion. And life is too short not to invest in meaningful activities…
But before you go, please leave Angel and me a comment below and let us know what you think of this post. As you likely know, your feedback is important to us. 🙂
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