I used to promise myself that I would have fun as soon as the weekend arrived. And then, I would push it off until the summer. I even let it get to the point where I resigned myself to more work and little play until retirement.
The timing was never quite right to let up on the responsibilities and to bring in the play. So I waited for the timing to be right.
Only it never was.
I changed my perspective once divorce arrived. Suddenly, everything that I had put away until later was gone. The anticipated future with my then-husband would never come.
In that moment, I decided that no matter what else was going on, I would make the time for these eight things because they are too important to put off until tomorrow.
Sometimes I’ve failed at my intention. But that’s okay (see number six below). Life is not about being perfect; it’s about being present. And by having an awareness of these eight things every day, you are fully present and making the most of your life.
1 – Appreciation
Have you said “thank you” today? Have you taken a moment to express gratitude for something or someone in your life? Have you shared your appreciation for others with others?
Gratitude is one of the most powerful tools we have. When we make the effort to consciously feel thankful, we are able to focus on our riches rather than on the perceived lack in our lives. When we express appreciation, we let others know that they are seen and valued.
Appreciation alters your view and shapes your reality. That’s some pretty powerful stuff. Why would you put that off when you can begin to use it today?
2 – Apologies
Some apologies happen in the moment (think of the knee-jerk “I’m sorry” that follows an accidental bump in a crowd). Others – the big ones – often get shelved. At first, we may refrain from taking responsibility. After all, the ego likes to point fingers. Then, even when we do become aware of our part, it may feel awkward or even scary to admit our wrongdoings and express remorse for any harm that it has caused.
While you’re waiting, the other person may be trapped within a narrative that they’ve constructed around the event, believing that they’re not worthy or deserving of an apology. It’s not easy to take responsibility for causing harm (especially when it’s unintentional), but it is the right thing to do. Saying sorry doesn’t mean that they will accept your apology, but it does mean that they are no longer waiting on you.
3 – Health
Health – or the lack thereof – has been prominent in my thoughts of late. I’m at an age where people’s lifestyle choices and/or genetics are beginning to catch up with them and my friends and coworkers are beginning to receive difficult diagnoses (Including my husband, who will go through cervical fusion next month. Based on his MRI, it’s good he didn’t postpone seeing the doctor.). In some cases, I’ve seen them adopt the “I’ll start tomorrow” attitude towards their health for years, delaying better choices or medical appointments in the belief that they still have time. And sadly, sometimes they don’t.
Whenever I have those days when I don’t feel like exercising or preparing healthier foods (because let’s face it, when we’re tired and stressed, ice cream and the couch sounds better than broccoli and a run), I remind myself that I’m lucky to have the opportunity to make better choices today. Because we never know what tomorrow may bring.
4 – Passions
What makes you, you?
We all have our passions, those interests that tiptoe into obsession and provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment. And we have (almost) all experienced the dearth of those passions when life’s demands and distractions increase.
Depending upon your particular interest, you may not be able to fully dive into it every day (I’m thinking of a friend here who loves to climb mountains). However, you can still do something every day that feeds into your passion (my mountain-clmibing friend enjoys planning her next adventure and spends time training her body for its demands).
Rediscover whatever it is that makes you feel alive. And then do it, at least a little bit, every day. Otherwise, you’re telling yourself that you’re not important and your passions don’t matter.
5 – Love Yous
It saddens me how many people I know that have never heard the words “I love you” from a parent or a spouse. Even when love is expressed in other ways (see The Five Love Languages for details) or is deemed to be understood (common in the case of parent to child), those words matter.
Make sure that the people in your life never have to wonder if you love them. Say the words. Write the words. Sing them if you want. Take the time to let the ones you love know that you love them. You don’t want to wait because tomorrow could be too late.
6 – Forgiveness
Forgiveness is a loaded word. In the way I’m using it here, it means that you let go of the weight of the wrongdoing that was done to you. It doesn’t require an apology, it doesn’t need a pardon. It simply says, “This is your burden to carry and I choose to let go of it.”
Often, the hardest person to forgive is ourselves. We give others the benefit of the doubt and turn a critical eye within. Forgiving yourself is a recognition that you were doing the best you could at the time and a promise that now that you know better, you’ll do better.
Anger, bitterness and self-flagellation are a heavy burden. Why would you wait until tomorrow to lighten your load?
7 – Smiles and Laughter
There are times in life when smiles are plentiful. And then there are those days or weeks or months when it seems as though the tears are a permanent fixture. It can feel wrong to give yourself permission to smile or to laugh during tragedy or even during periods of sustained effort and drudgery. So we often wait to smile until life brings us something to smile about.
There is certainly something to be said for acceptance, for understanding that sometimes life is just hard. And there’s even more to be said for being able to find the humor and the levity in any situation. Whoever taught you that laughter and tears are mutually exclusive was mistaken; they can go hand-in-hand. Make a habit of finding the smiles in every day.
8 – Mindfulness
We recently returned from a four-night cruise. One of my favorite parts was being disconnected from technology for the duration. After a brief period of discomfort from being away from the onslaught of information and, yes, distraction, I was amazed at how content I could be, well…just being.
Whether you follow a structured meditation practice, participate in prayer, use exercise as a form of moving meditation or simply take time out of your day to pause and breathe, mindfulness helps to reduce anxiety and increase a sense of peace. We often neglect this practice because it feels wasteful to take time out of our busy schedules to do nothing. Yet that space that nothing allows is exactly what our brains crave in order to be healthy. In other words, taking time out is too important to put off.