Today, I was jogging on the outskirts of downtown Austin when a woman I had just passed began screaming for help. I turned around to see that her husband had fallen to the ground and appeared unconscious. I ran over and checked his pulse. He had one, but he wasn’t breathing. The woman called 911 on her mobile phone while I performed CPR on her husband. Somehow, miraculously, I got him breathing again before the ambulance arrived. And although I have no idea how this couple’s story will end, I’m hopeful based on positive remarks from one of the paramedics who said the husband seemed to be in stable condition.
Now I’m sitting here reflecting on the incident and, even more so, on the words the woman repeated over and over through her tears as I was attending to her husband: “It’s not his time. Oh please, it’s not his time.”
And in a backwards way, her words keep echoing in my mind, reminding me that life is fragile and fleeting, and that I need to start allocating my time properly again. Life has been busy lately, and certain things have fallen by the wayside, but it’s time to revive and resume the rituals that best serve my well-being and my relationships.
I hope you will join me in…
Taking better care of yourself. – You are like a building with stained-glass windows. You always shimmer and shine when the sun is out, but when darkness sets in your true magnificence is revealed only if there is light shining from within you. It’s your duty, and yours alone, to keep your inner light shining bright. So learn to love yourself first, instead of loving the idea of other people loving you. Loving yourself does not mean being selfish and narcissistic, or disregarding others. Rather, it means welcoming yourself as the most honored guest in your own heart and mind – a guest worthy of extra care and respect. Whatever you are doing, love yourself for doing it. Whatever you are feeling, love yourself for feeling it. That’s a great start.
Getting lost in playful exploration. – Sometimes we put too much weight into trying to control every tiny aspect of our lives. Switch gears, relax and ride the path that life takes you sometimes. Try something new, be a bit daring, and explore your curiosity. Letting go a little lets you experience the unexpected. The greatest joys in life are often the unexpected surprises that you never intended to happen. If you want to get really good at something, let go of the notion of perfection and replace it with the notion of endless playful exploration. We don’t stop dreaming and exploring because we grow old; we grow old because we stop dreaming and exploring.
Indulging in your passions and hobbies. – Do fall in love, not always with a person, but with an aim, an ambition, a passion. If you lost everything but your mind, heart and health, what would be your reason to wake up every morning with a smile? There’s definitely a fire burning inside you. It’s your job to find it and keep it lit. As we grow older, with all of our responsibilities, our passions and hobbies often seem like an indulgence. They shouldn’t be. They should be a requirement. Even if you can only dedicated 20 minutes a day to something you love, DO IT. No excuses, no regrets.
Spreading joy. – BE the change you want to see. Love fearlessly and without limits. No act of love or kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. The best part of life is not just surviving, but thriving with passion, compassion, humor, generosity, and kindness, and using these tools to improve the lives of those around you. Smile, and help others smile too. If you don’t have the power or strength to write someone’s happiness, then try to help them remove their sadness instead. And don’t let the numbers overwhelm you. You can’t help everyone. Focus on assisting one person at a time, and always start with the person closest to you.
Initiating long, intimate conversations with loved ones. – Death is a real challenge of life. It tells us not to waste time. It tells us to make time right now to tell each other that we love each other. It tells us to stop texting and tweeting every second and actually open the floodgates to real, long, heartfelt conversations with the people we love. Relationships flourish when two people are able to share their innermost feelings and thoughts about themselves and each other. To be fully heard by someone, in raw form, and be adored anyhow, is what true love is. Making time for these deep connections and conversations is worth it.
Listening to others without judgment. – Be selective in your battles. Let go a bit and just listen and smile. Most of the time being peaceful and compassionate is far better than being right – especially right off the bat in a new conversation. So keep in mind that wisdom is not just knowing when to stand up and speak, but when to sit down and listen. It’s about knowing that your ears will never get you in trouble, and will always give you a chance to learn something new.
Interacting with quality people in-person, in the flesh. – In the digital age we live in it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of sustaining our relationships through digital means only. Although it’s nice that technology is making the world smaller and making remote relationships easier to manage, nothing can replace the intimacy of physical human connectedness. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a hug, a handshake, a kind pat on the back, a listening ear in a shared space, or the smallest act of caring for someone close by, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.
Enjoying peaceful downtime. – You deserve quiet moments away from the daily hustle, in which no problems are confronted, no solutions are explored, and no demands are being made of your time. Schedule time every day to not be busy. At least twice a day, withdraw yourself from the sources of stress that refuse to withdraw from you. Do so for a few minutes and simply be and breathe. Don’t fool yourself; you’re not so busy that you can’t afford a few minutes of sanity.
Reading amazing books. – Books are truly the perfect entertainment: no advertisements, no batteries, hours of delight and education, and no cost with a library card. What you have to ask yourself is: Why not carry a book around for those inevitable gaps of wasteful waiting time – five minutes here and ten minutes there. Bring that dead time back to life. And remember, it is what you read and learn when you don’t have to that determines what you will be capable of when you have no other choice.
Cooking real, wholesome food. – Your body is a temple. You are what you eat. So do not eat processed food, fast food, and all the filth the big processed food companies try to pass off as “healthy.” Most foods that you don’t have to prepare manually statically cause sickness, cancer, and disease. Do they taste good? Sure. It’s all well-seasoned, pre-packaged poison. This is why so many people are sick – mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually – because of being hooked to the taste of poison, instead of being hooked on the truth and to real foods that heal and provide you with good health and wellness.
Cutting yourself enough slack to make mistakes. – The greatest mistake many of us make is living in constant fear that we will make one. Life is just too short to berate yourself for making mistakes. After all, mistakes in life are as certain as sunsets and detours. So why exert energy avoiding the unavoidable? The truth is you aren’t really free until you give yourself the freedom to make mistakes. So liberate yourself! Cut yourself some slack. Shift your energy from protecting yourself from failure to squeezing more living out of your life.
Celebrating the small victories of each day. – Sure, not every day will be good, but there will always be something good about every day. Notice these things and celebrate them.
Train your mind to see what’s right. Positivity is a choice. The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts. When you are no longer able to change a situation, you are challenged to change how you think about it. And the first step is celebrating what you can – the lessons, the laughs, and love you experienced along the way.
The floor is yours…
Truth be told, the most important decision you will ever make is what you do with the time that is given to you. Let every day be a part of a dream you can touch. Let every day contain love you can feel. Let every day be a great example of a life truly lived.