It’s amazing how relaxed we can be from day to day slowly pursuing our dreams and goals, hoping that one day, in the distant future, we will achieve them. It can be comforting to us to hold this imagined future in our minds when our day to day life feels a million miles from this. And yet so often, this is all these dreams ever come to, an imagined image in our minds, no more solid and real than the clouds in the sky.
The reality is that time is ticking away on a sand timer for each of us and none of us know when the sand will run out. Dreams in our minds, good deeds we never did, kind words we never said, all turn to dust when our time runs out. So how can we live with full and urgent engagement in each and every second of our lives without becoming overwhelmed by the ticking clock?
1. Ask yourself what or who matters the most in your life
When we take the time to reflect on what’s actually important in our lives, what we would do perhaps if we knew we only had months left to live, the answers can surprise us. We can picture ourselves as an 80 year old looking back over our lives. What would we be most upset that we haven’t achieved? This can help us tune in to our values and provide us with a compass to guide us in the right direction we want to travel.
2. Tell people how you feel about them
Why wait until a life changing event or someone’s funeral to tell them what they mean to you? To live authentically is to develop the courage to share with other people in our lives how much we value them. This can be a nerve-wracking thing to do because it exposes us and makes us feel vulnerable. What if they laugh? What if they don’t feel the same? That’s not the reason you’re telling them, it’s not about getting some kind of ego boost. When done from a grounded, authentic place, it’s actually freeing: you don’t need anything in return from them.
3. Take action on kindness
I try and take action and put kindness and compassion into the world as much as I can but the sad fact is that millions more kind thoughts and deeds have passed through my mind that have never known the light of day. Much like the above feeling vulnerable can get in the way of acting in the interests of other people but so can the fact that we have to make effort, we have to put someone other than ourselves first. And when we do this we actually grow our own sense of connection, purpose and ultimately peace. A good practice is to watch for the ‘gap’ between thinking about doing something for someone else and actually doing it. How space can we make the gap?
4. Savour every moment
Our brains have evolved to prioritise information relating to our survival and signs of danger. While this has been important to help keep us alive, it means that we pay so much more attention to the bad or negative things that gone on around us. But we can train our brains to take just as much notice of the good things. And this isn’t about the big life changing things, it’s about the small, everyday moments, that when we tune into, make our hearts sing. A clear blue sky, a blossomed flower, a child’s smile, an old couple holding hands. Whatever it is tune into that sense of enjoyment and allow yourself to sink into it without feeling selfish or indulgent. And then let it pass, there will be another moment that comes along soon where there is another opportunity to experience this joy again.
5. Don’t take yourself or life too seriously
It’s easy to get caught up in worrying about saying the wrong thing or making the wrong choice or decision. The possible outcome our minds can come up with for one possible decision can at times seems endless and overwhelming and with this comes the fear of making mistakes. This gets in the way of our lives as it’s kind of like setting up a little damn in a stream. We try and stop the flow of life as we try and work out all ‘the answers’ and make life as predictable as we can. But we know that life isn’t like this and as much as we plan, prepare and deliberate, life will happen the way it wants to. It’s far better therefore to let things flow as they are. So something didn’t go to plan? And? That doesn’t mean we know what lies ahead for us or that what happens next will be negative.
Loosen your grip on life and see what happens next.