Last week it was announced by the CDC that the average life expectancy for a woman in the United States is 81.2 years (2012). Now having the opportunity to live to 81+ is a wonderful opportunity, and to exceed it, often an even greater blessing if one is in good health. However, simply because the average is 81+ doesn’t mean it is guaranteed. After all, this is an average, and as there are more than 308 million people living in the US, many of which exceed this number more than ever before, we are then reminded of the balancing effect. But rather than becoming frozen by any of these statistics, let’s rather become invigorated to live more fully each and every day.
Why? No matter what your hope for your life path may be, you aren’t guaranteed anything for certain. Yes, our decisions and proper planning and preparation play a significant, if not monumental effect on our life’s trajectory, but the factors we can’t control or predict such as the people that cross our paths serendipitously, world events, the economy, inventions that open a new unexpected career path, can only be dealt with as we are introduced to them.
It has been my experience that two life realizations or experiences affect significantly how we deal initially with unexpected opportunity.
- Our experiences earlier in life (childhood or young adult). Did we have to work hard to receive good results, news or outcomes vs. being handed what we wanted without much, if any, effort?
- An awareness of the preciousness of life. In other words, was there ever an instance in our lives where we were forced or prompted to take a gut check which makes us grapple with our own mortality?
Either one or both of these experiences seem to predict how we will go about our everyday lives.
The good news is that often if we have had to struggle to achieve a worthwhile goal or suffered an unimaginable loss, the silver lining is a greater appreciation for life – each day the simple things and grand opportunities occur, we are more apt to seize them rather than dismiss them because we don’t assume there will be another available when we are ready.
Recently a quote caught my attention that Oprah shared in her O Magazine:
You can either waltz boldly onto the stage of life and live the way you know your spirit is nudging you, or you can sit quietly by the wall, receding into the shadows of your fears and self-doubt.
It is my hope and reason for recording today’s episode that whether you’ve struggled in the past or not, that you will seize each day, appreciate each day and thereby live fully each day.
Now guaranteed, some days will be stellar, gold-star, don’t-want-them-to-end days and then there will be some, like the one I had recently in which I had open-mouth-insert-foot-disease, which you will want to forget. But the key – the goal – is to always give your best. Whatever is available, give your best. Knowing that you did, will help you sleep much better each night.
And if you did happen to have a day you’d like to do over, learn, apologize if necessary and then move forward letting your actions speak for themselves. After all, we are not perfect.
So today’s discussion is going to focus on living more fully each day, whether it be in relation to small or grand tasks that we are charged with on any given day.
1. Stop Postponing Your Life
If you’ve found that someone with whom you click with, don’t assume this will happen with everyone. By no means am I suggesting that you elope, but make plans now. You don’t have to dive in head first, but stop and recognize when something speaks to you and throw your weight in that direction.
2. Don’t Dismiss Happy Accidents
Whether a chance career opportunity presents itself or running into a dear friend takes you by surprise, appreciate their occurrence. Make the most of such occurrences and don’t assume they will happen again simply because you weren’t ready to act upon them. We can put the odds in our favor, but as to when such moments occur, we can never be certain. All we can be certain of is how we will respond when they occur. Seize these happy accidents.
3. Spread Kindness
Whether you are helping out without being asked and being thoughtful of a loved one by picking up their favorite comfort food after a tough day, each day wake up determined to put out more kindness. Even being honest, especially if it isn’t what someone wants to hear (so long as we do so tactfully and lovingly) is an act of kindness as well. Being sincere when we say yes, and refusing to play games, but rather simply say no to something we don’t want to do, is another form of kindness to incorporate into our every day lives.
4. Do What You Love
Don’t be afraid to show your passions to others. When asked what you want to do or when given the chance when making plans to incorporate a taste of who you are, do it. While it’s easy to enjoy what we love when we’re in our own company or with our loved ones, when we muster up the courage to reveal a glimpse of our authentic self, we actually open ourselves up to amazing opportunities and connections.
5. Be Courageous
Choosing to live fully in the present does not mean we can select the emotions we will feel. In fact, doing so will require us to feel the good and the bad and feel them deeply at times. Why? Because we are opening ourselves, we are putting down our shields and letting ourselves be fully present. So when we decide to be courageous, we are not removing fear, we are simply mastering it.
6. Master Your Mind
Your mind is the only thing keeping you from living in the present.
Note that mastering your mind does not mean turning your mind off, but rather observing your thoughts and then recognizing the power they could have if you acted upon them. If you can allow yourself to be the third party observer of your thoughts, you are mastering your mind. If a thought pops up that is negative or critical, determine where it manifested. Why did your mind jump there? And with practice and careful attention, you can create new experiences that will alter that automatic response.
When we finally recognize that our todays, our nows, make up our past, we will be more motivated to live fully in the moment. And when we realize we aren’t guaranteed anything, we will give ourselves the best gift of all: a well-lived life no matter how long it lasts.
How we proceed through our days, when in alignment with the purpose we wish to pursue, will determine what we bring into our lives and what we will let go of. But just because life doesn’t look the way we expected, happen when we are ready or follow our pre-determined path, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t seize it with all of our might.
I will leave you with a quote that appeared in The New York Times “Does Everything Happen for a Reason?“. Having pointed out that whether one is religiously inclined or not, regardless of where one lives and even despite their age, humans are inclined to accept that certain things happen for a reason, if for no other explanation than for reassurance that life can be fair, the two psychologists from Yale concluded:
Even those who are devout should agree that, at least here on Earth, things just don’t naturally work out so that people get what they deserve . . . Instead, the events of human life unfold in a fair and just manner only when individuals and society work hard to make it happen.
In other words, we have to be consciously present so if indeed a happy accident occurs, we can put into motion the following events that must coincide to give the outcome we hope to happen the best possible chance of coming into fruition. And that can only happen if we are living fully each and every day.
What I Know For Sure by Oprah Winfrey
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