August 9, 2011 at 3:21 pm
“What you do today is what you do with your life.”
I heard that somewhere, or at least something worded similarly, and it comes to mind a lot. When I think about my life, it’s such a huge thing that I only pick out the highlights. I see my friends and family and accomplishments and failures and major life events like moves and deaths and weddings. I see the big picture.
But if I zoom in a little closer I might ask myself how I reached those accomplishments. For example, how did I graduate from college? Well, I went to class every day for a year (ok, maybe not every day) and I wrote papers and I did the reading (ok, maybe not all the reading) and took tests until finally they gave me a degree. When I graduated from college I remember thinking, “This is it?” It seemed like there should be a sudden feeling of accomplishment, a definitive point where I felt smarter and more prepared to face the world. Instead, it was a gradual process I took part in day after day until I achieved the goal, like growing a tenth of a millimeter every day until I was taller than my mother.
Most of the big things I’ve accomplished in life didn’t come in a sudden deus ex machina moment. They came by adopting behaviors I executed every day. I graduated college by doing a little bit of the coursework every day. I lost weight by eating better and exercising every day. I made enough money to go on several trips a year by working (almost) every day. So, when I think about what I want to do in the future and what I’d like my life to be, I know it’s not something that will drop into my life suddenly and unexpectedly. I make things happen by doing a little bit every day.
When I look at my average day, I can see what I’m doing with my life. If I want to be a person who reads more, I have to do a bit of reading every day. When I put it that way, it seems obvious. Duh, if you want to read more you actually have to read. Instead, I usually think, “I should read more. I’ll do that tomorrow or next week or something.” If I want to add more reading to my life, I have to add it to my day. It’s so easy to think otherwise, that I can do that sometime in the immediate future, but I have to do it today.
I’ve been looking at my average days lately and thinking, “You should be doing more of this and less of that.” If I don’t do it every day, I can’t expect to do it in my life. It doesn’t work that way. It’s a bit harder to actually make the change though. Putting it off until tomorrow is so very attractive, as if 24 hours will make everything easier and more exciting. Instead, you have to take it day by day, and eventually all those days add up to a life.