Do you have a lot of days that are virtually indistinguishable from another? Do you ever go to lie your head on your pillow at night and realize it seems like you did that mere moments before, and moments before that, because the days are just flying by and you’re wasting them? I don’t have a lot of days that I would call a great day. A lot of my days are perfectly good days, just not great. But I’m starting to figure out why and that is the first step I’ve taken to making more of them fantastic.
Define What a Great Day Means to You
You can’t hit a target that you haven’t defined. For me, a great day is one that has a good balance of self-care, time spent with family, care of my home, and a good number of hours that I can consider productive. Your definition may look exactly like this or it may look nothing like this, but it is essential that you define what a great day means in your life. If you’re not sure, think back to days where you felt that rush of fulfillment or joy. What did you do that day that made it different? How can you incorporate more of that activity in your regular life, even if it is on a small scale?
Just Do It (5-4-3-2-1)
This one has been so hard for me to implement but has such a rich payoff. I have lead a great deal of my life driven by what I feel like doing. I feel like watching tv. I feel like going back to bed. I feel like eating another piece of cake. You might say “How’s that working for you?” I would answer, “Horribly.” Because our feelings are almost always the WORST thing to consult when planning what to do next. I say almost always because you certainly will have days when you just want to chill, watch Netflix, eat leftover cake, and do absolutely nothing productive. Those days serve a purpose, I’m convinced. But if those days start to outnumber all your other days, obviously there is a problem!
There are a lot of cliches and mantras around just getting something done whether you feel like it or not. “Just do it,” from Nike. 5 Second Rule from Mel Robbins. (Listen to it on tape!) But if you can make your body get up and do the next thing – your mind will reluctantly come along for the ride and you will soon be engaged in this thing that you didn’t feel like doing. It’s okay to spend the whole time thinking “i don’t feel like it…” but I don’t think you will. I think that once you’re moving you will forget why you were so reluctant or at the very least be grateful for your better instincts making your arms and legs move toward the goal.
Find Moments of Joy
My sign-off is Choose Joy for a reason. A life without joy is too bleak. A great day has to include some joyful moments and sometimes you will have to create those for yourself. There is a lot of information coming forward that talks about how good nature is for us humans. Your joy might simply be finding a moment to sit on a park bench and feel the breeze on your skin and listen to the birds. Your joy might be a beautiful piece of poetry. Your joy might be pins on pinterest that give you inspiration for your life. (I used to take pin breaks at work – 5 minutes only – because I loved looking at beautiful jewelry or decorations.) It could even be sitting on the floor and giving your dog a good scratching and really focusing on that interaction and relationship. Being present. Joy does require being present. I’m pretty convinced that it would be very difficult to find joy when your mind is elsewhere.
Begin with the End in Mind
So this idea (and this post) came to me yesterday. I had two plans yesterday. First, attend a meeting of Moms Demand Action (an organization under the umbrella of Everytown for Gun Safety) as a new member/volunteer and see what they were all about. Second, work as a greeter/escort at Hospice of Cincinnati for a couple hours in the evening. That morning I felt my innate burrowing instinct kicking in. No one would know if I didn’t show up at this meeting. And maybe hospice didn’t really need me and I wouldn’t be missed. I could stay home, barely get dressed, take a nice long nap, and not have to interact with other people. I also had a million things that could be done at home that day and it’s not like I would COMPLETELY check out all day.
But for the first time I thought about the end of my day – what would make me happy at the END of my day to have done that day. What would it feel like to look back on my day under both those options for how to spend it: out and interactive and productive, or staying home and checking out of life for a little longer. That shift in mindset got me up, dressed, doing some chores around the house, and out the door to the meeting. Sitting in the meeting I realized how glad I was to be there, how some recent coursework and skill-gathering had prepared me to be useful to this organization, and how pleasant it was to listen to these really smart, informed, knowledgeable women talk about this organization. Later on that evening I was at hospice for my shift and really focused on offering a warm welcome to people who were there to visit someone they loved who was in the process of dying. Being out and about gives you so many opportunities to engage with other humans and show with your time and effort that you are prepared to do your part to make the world just a bit better.
Beginning with the end in mind is NOT making a to do list. It could easily devolve to that. Instead, it is quietly thinking about what would make today meaningful and what would make you proud to have accomplished before you go to sleep.
Recognize Your Great Day
Take a moment at the end of your day to think through how you spent it. Be proud of ways you made an effort to make it a great day and not a forgettable one. Most of all, remember that your great day is not going to look like anyone else’s. If you’re a stay-at-home mom of little people, maybe getting one load of laundry done and AWAY (hooray!) will feel like an accomplishment. If you work full-time – or even way more than full-time – maybe your moment of joy will have to be 5 deep breaths in the bathroom before you return to your position, but you’ll have connected with yourself in those brief moments. Maybe your “just do it” will look like lacing up your shoes, sticking in some earbuds, and only making it to the corner and back.
I hope you will let me know how you would define a great day in the comments below. I’m really curious and would love to hear about your life.