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The First Day of Your Life

The First Day of Your Life

legacy-sunrise

Here’s something to consider:

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

You’ve heard that before, right? Maybe it’s like Time Is Money – something we nod our heads to before we get back to all the stuff we have to do.

Hearing that today is a new, unique day at the beginning of a new week naturally implies both good news and bad news. In the spirit of realistic optimism, we’ll take the bad news first.

Bad News: You’ll never get today back. Once it’s gone, that’s it. On to tomorrow.

Good News: Right now, the day (and the whole week) is ahead of you. The choice is up to you: spend your time doing things that are unimportant or uninteresting to you, or spend it on things that move you closer to who and where you want to be.

It’s not much more complicated than that, although the actual implementation can sidetrack the best visionary or GTD guru. What can be done about this?

Today, the Beginning of Your New Life

On one hand, we have obligations and responsibilities. Not all of these bad – we have obligations to our loved ones, for example, that we would not want to break. The problem is that we tend to look at all obligations as non-negotiable requirements, when in fact many of them are unnecessary. We take them on because we like to be busy, we like to be needed, or because we’re not actually certain what we should be doing every day.

Instead of being completely mandatory, I’ve found that most plans can be canceled. Most obligations can be deferred without the world coming to an end. You really don’t have to do what other people expect you to all the time.

Some people think these kinds of metaphors are silly. I say, use whatever works for you. If motivation comes your way, take it. Don’t ask questions. There are enough skeptics out there already.

What if you know you’re on the wrong track?

I have one suggestion: change course as quickly as you can. Don’t wait. Someone said in the comments last week that complacency is like the “slow dying of the soul.” I couldn’t put it better myself. If the job is dead-end, if the college track isn’t working out, if you don’t like where you’re living, change it as quickly as possible.

Assuming you are on the right course, then the danger is more that you’ll be distracted by all the obligations and unrelated tasks that crop up along the way.

To combat this kind of resistance, answer these questions:

  • Is there one thing you can do today that goes beyond your regular to-do list?
  • Is there one thing you can do this week to work towards your 5-year goals?
  • Is there one way you can help someone that no one else is able to do?

If so, I suggest that’s how you spend your time this week. It rarely works out to 100% efficiency, but the two steps forward, one step back approach gets us to the finish line eventually. The power of a single action, or a single action for each question above, should not be underestimated.

And when you get there, you’ll have done more than fulfill obligations. You’ll have more than money, and more than a well-stamped time card. You’ll be able to say that today was the beginning, and this week was an exceptional seven days.

Are you ready?

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Image of East Beach, Norfolk by shoebappa

17 Comments

  • Linnea says:

    The timing of this post could not be better for me. Last week, I told my boss that I would be changing careers soon. Then I told the rest of the office about it, and half of them had either ideas or actual work for my new freelance writing business! The next couple months are going to require a lot of self-discipline. Do I read a book, or write a manual? Go out with friends, or research local organizations and build my prospect list? Can I summon up the energy to even ask these questions after eight hours crunching numbers in a cube, plus commute?

    I suspect that keeping a goal-oriented perspective is the only thing that will carry me through this transistion. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Leigh says:

    This is a post that all PARENTS need to read, especially parents with small children. They grow up too fast and we miss it!

    Today, instead of doing the 101 things on my to-do list, I went on a walking field trip to the library with my daughter’s kindergarten class. Yes, it puts me behind on work right from the start this week, but she’s only in kindergarten once.

    Make time for your loved ones! Nobody dies wishing they had spent more time in the office!

  • Very well said. Love the quote.

    In my opinion, the difference between those that are happy and those that are not is the courage to do what we must do. I’m busting my tail trying to follow that path and it certainly isn’t easy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    One last thing, looking at your copy I wanted to say that I really like the way you break up blog posts and display the headings, etc. Very easy on the eyes.

  • Heather says:

    Chris, also a very timely post for me as I quit my job last Friday. I’ve wanted to for a long time, but when I actually did, it was pretty spontaneous! I don’t have another job, just a lot of big ideas and some freelance opportunities, but I feel *so* much better!

  • Chris Nakafevo says:

    When I saw the title I thought it was another one of those ‘inspirational’ and ‘motivational’ posts that make you feel warm. Well, as Seth Godin said in one of his books, “If you want warm, go take a bath.”.

    This post can actually put some people to do stuff that matters.

    Good job, Chris.

  • Jen says:

    Great post and so true. We all have so many things that we tell ourselves that we “have” to do or “should” do. A great criteria I use for my to do list is that if I can go to bed without it being completed, then it isn’t critical. It can either be deleted, delegated or put on another day.

    Sometimes we keep our heads down so long, we miss the most wonderful things and don’t even know we’re missing them.

  • The photographs that I have viewed on your page are outstanding. The one atop this post in particular, is just amazing. Great work and great site!

  • Plan B says:

    We should read this post once a day :-)

  • Oh, good – SO glad to see other job-quitters in comments here – my husband just quit his today! (Well, gave his notice anyway.) Perhaps not coincidentally, I read this post to him last night….

    Someone asked me if we now planned to travel the world, and I said we couldn’t do it right now, but plan to make it a 5-year goal for my freelance business. Meanwhile, spending tomorrow making contacts to prepare for going full-time!

  • orangesky says:

    Great post. I’m gonna print it and put it up on my wall.
    Thanks! :)

  • xio says:

    Hey Chris,

    I have just translated the post into Russian:

    http://blogs.ungrund.org/xio/2008/10/29/the-first-day-of-your-life-rus/

    Thanks!

  • Stevo says:

    Wow – I just recently discovered this blog and I am loving the posts here. Very inspirational!

    Also have to echo what Leigh wrote – for those of us with little ones, time flies by at hyper speed. My little boy helps me to focus on making the most of every moment because everything is new to him.

  • Daniel Edlen says:

    Definitely the “print it and post it on the bulletin board” type of post. Very well put, simply and powerfully.

    Hey Chris, thanks for adding me on LinkedIn!

    Peace.

  • Gotta love it!

    We often spend so much time reliving the past, worrying about the future and filling in the day with the tasks and actions that mean least to us that there’s no room left to just be present in what matters most…now.

    Thanks for sharing this today, Chris.

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