All too often we fall into the trap of letting our external circumstance determine our internal circumstance. I see it all around me- whether or not friends and co-workers have a good or bad day depends on what happens during the day- it doesn’t have to be that way. Life can be so much more than what happens to you.
Regardless of what happens you can make the best of today. When you make the best of each day you make the best of your life. When you make the best of your life you can manage the ups and downs of life a little easier. When you make the best of your life you can be happy, healthy, and content.
Years ago I lived a reactive life. My life was determined by my circumstances- either bad or good in my mind. Despite being a generally positive person, I let everyone and everything else set the tone for my life.
I wasn’t living the life I wanted so I sought new ways of interacting and engaging in my life. Making the best of each day is just one way I turned my life around and began to respond instead of react to life. It really makes every day a little easier. Scratch that, a LOT easier. And not just easier, but more enjoyable, too. Today, in my life, more good stuff happens than bad and even the bad doesn’t feel all that bad.
5 Ways to Make the Best of Today
01. Live in today
Don’t carry yesterday’s sorrows into today. What happened yesterday happened yesterday, not today. Practice leaving what happened yesterday in the past.
You can try journaling about what happened, or even just jotting a note on a slip of paper, and leaving the past on the page instead of in your heart and mind.
And on that note, let tomorrow happen tomorrow. Anxiety, anticipation, and excitement for tomorrow robs today of it’s joy. Take a deep breath and open yourself to this day.
What are you doing right now? Are you going through the motions or being actively involved in today? Practice mindfulness in the moment.
02. Do good work
Whether it’s a weekday or a weekend, productive activity is good for the soul. Take on small, easily accomplished tasks and enjoy the satisfaction of a job well done! You can break up bigger projects into smaller parts.
The important thing is to get something done- something you can be proud of.
03. Have fun
A good life isn’t all work- get out there and play! Find ways to add fun to your day!
Yes, you can have fun at work, even if your day-to-day job isn’t all that fun. And no doubt you have plenty of ideas to have fun in your personal time. Are you having fun outside of work, too? Get out there and play!
Adding fun to your day helps you keep a balanced perspective on your day and your life.
You need work, play, and rest to live a full and balanced life. Ideally you’ll have a little of all three each day.
Get a good night’s sleep. Take a power nap.
Even a 5 minute break can be restorative. Stop what you’re doing and do nothing for 5 minutes. Just sit there and breathe for 5 minutes. Let your mind wander or focus on your breath- as long as it restores you.
Find some way to relax and recharge today!
05. Rock this day!
Embrace an attitude of awesome and rock this day! Whatever happens, know that you’ve got this. Make a choice to rock this day! Oh yeah, you’ve got this.
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Loving your work has only a little to do with what you do, and more to do with how you do it. Your attitude affects your experience far more than the details of your job.
Few of us are doing the work of our dreams, at least I’m not. Even if I did have my dream job I have no illusions that my it would be 100% enjoyable every day, or that my dream job will be perfect and challenge-free. Actually, I imagine a perfect job would be quite boring in practice as there would be little motivation or opportunity to grow.
(I admit it- I thrive on challenge which may or may not be the reason I tend to leave things to almost-the-last minute. Who ever said there are no benefits to procrastination? It keeps things interesting!)
Whether or not we’re working our dream jobs we have to contend with frustrations, limitations, challenges, and the occasional bad day or difficult person. Since I refuse to be unhappy and discontent every day I must manage my attitude towards my work. I want to enjoy life, regardless of my job, status, or challenges.
To enjoy my work to the fullest I practice attitudes of mindfulness, patience, gratitude, and plain old hard work! It’s okay if you’re reading this and thinking I’m talking crazy. It’s fun to be a little crazy. Want to join me?
The work I do in my full time job is quite far from my dream job and this truth challenges me a great deal on almost a daily basis. I don’t love the work and don’t easily connect my work to a greater purpose. It’s repetitive, dry, and boring! I struggle to find enjoyment in my work most days. And, as it turns out, my current work provides a great opportunity to master black belt level skills of attitude! Hiiii-ya!
Yeah, yeah, enough about me, you may be thinking, how does this all help you? Keep your shirt on because I’m going to share with you my secrets to getting more enjoyment from my work! If it works for me it just might work for you.
Be in the moment
Mindfulness is the state of active, open attentiveness to the present. You’re not worried about what happened yesterday, or concerned with what might happen tomorrow. You just focus on today.
Easier said than done, I know from experience. Mindfulness is not a practice that came easily to me in the beginning. My mind tended to replay past situations and worry about the future. I idealized what happened before, holding on to fond memories, and what was up coming, the promise of the weekend or upcoming event distracting me from today.
When I began to master mindfulness I found I enjoyed life more. I was able to appreciate what’s right in front of me and make the best of what I have. I accomplished more and had more fun doing it.
Patience invites you to let go of your judgments and expectations. Patience doesn’t require you to endure a difficult situation but, rather, to accept life on life’s terms and make thoughtful choices about your life.
When I feel impatient it is because I am in a hurry to get from here to there but the problem with this idea is I believe there will be better than here, but experience has taught me that “better” is relative and what I experience today is a result of my attitude, not my situation.
When I have a little patience I have a better day.
Gratitude is the key to happiness. If you don’t appreciate what you have, you won’t appreciate what you’ll get.
Gratitude has brought more joy to my life than any other habit, and yes, gratitude is a habit that must be cultivated. I trained my mind to look for the good in each day through keeping daily gratitude lists, saying “thank you”, and being grateful in action.
Sure, I have complaints, but my work isn’t all bad or all good. Nothing in life is all bad or all good. I decide what I’m going to focus on and since I don’t feel very happy focusing on complaints, I’ll focus on the good stuff instead.
Do the work
Sometimes you’ve just gotta get out of your head and get to work. There’s a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that comes with completing a task. Start small and do the work.
A practice I’m working to turn into a habit is to start each day by simply doing the next right thing. The next right thing being the next thing I need to do. When I set aside my excuses, justifications, and distractions, I know what’s important and that’s what I do. As much as I enjoy a little procrastination, I get far greater satisfaction from doing the work in front of me.
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Is worry consuming your life?
I didn’t think I worried much until I read this blog post in which the author tracked how often he worried over the course of a day. Reading his post I realized I worry more than I knew! (A lot more, in fact.)
When I worry it’s usually about a situation out of my control. I worry about the outcome. Worry is my mind’s way of trying to get control of the situation, yet worry never results in controlling life. Worry only turns my attention away from living a great life! Life’s too short to worry!
I’m challenging myself to worry less and enjoy life more. I hope you’ll join me on this challenge! Here’s how I am going to worry less:
The first step in changing any habit is being aware of when you’re doing it. As I create a worry less life, I will be mindful of my thoughts and note when I worry. It’s important not to judge myself for worrying- just to observe that it’s happening.
Is It Important?
When I notice myself worrying, I can ask myself, “how important is it really?” to determine if the concern truly needs my attention. Many of life’s problems are really not that important- certainly not important enough that it will concern me next week, next month, or next year. If it’s not important I can let it go.
What’s the best that could happen?
When I worry about big stuff I am usually positing the worst case scenario. When I choose to focus on a positive outcome over a negative outcome I relieve some of my worry and approach problems with a proactive and positive mindset.
What are my choices?
Not only do I often assume a worst case scenario, sometimes I trick myself into believing I’m stuck with whatever happens. In this situation I find it helpful to remind myself that I have choices. I choose how I act and respond. I can choose to take productive action, to do nothing, to temporarily set the problem aside and do something nice for myself, to talk it over with a trusted friend or mentor- the possibilities are endless!
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Act with intention
Instead of reacting to life I can act with intention. When I act with intention I am thoughtful about my behavior and how I can positively affect my life. I can’t control the result but I do control my actions. The best way to live a great life is not to try to force the results I want but simply act with good intention!
Learn from my mistakes
Sometimes I worry about making mistakes, even though I know mistakes are a-okay! One way to combat worry is to turn my attention from the mistake to making the best of my mistake. Life is all about learning! Take that, worry!
Reboot my day
If worry is really getting me down, I can reboot my day at any time. Taking a break is a great way to step away from the situation and come back with a renewed perspective. Some days I can’t quite seem to shake off stress and worry and that’s okay- tomorrow’s a new day!
I love your comments! What do you worry about most- the past, present ,or future? Are you going to join me in my challenge to worry less and enjoy more?Join the Conversation
Who are you living your life for? Are you creating a purposeful and thoughtful life, or more often than not stumbling through your life, reacting to people and situations?
The best way I know how to live my life is to live it for me. To be thoughtful and intentional in my choices, and loving and grateful in my attitude.
I tried for years to do all the right things all the time, yet I never stopped to ask what the right thing really was. I was usually doing what was right for someone else, not what was right for me. I was so busy trying to please everyone, I was pleasing almost no one. Do I really need to tell you I was pretty miserable at this point in my life?
I decided to start disappointing the right people. Let me explain; I can’t control what anyone thinks of me, really. Spending my energy trying to be something for someone else and living up to other people’s expectations is the kind of behavior that leads to feelings of resentment, frustration, and unhappiness. That’s not what I want- I want to be happy!
As I practiced putting myself first and living a life that is meaningful to me, I found the more I minded my own opinion of myself, the more others valued my opinion. The more I respected myself, the more others respected me.
Disappointing the right people doesn’t mean that I have a free pass to act like a jerk, ignore commitments, or otherwise treat others unkind. What it does mean is that I am honest about what I can and can’t do, I say no when I need to, and I do my best at whatever I do.
Accepting that sometimes I will have to disappoint the right people takes practice, and some days I need a refresher. Today just happens to be one of those days!
Disappointing the “right” people
The only person I can truly make happy is me, so I put myself first on the list. My immediate family comes second. In my life, everyone outside of myself and my immediate family falls into the “right people to disappoint” category. My friends, my acquaintances, my co-workers, and even my boss!
Doing my part
Putting myself first means taking responsibility for myself- for my health, my attitude, my thoughts, my feelings, and my behavior. I must do my part to be the best me I can be. When I’m not doing my part, I’m disappointing myself.
In my personal life I take care of my health by getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, scheduling me time, enjoying time with family and friends, and caring for my mental, emotional, physical, and financial well-being.
At work I do my part by doing my job to the best of my ability, asking for help when I need it, challenging myself to learn grow professionally, respectfully communicating with co-workers, and having a positive attitude.
To be happy I must live in harmony with those around me. I will try to the best of my ability to be open and approachable, and be willing to work on problems to improve the situation for everyone. I don’t have to concede to others opinions, but I will at least consider them.
Though I regularly give my best effort to whatever I do, sometimes other people don’t appreciate what I do. When my efforts are not appreciated, hopefully that person has some productive feedback to share. Whenever possible I will do my best to accommodate others, and work together to achieve shared goals.
Disappointing the right people often means I am setting boundaries. Boundaries allow me to be considerate and kind to myself and others. I do this by being honest about what I am willing to do, as well as what I am unwilling to do. I show respect for myself and others by telling them what I am willing to do.
Setting a boundary can be as simple as agreeing to show up or leave by a certain time, setting a deadline, taking on a specific task, or saying no when I am honestly unwilling or unable to agree to a request.
Sometimes life brings unexpected change. As I work on living a great life, I must be adaptable to change and reassess my position as needed.
If I find myself over-committed, or unable to follow through due a change in my situation, I can quit. I can cancel plans, or come up with a different solution. Adjusting to change doesn’t mean I’m irresponsible- I’m being honest about what I can and can’t do.
It’s okay to make mistakes! Making mistakes is how we learn and grow. Making mistakes can lead to great revelations. We’re all human and we all make mistakes.
Sometimes making a mistake is the very thing that disappoints another person. Though I do my best every day, I hope that when I make a mistake the right people will be understanding.
When I am taking good care of myself and living a purposeful life, I can share my happiness and health with others. Disappointing the right people means sharing my life and my gifts with others when I have first taken care of me.
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I admit it! I’m an Overreactor. Sometimes I take things personally. Sometimes I let my feelings determine my state of mind. I allow myself to believe that whatever just happened is erroneous, incorrect, offensive, or otherwise REALLY BIG DEAL!
Sometimes I experience positive overreaction. I make people, places, and things outside myself bigger and better than myself. BEST DAY EVER!!!!! Nothing will ever top this!
The problem with overreacting is I let go of mindfulness, balance and even happiness every time I react instead of responding to life. My emotional reaction looms larger-than-life and I temporarily loose sight of my purpose and intentions. I get swept up in the moment and neglect what’s important to me- living a great life every day not just when “stuff” happens.
Life has been a great learning experience and along the way I’ve learned some great tools to refocus my attention on what matters to me when I find myself overreacting.
Notice how you feel
When I am reacting instead of responding I am usually experiencing intense emotional and physical sensations. The muscles in my neck and shoulders tense or I experience an empty feeling in my stomach. I feel stressed, anxious, angry, or scared. Even my positive overreaction can cause a loss of appetite or feelings of anxiety.
I don’t have to believe everything I feel. Feelings are data I can use to inform my experience but I don’t have to make my emotions my truth.
Usually when I am overreacting I perceive that I am a victim to the experience. I allow myself to believe I am at the mercy of others. This is only true when I choose to give up my power to another person or experience.
Instead, I can choose to empower myself. I can take responsibility for my thoughts, feelings, and behavior. I’m not helpless and I always have a choice about what to do next.
Take care of yourself
Caught up in the moment, I might forget to breathe deeply, stay hydrated, eat when I’m hungry, and get a good night’s sleep. I let my reaction to the situation grow bigger and bigger as I turn it over in my mind and I forget to take care of my basic needs.
When I’m Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired it’s a sign to HALT and take care of me.
Put it in perspective
When I’m overreacting, my reaction is disproportionate to the problem at hand. I am far more likely to escalate a conflict when I exaggerate the situation.
Instead I can ask myself, “how important is it?” Will this experience drastically change my life? Will I remember this next month? How about next year? Most of the time I’m feeling stress over something, or someone, that really isn’t important to my purpose and intentions. I can also ask myself, “is this worth giving up my serenity?”
Check your expectations
I’ve heard it said that expectations are premeditated resentments. I often have expectations of people and situations based on what I want to happen, not what is likely to happen or even what I have prepared for. My expectations often don’t take into consideration what other people want or how they will be affected.
When I assess my expectations I often find my expectations are self-centered desires for life work out the way I wanted. When I recognize this, I find it easier to consider other considerations and a different outcome.
Let it go
When overreacting to life I hold on to my reaction as if my life depends on it. I allow the experience of a single moment to be bigger than my entire life experience.
I can choose to let it go. It’s not always easy, and sometimes I let it go and pick it up again- that’s okay, I can let it go over and over as many times as I need.
Managing my overreactions helps me live a balanced, peaceful, and satisfying life. I stop bouncing from high to low and back to high again.
When I respond instead of react I am able to respond with dignity and grace. I maintain a positive reputation and I enjoy life more.
I have learned I have limited control over life. No matter how hard I try, I can’t control the outcome; I can only control my input. I decide what I give in life, and what I do with what I’m given.
I love your comments! What other ways to do stop overreacting to life?
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