There are times when we tell others, “Let’s take it one day at a time, shall we?” We usually say this to others when they are getting ahead of themselves, thinking too far out into the future about things on their mind.
For instance, it’s not uncommon for people to psych themselves out when embarking on a fitness goal. An actor might have to lose weight in 3–6 months’ time, but they won’t be able to focus by thinking that far out. All they can do is focus on one day at a time, do their best, and try to be consistent each day. That’s all anyone can ever hope to do; only then will they be able to reach their goals. This is not to say all days will be perfect and that’s okay.
It’s hard right now to go through this pandemic. I am not gonna lie. It might be easier for some than it is for others. There are highs and lows. Some days might be better than others. As much as we care for our loved ones, it’s hard to remain confined to our homes with them 24/7. It’s easy to get depressed living in self-quarantine, because we are social animals by design. It’s challenging to fight that natural instinct we humans have to get out there and mingle with others. It’s hard not to feel grim about an uncertain future. Given everything going on in the world today, it’s easy to psych ourselves out.
It’s not hard to surmise that things will likely get worse before they get better. Given the shared experience we are having together as a planet, I believe we will see a light at the end of this tunnel. The only thing that remains to be seen is when. All that said, let’s not forget that what goes down must come up. Nothing is permanent forever. There are lows and highs, crests and valleys, good times and bad, happiness and sorrows. Everything is cyclical in life. The only thing that is constant in the world is change itself.
Regardless of the pandemic, about the only way we get through our lives is taking it one day at a time. We can wait for things to get better; they will improve over time. That said, all of our time is valuable and we shouldn’t take it for granted. Just because we are spending majority of our time indoors right now doesn’t mean we can’t make the best of it.
We can’t postpone our lives because of situations and events out of our control. It’s even more important that we take care of our physical and mental well-being at all times, but particularly now. We must remind ourselves of the fundamentals of renewal—eat, move, sleep. Remember, motion creates emotion. We need to pay attention to our physical well-being to take care of our emotional selves.
For instance, anytime we find ourselves agitated or grumpy, chances are we are either hungry and/or tired. The tiredness can often come from not having enough space, when we have things lined up back-to-back and we don’t have enough time to think things through. This feeling is not dissimilar to being on a constant treadmill without stopping. If you don’t get off the treadmill at the right time, you will fall and hurt yourself sooner or later.
Let’s choose to be optimistic. This isn’t about denying reality. We need to accept the reality for what it is and then move on. We need to embrace our situation fully before we can change things within our purview. We have no outside control over events, so why spend our energy thinking about it? What would be crazy-making is to keep thinking about the events happening in the world right now and use them to keep ourselves from living fully. This isn’t about postponing our lives. We need to make the most of it one day at a time.
When we focus on living each day to the maximum, it can be incredibly fulfilling. We get to be more intentional. We are always living proactively, while staying detached to the people and situations in our lives. Our success is not determined by our circumstances. Au contraire—our situations are the result of our thoughts, attitudes, and actions. It is totally within our power to bring our vision to life, which starts with living each day.
Much too often we either dwell on the past or we get anxious about the future. There is nothing we can do but learn from our past and move on while the future hasn’t yet arrived, so there is no point in worrying about it. We need to stop holding onto things from our past. We need to start detaching ourselves from others’ emotional states and from our situations.
All we have is today, and we must live it the best we can. We can only ever live in the present. Even within the day, we can be present and engaged with whatever has our attention in the moment. As long as that is coming from a place of intention rather than reaction, we are doing great.
Remember, it’s only by showing up every day and doing the work that we build our legacy, one day at a time. While it may not seem like much today, over a period of time we get to zoom out and see our progress.
Life is not meant to be all work. We cannot simply focus on our work and assume we will have our relationships intact later on. Those who do that often learn of it the hard way. Relationships and Results go hand-in-hand. It’s about being the best we can be in terms of our character (who we are) and making a meaningful contribution to the world. This is not something we can defer till later. This is not an either/or. We need both.
Living each day to the fullest isn’t about doing more things all the time. It means doing fewer things better without rushing from one moment to the next. Remember, anything worth doing is worth doing well, be it the work we do, the time we spend with our loved ones or the space we have for ourselves. We need all three, every day.
Every day I wake up and try to live the day with intention, doing a few things better, and being in the moment. Some days are better than others. Suffice it to say, I have yet to have a day (or week) that has gone “perfect”, which isn’t the point anyway. The day we become perfect, we would be Gods, but we are far from it—and that’s okay, as long as we take baby steps to doing slightly better each day/week than the preceding one.
I shared earlier how Benjamin Franklin would start his day asking himself, “So what good will I do today?” In the evening, he would ask, “So what good did I do today?”
Taking a page from his book, towards the end of each day I take some time to review and reflect on what I learned that day, examining whether I lived it to my best and asking myself what I could do differently next time—not necessarily better, just different.
Living one day at a time is key, but in order to do this, we must occasionally zoom out for a better perspective by planning the week ahead. Every weekend, I take some time off to consider and plan my coming week in terms of outcomes and things I’d like to focus on for the three broad categories in my life, which I call The Trifecta of Life:
This helps me be outcome-focused without getting down in the weeds. My calendar is quite packed each week, but as I am going on about my day, I am not thinking about the week. I am fully engaged in whatever has my attention in that moment.
Sure, we can plan our weeks ahead as part of having perspective, but then we need to focus on each day as it comes. We can only ever be present and engaged with what has our attention when we know what we aren’t doing. This requires having (and using) a trusted system of sorts.
While I do keep a list of things I want to complete in a given week, it’s by no means a substitute for rightful living as we established in the last draft. In that draft, we talked about the value of living rightfully and how that is much more important than accomplishing things along the way. There is nothing wrong with achieving things as long as it’s secondary to rightful living.
This is also not to say that you never make any changes to your day when things come up, which is of course when you can course-correct. Each night, review your calendar and make any appropriate changes for the following day.
Every morning, we are given another 24 hours, so we can learn from our past and live better today. Yesterday is history and tomorrow is future. All we have is today.
How we spend our days is how we spend our lives. What we do every day is more important than what we do once in a while. We can focus on what we can change. We can strive to live each day to the best of our abilities. We can be intentional with what we think and what we do. To focus on relationships and results. To live with purpose as to what we are going to do today, and more importantly, how we are going to be.
Let’s take it one day at a time. Let’s live each day as if it was our last. Let’s focus on the present moment and give it all our attention. That’s all we have and it’s all we ever need.