Four Tips for Making the Most of Today

Life is short. Nothing reinforces that, in my opinion, like death.

Death is a shocking thing when you see it up close—it reminds you that life really is fleeting. I was reminded of that recently in a rather abrupt, unexpected way.

It happened right around the time you expect evening traffic to pick up. I’d just merged on to the highway and traffic was flowing. Then, suddenly, a flurry of brake lights lit up the road ahead of me. I didn’t wonder about it much. After all, this is a common occurrence where I live. I hit my own brakes and reduced my speed until I was barely creeping forward. Clearly an accident had occurred. This tends to be when some people pull out their phones and check or send texts. Accidents are an unfortunate but regular occurrence on the busy highways here. It’s easy to become blasé about it.

Not this time, however. As I crept closer to the scene of the accident, I could make out someone lying in the road. I felt compelled to look as I reached the scene and slowly drove by. The man was lying semi-naked in a pool of blood, face down. Clearly the impact of being hit had knocked his clothes partially off. A woman was standing by a vehicle on her phone. Perhaps she was calling 911.

It’s hard to explain the visceral reaction when you see something like that. I immediately felt sadness for the man. Who was he? What had happened? He didn’t appear to have been in a car. Was he homeless? From my brief glance it appeared that he’d not been dressed adequately for the weather. I imagined all kinds of scenarios as I picked up speed and made my way back into traffic.

Then my thoughts shifted. I thought about myself and how uncertain life is. None of us knows how much time we have. We may hope for a full, long life but we’re not guaranteed that. If my life were to end today, would I be satisfied with who I’d become and what I’d achieved? Would I be content leaving my relationships in the state they were in, or would I wish for more time to make things right?

As always, my thoughts circled around to the ultimate question. How intentional am I being with the life God has given me?

It’s a good question to ask. But why does it often take something shocking to nudge (or slap) us out of our complacency? How much more abundant could life be if we asked ourselves that question daily? How intentional am I being with the life God has given me?

There’s something about the start of a new calendar year that makes people want to reflect on these things. They make statements about what they intend to do differently—and for a while they may do them. Unfortunately, so many of us lose our momentum and then our motivation. We settle back into our old habits and routines, until something (or someone) shocks us out of them again and then the pattern repeats.

I don’t like that. I don’t like starting a task or project, then stopping, then starting again. It’s not healthy for me. When I do that I get bogged down in negativity. I lose my motivation to keep trying and I begin to beat myself up for my failings with thoughts like:

“What’s wrong with you?”

“Why can’t you just stick with something?”

“You’re never going to amount to anything useful.”

“You’re a disappointment, to yourself and to God.”

Statements like this don’t motivate me. They discourage me. They keep me focused on what I’m not doing instead of on what I can do to change.  

Tip #1: To stay motivated, connect it with your overall purpose

To stay motivated I need to connect what I’m trying to accomplish with my overall purpose, within God’s plan for me.  When I do that I am encouraged and reenergized.

God wants you to have an abundant life—not a life rich with things, but rich with meaning. Check out these scriptures:

These are just a few verses that help us to know God’s intentions for us. Do they inspire you? Do they spur you to action? What other verses speak about living an abundant life? When you find yourself losing your motivation and getting bogged down in discouragement and negativity, return to God’s Word.

Tip #2: Find meaning in the mundane

Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, wrote: “Those who have a ‘why’ to live can bear with almost any ‘how.” Sometimes in our quest to find a greater purpose we lose sight of where meaning truly lies—in the day-to-day. There is purpose and meaning in everything you do. From the moment you wake up until your head hits the pillow at night, you are making decisions. Those decisions are either done with intent or they are not. They are either filled with passion and purpose or they are the mindless actions of someone coasting along.

Which one describes you?

Does life seem boring and mundane to you most of the time? Do you live only for the exhilarating moments, the rollercoaster thrills that life can bring? Do you feel unsatisfied without those moments?

Routine is not boring. It’s comforting—good routine, that is.  Studies show that there is reassurance in repetition. Doing the same (positive) thing over and over affirms your original intent. It also creates habits. Healthy habits make us feel safe and secure. They also impact our sense of well-being. After all, you define the meaning in what you do and why you do it. If you do some things out of a sense of obligation, you will feel one way. If you do those same things with purpose and intent, you will find meaning in even the most “unpleasant” of tasks. Yes, even cleaning toilets can be an act of love!

Tip #3: Fight a spirit of discontent

There’s nothing wrong with wanting more out of life. That’s part of being intentional. Sometimes, though, we struggle to be intentional because we find fault with our current circumstances. We focus on what’s missing and how we feel about that, rather than what we can do to change it. For example, if you’re feeling dissatisfied with your job, do you complain about it? If you’re single and want to be married, do you dwell on how lonely you are? If you’re married but feel frustrated with your spouse, do you shut down or pull away?

Part of the danger in this is that we tend to externalize our discontent. In other words, we blame.

“If my boss would just appreciate me more, I’d feel more like being a team player.”

“If only I could find someone to love me, my life would be complete.”

 “Why should I try to communicate with my husband? He never listens anyway.”

How do you change this?

Find the beauty in what you currently have.

For example, you may dislike your job, but is there something you appreciate, even if it’s only the paycheck? Is there not value in having a job, especially during these times of economic stress?

How can you enjoy being single, even though you may feel lonely at times? Single people typically have fewer demands on their leisure time. How can you use that time to benefit not just you, but the lives of others?

You may be struggling with your spouse, but what parts of your marriage do you appreciate? Are you grateful that your husband comes home each and every night, even if he doesn’t pay attention to you the way he used to? Do you show that appreciation or only focus on how he used to be?

 It can be hard work to shift your focus in this way, but practice creates proficiency. If you practice dissatisfaction it will show. You will be frustrated and angry, and anger can turn into bitterness if unchecked. On the other hand, if you practice contentment you peacefully accept the imperfections about what you can’t change—in others and yourself.

Contentment doesn’t mean complacency, however. There are always things you can change, especially within. Start with your frame of mind. Then, focus on characteristics and abilities that you want to develop or improve. You are one half of any relationship—personal or professional—and you are the only half you have control over.

How would shifting your perspective (about your own actions or others’) change your behavior? How would that affect your motivation to try harder? How would your circumstances improve if you changed the way you think and behave, even if no one else did?

Tip #4: Don’t put off until tomorrow what needs to be done today

There’s no time to waste. Don’t wait for tomorrow to be intentional about your life, because tomorrow may not come. The absolute truth of that hit me as I drove by the scene of that tragic accident. Yet every day I’m reminded of it in some way or another. It’s just a matter of being mindful.

I don’t know anything about the man whose life ended so abruptly. I don’t know who he left behind to grieve him. I don’t know how intentional he was trying to be. Would those who knew him say he made the most of every moment, or not?

I do know, however, that God is intentional in everything He does! He has a purpose and a plan, for me and for you. He gives us all one lifetime and I’m not interested in squandering mine. I don’t want a wasted life filled with regrets. Neither do you. There is value in what you have right now, so search for it. Then, strive to improve it.

Do everything you can to be the best you can—as God directs—and to see the best in others. That’s how you make the most of the life God has blessed you with, no matter how short or long it may be.

Sources:

Viktor E. Frankl, “Man’s Search for Meaning”

https://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2015/10/the-psychology-of-daily-routine-7-reasons-why-people-who-do-the-same-things-each-day-tend-to-be-happier-than-those-who-chase-adventure/

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