As of 2021, the average female life expectancy in the United States is 80.5 years (averaging all ethnicities). If we have the good fortune of making each one of those 80+ trips around the sun, then we are given 29,383 precious opportunities to live each day. When reflecting on the concept of time in this way, it’s quite jolting when you realize you have already lived well over half of those days. For much of our youth, adolescence and early adulthood, we likely don’t even realize the value of time while it’s passing. As grown adults, we go through seasons of our life when the frenetic pace of our days causes the value of time to escape us.
A Daily Deposit
Imagine that $1,440 is deposited into your bank account on a daily basis. It’s just given to you as a daily gift. If unused by the end of each day, all unused dollars are forfeited and your bank account is reduced to $0. The next deposit will be available when you wake the next morning. What would you do with your daily deposit?
In this theoretical scenario, you cannot just withdraw the cash and save it. There is no way to stockpile the money to save or invest it. The key here is use it or lose it. You must have a plan for actually using the funds daily. I’m sure we would all figure out a way to spend that money quite easily. We would then look forward to waking up each day to see our next daily deposit, right? How exciting! At the end of the year we would have spent $525,600 on whatever makes us happy.
Time is at least as valuable as money and in many ways, it’s far more valuable. Money is a renewable resource – you can earn more. Time is not renewable. Once it passes, it’s gone. All that remains of passed time is the memories of how you used it. Talk to someone at the end of their life and ask them what they wish they had more of – time or money.
The Beautiful Reality
Here is the beautiful reality – we are gifted 1,440 minutes every single day to use as we want. We can’t save, invest or stockpile those minutes. We must use our time each day as we choose. At the end of a year, we have been given over a half million minutes to spend as we desire.
When viewed this way, we are given the precious gift of time every day with an unknown end date for our daily deposit. When we open our eyes every morning and clearly see this gift presented to us each day, imagine how we might view our day differently. We need to spend our daily deposit wisely.
The principal at my children’s school ends her morning announcements each day with this message – “make it a great day or not, the choice is yours”. If we give this message to children to inspire them to choose their daily deposit of time wisely, then we should also remind ourselves.
The Challenge is our Mental Load
On any given day, the mental weight of all the things we need to do can often be so heavy that we can forget that life is a gift. Especially as a woman and the caretaker of our family, our days are filled with endless to-do lists. The weight of that can be exceedingly heavy, day in and day out. But if we’re not careful, we can spend all our precious minutes each day in the mind-numbing state of checking items off our to-do list. While being productive and accomplishing the priorities on our list is important and of course necessary, our state of mind while we’re doing it has a huge impact on how we view our life. The proportion of “doing” vs. “being” can greatly impact our life satisfaction and happiness level.
So how can we more fully live each day?
Key Aspects for Living Each Day Meaningfully
1. Living in alignment with your values
What matters most to you? What values do you hold most near and dear to your heart? Is it honesty? Authenticity? Autonomy? Freedom? Creativity? Fun? Faith? Kindness? Service to others? Respect? Trustworthiness? Balance? Bravery? Love? Responsibility?
Going through an in-depth evaluation of the heart and mind to identify your most closely held values can be a life altering exercise. All these values sound very important, but intentionally choosing the values to live each day of your life by can be an eye opening and soul-searching experience. Living in alignment with your most closely held values is fundamental to inner peace.
2. Your health
Focusing on health is a key aspect of living each day. If you don’t feel well or have energy, it’s tough to get the most out of each day.
Eating nutritious, healthy foods will fuel your body and maintain your health. Food can serve as medicine by healing the body from the inside out in a natural way. Food can often be the remedy to a myriad of health issues and a key ingredient to living a healthy lifestyle. Moving step by step toward a clean eating lifestyle by eliminating processed foods and eating more whole, real foods is a critical step for your health. Lean proteins, vegetables, fruits and whole grains are an important part of a clean eating lifestyle. Clean eating is not a diet. It is establishing daily healthy eating habits and eating foods that will nourish your body.
Remaining hydrated throughout the day is a critical ingredient to your health. Refilling a water bottle throughout the day will help you get the proper amount of hydration. If you get tired of drinking plain water, then fill your water bottle in the morning with a combination of citrus, fruit and fresh herbs. Strawberry-Basil, Cucumber-Mint, Lemon-Lime-Ginger, Blueberry-Orange, Grapefruit-Rosemary are a few infused water combinations that can add some liveliness to your hydration habits.
Moving your body each day, even if it’s simply taking a walk, doing yoga, stretching, or performing a 20-minute workout will have cumulative benefits for your physical and mental health.
When creating a healthy lifestyle, getting a proper amount of sleep is as important as all the other habits, yet it’s often overlooked. Our bodies need a proper amount of rest and rejuvenation in order to function well.
It’s really difficult to live each day fully if struggling with a mental health issue or concern. Caring for our mental well-being is as important as caring for our physical well-being. Burying thoughts or feelings that are weighing on us is not healthy. Seeking the services of a counselor or other mental health professional when needed is a must. They will provide tools and resources to navigate and manage individual mental health issues. Working on healing pain or trauma from your past can provide new insights into yourself and offer new ways to view the world. Many people see a counselor on a routine basis simply to manage the stresses of day-to-day life. This is normal and healthy.
Check-ups, Screenings and Medical Care
As women, we prioritize our family’s medical care, yet often push our routine exams, check-ups and screenings to the bottom of the list. It is so important to schedule physicals, wellness check-ups, dental visits, eye exams, mammograms, colonoscopies and other screenings pertinent to your own unique health circumstances. Do not let these important visits go unscheduled or unattended.
3. Mindfulness – the here and now
In the current age of endless distractions, being present in the moment requires a commitment to practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is a mental state of being highly conscious in the present moment and focusing your awareness in the here and now, while fully accepting your feelings and thoughts, and noticing the senses in your body. When in a mindful state, you acknowledge your thoughts and emotions without placing judgement on them. You allow yourself to feel all the feelings in that moment – mind, heart, body and soul. It involves self-love, self-acceptance, and commitment to a greater understanding of your own mental state and emotional health in any given moment.
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally…in the service of self-understanding and wisdom,” says Kabat-Zinn from Mindful.org.
An important part of living each day is spending your mental and emotional awareness in today – in the present moment. When we are mindful, we fully listen instead of only hearing, we perceive deeper meaning as opposed to making only basic observations, and we notice things we may never have seen.
What does mindfulness look like in day-to-day activities?
- Eating a meal and focusing on the tastes and textures of the food, considering how it is nourishing your body and making you feel – not scrolling your social media or checking your email while eating.
- Having a conversation with your partner, and taking in each word, truly listening to understand them – not thinking about what you will say next or how you will respond.
- Focusing on one task at a time and being mindful of the requirements of that task – not multi-tasking and spreading your thoughts and attention in multiple directions.
Mindfulness helps us remain calm and not overly reactive. It helps us stay kind to ourselves and to others, while being patient and present.
4. Self-discovery and your truth
There’s no bigger source of peace than knowing yourself fully and living authentically in your truth. This can be hard, but it gets easier as we get older and grow more fully into ourselves. As we age, it seems we care less and less about what society expects from us and care more about fully living an authentic life and being true to ourselves. We begin to learn who we truly are before the world told us who we should be.
There are numerous self-discovery tools that can help us more fully understand ourselves and understand why we respond the way we do to various life circumstances. Tools such as the Enneagram, DiSC, MBTI, Strengthsfinder and others can help us understand ourselves more deeply and grow through ongoing personal development.
5. Pursuing your passions – living your dream
The ultimate path to living each day meaningfully is being able to live your dream. Fulfilling your potential and living each day doing something you love while contributing your unique talents, personality and gifts to the world is the greatest form of living your best life.
When asked how you’re doing, have you ever replied, “oh, living the dream”? The literal interpretation of “living the dream” is living your ideal life, however this phrase is often used in more of a mocking or sarcastic way intended to mean living the everyday hustle of life. But what if you really could live your dream? What if you made an intentional decision to pursue your deepest passions and goals? It takes courage, hard work and dedication, but guess what – you can.
You miss every shot you don’t take.
6. Your daily habits = your life
If you want your life to change or improve, the first step is to make small changes in your daily habits. When we contemplate making life changes, it’s easy to get overwhelmed, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. It can all be managed one small decision at a time.
Focus on Small Changes to Daily Habits
Small steps and small changes to daily habits are 100% manageable and can be completely life changing. Daily habits are like compounding interest. They accumulate over time to make an astounding impact after putting in just a small number of daily repetitions consistently until a habit forms and becomes a natural part of your day. These do not have to be major life changes overnight or all at one time. Everything in life happens one small step at a time.
The Cumulative Effect
We tend to overestimate what we think we can accomplish in a day, but we completely underestimate what we can accomplish in a year. Let’s say you wish you read more books or journals. If you read for only 30 minutes a day, that is 10,950 minutes (over 182 hours) of reading in a year. That could equate to reading 18-25 books per year! What if you wanted to move your body more and get at least a little exercise each day. If you walk for 20 minutes a day, that is 7,300 minutes or over 121 hours of walking in a year.
What if you work full time and have a family but want to start your own business. If you are like most people, you can’t just quit your job until you have a successful business. If you work on building a side hustle, passion focused business for just 2 hours a day, that is 730 hours in a year and you will have invested the equivalent of over 90 – 8 hour work days in a year.
Given just these few examples, imagine what you can accomplish in just one year. The time is going to pass anyway. Imagine how would feel to reflect on your year and have incredible accomplishments that you are deeply proud of, versus reflecting on your year and having it look exactly the same as the past 1, 3, 5 or even 10 previous years.
Case & Point
I have a dear friend who lost almost 40 pounds in only 5 months and she did it in a very healthy way. Her goal was to lose 2 pounds per week until she reached her goal. She did this by making small changes to her daily habits that accumulated to an incredible amount of progress just 20 weeks later. She ran on the treadmill each day and changed her daily eating habits. When she didn’t have time to prepare a healthy meal herself, she found a few healthy meal prep services that did the work for her. All these adjustments to her daily habits resulted in 40 pounds of weight loss in just 5 months. She completely transformed herself in that short amount of time.
Consistent daily habits can bring about incredible results.
7. More gratitude
How do you feel when you are given a thoughtful, precious gift for your birthday or a holiday? You feel grateful, right? If you wake each morning and see that you’ve been given the valuable gift of another day and the precious gift of time, a sense of gratitude fills your heart and mind. The “time as a gift” mindset can be life altering. It changes your perspective about your day.
Time is Finite
Think of a person who is sick and has been given a finite amount of time left on earth. When the amount of time remaining in life is limited, it would become quite imperative to live each day as best you can. The reality is – we all have a limited amount of time on earth, but most of us don’t know what that endpoint looks like or when it will arrive. To spend our days in a meaningful way, we can work on our mindset and focus energy on our sense of gratitude. It truly will change the way you view your day. It will open your eyes to the beauty around us at any given moment.
Gratitude for the Beauty All Around Us
The age-old adage of “taking time to smell the roses” will take on new significance. You will notice things throughout your day that you previously may have mindlessly ignored or simply didn’t see. You will see the child latching onto his mother’s hand and gazing up at her in adoration, you will see the way the sun’s rays shine on the trees, you will see the animals grazing in the field, you will smell the freshly cut grass, you will notice the person biking up the sidewalk, you will notice the beautiful stars in the sky. On your journey to become healthy and lose weight, you will feel the muscles in your body after your workout. On your journey to launching your business, you will notice all the things you are learning and the ways you are growing as a person.
When we take time to feel a sense of appreciation for the way things are right now, it frames our thinking in a positive way. It helps us realize how much is available to us right now and also more clearly see the opportunities that may be right in front of us.
8. Mindset matters
The stories we tell ourselves about our lives and the thoughts that flow through our head can determine the kind of day we will have. Even when life circumstances really have us down and we are going through a difficult time or perhaps even a longer-term challenging phase in our lives, our mindset can either help us move through that season of life or keep us firmly stuck there.
Go Where Your Energy Leads You
What we think about, we bring about. We go where our energy directs us to go. This is not to suggest that we can be positive all the time, we are all fully human. However, we can either wallow around endlessly in negative thoughts and energy or we can allow ourselves to feel what we feel and then make an intentional decision to reconcile those thoughts and that negative energy, sit in it for a short time, and then choose to move on with more productive energy and thoughts.
Small Shifts in a New Direction
All too often, the primary requirement to begin moving our lives in the direction we want is a mindset shift. Start by thinking you can, then define the path leading to where you want to go. Try these two basic mindset shifts as a starting point.
“Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” ~ Henry Ford
“Make it a great day or not, the choice is yours.” ~ Principal at my children’s school
9. Relationships & connection
When you find someone who brings out the best in you, hold onto that person. Invest in that relationship and foster the connection. Friendships and relationships are foundational to living a meaningful life. Like a sunflower grows toward the sun, a dear friend or partner can be your sunshine. They can help you reach your potential and grow into the person you are meant to be. When you have this type of friendship, you will feel it in your soul.
Healthy relationships with people who build you up and bring out the best in you will help you live each day more meaningfully. These types of connections help you with every other item on this list. This type of person will not only love you at your best, but they will also unconditionally love you at your worst. They see the best in you, even when you don’t. Life can be hard, it’s not meant to navigate alone. Like with anything though, relationships are a two-way investment in time, energy, emotion and commitment.
10. Finding joy in the journey, not just the destination
All too often we set goals and become laser focused on attaining that goal. Reaching a goal is incredibly rewarding, but it is an endpoint – a goal is achieved at a point in time. Yet with most goals, it takes a quite a bit of time, energy, commitment and effort to arrive at that destination. The journey to reaching the goal is often rather long. It’s not just a point in time, but an accumulation of moments leading up to the destination. The journey is filled with learning, growth, effort, milestones, small wins and big wins. It is filled with losses, obstacles, setbacks and then overcoming those setbacks. The journey involves learning about your resiliency and the discovery that with hard work and determination, you can do hard things.
I’ll Be Happy When
Often we think – “I’ll be happy when…” It sounds like this. I’ll be happy when I earn the degree and graduate from college. I’ll be happy when I lose 20 pounds. I will have joy in my life when I have kids. I’ll be more satisfied once I buy a home. I will be happy when I get that certain job or begin my career. I’ll be happy when I launch my business. I will be happy when, when, when… This way of thinking allows the majority of your life to escape you and robs you of the joy in each day.
Instead, what if we thought – I think I’ll just be happy now. I’ll take notice of all the beautiful, wonderful things about where I am now, on this day in my life. I’ll find joy in all the steps in the journey, not just the endpoint of my journey.
If we have the good fortune of making all 80.5 trips around the sun, we have 29,383 opportunities to live each day.
Beginning each new day by viewing it as a gift can immediately shift our mindset to a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the beautiful gift of time.
With each sunrise, we have another daily deposit of time, another gift given to us, and another opportunity to live each day.