Urgent! Make The Most Of Your Life
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.” — Mae West
“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”
— Mae West
Urgent vs. Important
Many people confuse urgent with important. Urgent tasks typically have an immediate deadline, but relatively insignificant impact.
Important tasks, on the other hand, are not necessarily urgent, may or may not have a deadline, but often significantly impact our lives.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
— Eleanor Roosevelt
A Fancier Treadmill is NOT the Answer
When we know which tasks are important, as opposed to urgent, we also know what to eliminate, delegate, or automate. If we focus on urgent tasks all the time, reacting to deadlines, stressors, advertisements (Limited-time offer! Prime Day! Ending soon!) and other’s agendas, we don’t have time for ourselves and our priorities. It’s so easy to get caught in a whirlwind of must-dos, scarcity, and urgency, but to what end?
If we hustle all day, checking boxes, and putting out fires, where does that leave us? Unfortunately, often in exactly the same place that we started.
It’s a treadmill, a very fancy Peloton Tread that “empowers you to run farther, train better and recover smarter with a range of total body workouts that keep you motivated every step of the way.” Who doesn’t want that?!
Distractions are increasingly seductive and fun, and we often willingly opt in. It feels healthy. It feels productive. It feels like progress.
How many buy books they never read, sign up for courses they never finish, and watch home improvement videos with the best intentions, but never actually do the work?
How many fill their lives, homes, and schedules with increasingly sophisticated comforts to insulate themselves from tough truths and more profound undertakings?
To live our best lives, we have to be ruthless: Ruthlessly honest and ruthlessly disciplined. We have to be willing to examine where we are spending our time, ask and answer fundamental questions, and change our behaviors.
Think about the top timesucks in your life. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Whose needs are being met?
- Whose goals are being accomplished?
- How does this contribute to my life?
- How does this help me get where I’m going?
- Is this a reflection of how I want to spend my time and my life?
- And, if I was looking back near the end of my life, would these people, this location, and these activities matter?
If the answers confirm that you’ve found your place, your people, and your passions, dive deeper Rockstar, you inspire the rest of us! Bravo and keep going. 👏🏻 👏🏻 👏🏻
But if your behaviors and activities aren’t aligned with your intentions and goals, there’s no point in beating yourself up, and today is the perfect day to begin anew.
You may be surprised to know that it doesn’t take dramatic change, starting over from scratch, or hitting rock bottom to course correct. Every day iterative change, consistent little shifts, choosing your best life at any given moment will get you where you are going, much, much faster than you think. It’s exponential.
Living your best life is not some abstract idea; it’s not an aspirational Instagram feed, awards, and accolades, or the biggest house in the best neighborhood. It’s simply happiness. Success on your terms. Freedom to fill your time with what lights you up. And people that get you, celebrate you, inspire you, and challenge you to become better. It’s the good life on your terms.
It’s important, not only because it’s your one and only life, but because when you are in that zone, doing what matters, making your way toward a higher purpose, showing up as your best self, doing your best work, and relating to others similarly, it’s an exponentially better place, and your example invites others to elevate too. Imagine if we were all there.
The Sweet Spot is Where Life is Even Better Than You Imagine
The Great Recession of 2008 was apparently pretty brutal. It wasn't that I don't remember, it was only 12 years ago…
“The trouble is, you think you have time.”
— Jack Kornfield
The Future Depends on What We Do Today
I like to balance presence in the moment with what I call it setting things in motion. It’s an awareness of how beautiful now is with eager anticipation for what’s next. It’s a combination of how can I make this moment, this room, this exchange better because I’m here? mixed with how can I influence a better future for myself, my family, my community, or even my planet by planting a seed that will grow into a gorgeous shade tree?
How to Think Differently About Long-Term Goals
I wrote this sitting under our maple tree - Happy Fall! The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best…
See, even if we have the most self-awareness, if we play the highest odds and strategize accordingly in every moment (which is, of course, impossible), success and happiness aren’t guaranteed. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go. for. it.
Success and happiness are twins. They complement each other and are better together.
Even if we feel overwhelmed by the complexity of life, by the juggle of so many balls in the air, we can choose happiness and success, just as easily as we choose overwhelm.
For instance, we are parents who want our children to thrive. We are business owners, bosses, and employees who want to maximize our careers. We are daughters or sons with obligations to our parents. And we are spouses who dream of deepening our relationship.
Any of those can be full-time jobs. And, often, we layer on health goals, community responsibilities, and trips, events, and occasions to plan, plus friends to see, meals to make, and homes to care for (plus laundry).
Laundry is a Fact of Life for Moms
When our dog was a puppy, she followed me around the house like a little duck. When I would do laundry, she would wait…
The challenge isn’t the time to do it all; the challenge is to find room to breathe too, to assess the opportunities, to evaluate what’s working, to ruthlessly delegate, automate, or eliminate, and then to manage it all, so we don’t drown (or miss the magic of being alive).
We must find quiet time, me time, downtime, and restorative time, so when an opportunity comes, we have the flexibility and reserves to say yes, so when presented with a choice, we can count on our instincts to decide without hesitation, so when a blessing appears, we can see it for what it is and feel the impact.
Researchers have often debated the maximum amount of items we can store in our conscious mind, and a study puts the limit at three or four. Most of us are brilliant multitaskers, but having only three or four things on our list seems laughable.
Warren Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, and one of the wealthiest people in the world, suggests that instead of learning to do more, we should be eliminating more: “The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”
“God has entrusted me with myself.”
Capitalizing on the Moment
When we do the first two steps, when we distinguish between urgent and important, and then find the courage to jump off the treadmill, we can then do the third step, and it is the wild up-level you’re looking for.
When we move from surviving to thriving, from tortured by our past or dreading the future, to being mindful and confident in every moment, not only do we get to live in alignment, but we also get to capitalize on windows of opportunity because we see more clearly what’s meant for us.
There is so much power and consequence in making the most of our lives, in doing the big things we most want to make happen, in going for our dreams right now: Right now is as good as it gets. We will never be younger or more uncomplicated. We may be wiser, we may be more prepared, have experience or resources that we didn’t previously have, but everything is a trade-off.
Next year, we will be a different person with different goals and new circumstances — life will likely be more complicated — we may be less brave or even more rooted. As we become more aware of what’s at stake, it’s harder to take risks. What seemed evident in youth might feel reckless now.
And then, there’s the bubble. The bubble is conscious or unconscious beliefs that keep us in a box where life seems predictable, stable, and safe.
“What if I fall? Oh, but my darling,what if you fly?”
― Erin Hanson
But What if There’s a Pandemic and Other Things We Can’t Control
Even before my husband and I talked about marriage, I knew I wanted a classic cushion cut diamond.
One day, on a business trip to Portland, I was wasting time waiting for a meeting to start, and I walked past a family-owned jewelry shop. I saw an engagement ring, and immediately knew it was the one.
At that moment, coincidentally (or not), my boyfriend, now husband, called. I described the ring, we chatted pretty casually and hung up.
I didn’t know the minute we disconnected that he would figure out what jewelry shop was closest to my meeting place, call, describe me, describe the ring, and order it then and there, on the spot, sight unseen, but he did.
There are a few key takeaways to this story. First, when we are happy and in our element, when we share our joys and desires, when we are free with ourselves and authentic with others, the universe conspires in our favor — things have a way of working out.
Second, had I let the moment pass me by, or had he let the moment pass him by, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. It wouldn’t have been as romantic, obviously, but it wouldn’t have changed the trajectory of our lives. He would have proposed with another ring, I would have said yes no matter the ring, but that we we both trusted my certainty was significant. He knew me well enough to know I knew myself well.
We both trusted our relationship, the timing, and the synchronicity of the moment, and we capitalized. When we do that, the universe honors our faith and appreciates our acknowledgment.
In contrast, one of our friends gave us the advice to buy a starter ring and upgrade later. It didn’t make sense to us then or now. Wouldn’t we be saving for a home or a family later? Even if our incomes grew, weren’t our expenses likely to increase as well? Would a ring be as meaningful in the future as it was during our engagement?
It’s a metaphor for how to approach life. We can do that, make safe bets, hope for a better future, postpone what we want most in favor of accepting what we can live with now. Or, we can go. for. it.
We can pursue our hearts desires at the moment, stretch outside our comfort zone, reach a little farther, grow into bigger shoes, heighten the stakes, and believe in the beauty of our dreams, knowing anything may come, but trusting that what we are choosing now is enough. Enough for now. Enough for a lifetime.
I don’t need an upgrade. The ring, the husband, the relationship is everything.
It’s easy to get trapped in the bubble, to waste so much time, a lifetime even, preparing, in due diligence, waiting for optimal timing, optimal conditions, to get married, have kids, get a dog, launch a business, etc. We wait to do the thing because we mistakenly believe we have time. We don’t.
We have one fleeting lifetime, and anything can happen, good or bad. There are no guarantees and rarely do-overs. Holding out for an upgrade is doubting your choice; it’s wondering if something better will come along, but it’s also missing your chance to have your heart’s desire now.
If we hadn’t taken our Australia trip in late 2018, even though it seemed irresponsible to spend that kind of money without jobs, we would still be waiting. We would still be wondering.
We couldn’t have known that borders would close to contain the spread of COVID, but we could see that the time was ideal, that the window of opportunity, before elementary school, with time on our hands, was rare.
The true windows of opportunity, you know the ones, when the right people and the right resources and the right idea shows up, those truly are limited-time engagements. They are perfect for a reason.
What’s right here right now is a perfect amalgamation of ingredients nearly impossible to replicate. You must capitalize, not just to make the most of the moment, but because it changes everything.
See, opportunities aren’t few and far between as some would have you believe — It’s the opposite. Opportunities are endless, but if we don’t capitalize, if we don’t intentionally take daily action towards what we want, we simply won’t be able to fit them all in, and we may stop noticing them altogether.
It’s a good problem to have—too much good stuff for one lifetime — but the good is always changing, as are we. What we want evolves, what’s possible shifts. Like the example with the ring, choosing one in favor of the other doesn’t change everything, but it does change some things.
Every choice changes us. Each moment is a perfect opportunity once lost, nearly impossible to recreate. Each option closes one door and opens thousands new ones. Alternative realities are already lost, and the paths you didn’t take were never truly yours.
So we must reconcile our sense of time and importance and feel the inherent urgency of only living once. Not so we freeze, paralyzed by fear and overwhelm, but so we can do hard things, sacrifice looking perfect, risking failure, going beyond our comfort zone, letting other choices go, or doing any number of things that feel possibly (and likely) awful in the moment, utterly consumed by nothing more than making the most of it.
See, we can’t tell the universe we want to live our best life while simultaneously turning down every opportunity, shrugging off every blessing, cocooning inside the bubble.
The universe wants to see us doing our part. Be here now. Pursue your best life with wild and generous and unrestrained abandon. Do the freaking thing that calls to you now and believe that things have a way of working out.
And if you must choose urgent over important, let it be the version of urgency that comes from knowing we only live once. Let love pull you in the right direction, and the ephemerality of life nudge you outside of the bubble. Trust yourself to know what you want, what’s right for you, and what steps you need to take to live your best life, and let the rest go.
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.