You have your dreams, goals that you want to achieve in this life. You are living flat-out, working hard to make it happen. If things are going well, you can be on top of the world. If your goal is still out of reach you may be optimistic, but not yet fulfilled.
But what if tomorrow everything was taken away from you? What if you lost your health, or a loved one, or your business? What if you lost your house or job?
The sense of loss would be devastating.
You would feel grief, anger, and depression. You would find it difficult to focus. Nothing could make you happy, nothing would be good enough. You might think, “What is the point, anyway?”
Your feelings are valid, and very real.
Here are a few lessons that I have learned from my life that help me to get through the hard times.
1. Realize that this moment is a gift.
Every moment that we have will soon be gone. There is no permanence to anything. While you are in the moment, realize what a gift it is.
If your life is going well, don’t forget that you could lose it all tomorrow. Savor what you have at that moment. If you have a big house, pool, tennis court, boat, airplane, or fancy cars, enjoy them to the fullest. They are yours today, but only for awhile.
If you have more modest possessions, enjoy them just as much as the person who has a mansion. A camping trip or night in a quaint bed-and-breakfast can be just as enjoyable as a luxury vacation to a five-star hotel or mansion overlooking the water.
“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” — Marcus Aurelius
Everything that you have is on loan. Even the people that you love. Understand that they can be gone at any moment, and treasure them while they are here. Delight in the beauty and joy around you. Realize that your life is perfect at the moment, even with pain and sadness.
2. Appreciate all your successes, no matter how small
When we are caught up in big-hairy-audacious goals, the small successes we have along the way may seem of little consequence. It can be easy to think “I will be happy once I achieve my big goal.”
Know that life is impermanent. It is important to celebrate even small successes. Build a bank of memories, so that if you have warning when the end is near, you can look back and know that your life was well spent.
Each day, allow yourself to be content with your life. You are living the life that is unique to you. Your experiences are unlike anyone else’s, because they are filtered through your understanding.
Don’t allow yourself to be unhappy because you have not yet achieved a particular goal.
3. Make human connections
Your goals are important, but in times of crisis it is the people that you have around you that matter the most.
Spend time with people you care about. Your family may be your primary focus, but friends are also important.
“The key is to keep company only with people who uplift you, whose presence calls forth your best.” — Epictetus
Choose your friends carefully. Ask yourself the question – “If this was my last day, is this a person I would want to spend it with?”
You create strong bonds by spending time and sharing emotions with other people. Allow yourself time to get to know a person. As trust builds, you will find it easier to be open and share your thoughts.
When you laugh and enjoy life with people you are close to, you can feel an uplift of your spirits, an excitement, a bubbling upwelling of happiness in your stomach.
4. Make a difference
I think that the biggest regret for many people, when they reach the end of their lives, is about how much they left undone. They want to leave something behind, some part of themselves that can persist. Something that makes a difference.
You have your own unique gifts that you want to share with the world. Perhaps you want to create a new product, or service, or a book, or a piece of art. Or build a business, grow a family, create a home. Or touch others lives through teaching or helping them to grow.
Whatever your dream, it is your contribution to the world. That is how you make a difference. Perhaps you will discover a new concept or create a new product. Perhaps you will live on through the actions and achievements of those you have influenced.
Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, and Steve Jobs all left behind a legacy of what they had created. Our lives are different today, because of what they created in their time.
Look for your special gifts, for how you influence the world. Take the gift of each day as one more opportunity for you to make your difference in the world.
5. Be prepared
Life is fleeting. Nothing is permanent. Everything will change.
Set your goals, and achieve them. But always realize that everything can be taken away from you tomorrow.
Think to the future, make sure that your loved ones are taken care of, so that you won’t have any regrets. But live life to the fullest, because you only get to live now.
Have faith in your ability to adapt. Don’t be too attached to what is now, even while enjoying it to the fullest.
Be prepared for the changes that life throws at you. Never expect things to last.