We can all make the mistake of believing that we’ll always have time.
I realised this again the other day as I was reading Killing Kennedy, by Bill O’Reilly & Martin Dugard.
(If you haven’t read it, I’d recommend it. It’s terrific. A history book, really, but it’s written in such a gripping style that at times I had to pinch myself to remember that I wasn’t reading fiction.)
No matter what you think about JFK, he was an ambitious man who was shot down in his prime.
There he is late 1963, strategising ahead of the 1964 US presidential election, aiming for another term in office, one that would see him through to 1968.
He’s spending time in Texas where his support has been low, and his last stop is Dallas. From the motorcade, he’s smiling and waving at the crowd, sitting next to his beautiful wife in her Chanel suit that will moments later and forever be covered in his blood. Turning into Dealey Plaza and past the Texas School Book Depository, on his way back to the airport to get on with the next round of campaigning, when..
And he’s gone.
Such is life
“Most people live their lives as if the end were always years away. They measure their days in love, laughter, accomplishment, and loss. There are moments of sunshine and storm. There are schedules, phone calls, careers, anxieties, joys, trips, favourite foods, romance, shame and hunger. A person can be defined by their clothing, the smell of his breath, the way she combs her hair, the shape of his torso, or even the company she keeps.
“All over the world, children love their parents and yearn for love in return. They revel in the touch of parental hands on their faces. And even on the worst of days, each person has dreams about the future – dreams that sometimes come true.
“Such is life.
“Yet life can end in less time than it takes to draw one breath.”
The tyranny of everyday stuff
I think the book and these words spoke to me because I’ve found myself these last weeks again caught up in doing all kinds of everyday stuff. Just because.
I’d been on holiday and, starting back, launched right into a busy workload, one that I felt myself never being quite on top of. Only at times stopping to wonder if what I was doing bore any relationship to what I should have been doing.
Do you know what I mean?
Isn’t it just super easy to get on that machine called everyday life with its external schedules and demands, and to forget about the direction we promised ourselves we wanted to be heading in?
To make excuses about the things we tell ourselves we have to do. Just because.
The other day I made myself take my own advice and took time to review where I was. Wrote a day off in my calendar and put myself through my own little mini business strategy process.
Meaning I now feel much better again about what I’m doing day by day.
Three vital questions
One of the things I resurrected was a practice that, when I do it, gets great results.
Each morning, before I look at email, or allow myself to get consumed by thoughts of what I should do that day, I take five minutes to ask myself:
- What am I excited about today?
- What am I grateful for today?
- What will I commit to today?
I know this isn’t a new process and that I got it, or a version of it, from Anthony Robbins.
But, when I do it first thing, it has the effect of making me really focus down on what’s important. Especially that last question: “what will I commit to today?” And especially when I think about it in the context of the bigger goals I’m working to achieve. I choose one thing and make sure I do it: a great initial conversation with a prospective new coaching client; 1,000 words of my book; a fun afternoon with my nephew.
Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow
Because, when you think about it, there is only ever today. Yesterday and tomorrow are illusions. One is past. The other is by no means certain. As the JFK story illustrates.
So, don’t defer your life and all that you want it to be and mean for you. Try my little exercise. Let it help you live today.