My unofficial mentor and inspiration in Toastmasters is a man named Peter Kossowan. I have a great amount of respect for Peter because as one of the oldest members of Toastmasters at the club, he says that he is constantly learning new things every single meeting. Quite a feat for a Toastmaster who celebrated his 50 year commitment to Toastmasters in 2019!
Every time we adjourned a meeting, he would often say something that nobody ever really thought about. Instead of saying “have a great day” which would be our typical response as we said our goodbyes to members in the morning, he would say “make it a great day”. It was not until a few meetings later that he explained why he said it this way. “Have a great day” means that you are letting the day’s circumstances affect whether you have a great day or not. In essence, a great day depends on whether or not things are happening TO you and whether those are good or bad things. In contrast, “make it a great day” assumed (correctly so I might add) that you have the power to make your day great. As opposed to having a great day, making it a great day means that YOU are in control of whether good or bad things happen to you and as Peter explained this at one of our Toastmaster meetings, a complete shift in how we perceived our life slowly started to take shape. Any day is ordinary until you make it extraordinary.
From that point on, from the moment I woke up, I think about how I can live an intentional great life. If I can do ten of these things every single day, I consider a day well-spent. What ten things, you might ask?
Do you get antsy if you have not exercised in a few weeks, for example, if you are on vacation (which really isn’t an excuse) and you may not have easy access to a gym or any exercise equipment? I do! There’s something about not doing anything active that gets my body revved up for something strenuous. I feel that humans are not meant to sit down and work on a computer all day and then to sit in a car and drive home from work, and then to sit down and eat, and then to sit down and watch TV until bed time.
Action to take right now: Get up and get moving!
Connecting with friends, family or loved ones
I have had days where I did absolutely nothing social, where I did not speak with anybody else at all unless I had to. And I’ve had days where I called my parents or chatted with friends who I haven’t connected to in a while. Between the two, I know which days I have felt much better at the end of the day. It is certainly possible to work from home, order groceries and anything you need to be delivered to your house, and be completely in self-isolation (may be a good thing these days with the corona virus), but not only can we accomplish more things together with others, I think there is a basic human need to connect with others.
Action to take right now: E-mail a friend you haven’t talked to in a long time. Ask them for a catch up session either through coffee or Skype.
I am a bit biased with this one given that I’m a writer and self-published author, but writing calms me down. I’m not talking about writing for a book or even writing to blog, it can be an extremely therapeutic experience to journal your thoughts and feelings every day (preferably in the morning when your mind is fresh and you have not been bombarded by social media or the latest news). For example, some of my journal prompts are: what are you thinking or feeling? what have you changed your mind about recently? What are your goals for the day? What are your dreams for the next decade? Over the course of a few months, I’ll take a look back and ‘audit’ my thoughts and feelings. Here it is important not to censor yourself in any way as your journal is only for you and not for anyone else.
Action to take right now: Get a notebook and write down what you are feeling right now. Make it a habit to write down your thoughts and feelings any time you feel that you need clarity in life. Writing will make it clear.
Reading and learning
Just as the body needs exercise to grow, adapt and strengthen itself, a mind needs books and educational content to expand. Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “the mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions”. I get new ideas from reading the many books in my personal library. My approach is that I’ll think about what I need in my life (say direction, personal growth, emotional mastery) and then look through the authors and books to find the right books to feed my mind. Jim Rohn says that you are the average of the five people you hang out with the most, and James Altucher says the same thing with books: your thoughts are the average of the five things you consume the most. What are you consuming the most these days? Is it social media? The news? Facebook feeds? Or is it books? Educational videos? Online courses?
Action to take right now: Go to your local library and find a book to help you with something in your life right now. Don’t have any problems in life? Find a book by Dale Carnegie, Stephen Covey or Tony Robbins to find out ways to add to your life.
Have you ever heard that the average kid laughs 400 times a day and the average adult only laughs 15 times a day? Every day, I make it a point to laugh. Maybe I’ll watch a comedy special on Youtube. Or I’ll tell a corny joke to the people I’m connecting with. Or if I’m not able to do any of these things, I’ll think about funny things that happened in my life. For example, in university, I joked with my friend that there was a japanese place that I would often go to that had stamp cards. Once you visit the restaurant ten times, I could get a free meal. My joke was that I would save up these stamp cards and then turn them all in at once, driving them out of business. After collecting a few stamp cards, I found out that the restaurant ended up closing down, leaving me with useless stamp cards that were not redeemable in any way.
Action to take right now: What do you call an alligator detective? An investi-gator.
On most mornings, I like to brew myself some tea and usually it is one of the following: matcha, green tea, black tea or a milk tea powder. There’s something about tea that is warm and fulfilling – I think it’s in part from the many dim sum outings that I went to with my family when I was younger. It probably wasn’t every weekend, but I felt that it was most weekends where we would venture out to a chinese restaurant for dim sum. If it is coffee, water or another beverage for you, make sure that you hydrate throughout your day. One cool trick I learned from a coworker was that if you are feeling hungry but you know that snacking on something would ruin your appetite or that whatever you eat would really not be that good for you, you can drink a glass of warm water. It will feel satiating and may help to curb your appetite until you get to meal time.
Action to take right now: Fill a water bottle with water and drink it throughout your day.
Sleep 8 hours
My days are infinitely better when I get enough sleep at night. I don’t feel tired. I don’t feel like I need to take a nap in the afternoon after a heavy lunch. I am more productive in the mornings because I’m not trying to drink a lot of caffeine to wake myself up. Conversely, when I don’t get enough sleep, I crash in the afternoons when things get really boring. I don’t feel like I have the full energy to do the things I want to do. My discipline and motivation for doing anything is low.
Of course, the funny thing is it is completely within our power the majority of the time to get a good night’s rest. And the trick is to prioritize sleep, just like how you would prioritize anything in life. Set an alarm or a schedule and follow it to the tee. If something tries to pull you away from your schedule, really think about whether you need to do it right then and there or if it can wait in the morning.
Action to take right now: Set an alarm for 9 or 10 PM (however much time you need to sleep plus the time you need to get ready for bed). Follow your schedule every day (including weekends).
Silence and breathing
Sometimes, when I can’t sleep right away at night or if I wake up early in the morning, I’ll lay in bed and focus on box breathing. Focusing on breathing means that I’m not focused on anything else and it is a fantastic way to assess how I am feeling, physically, mentally and spiritually. I’ll notice what pains or aches may be in my body at the time. I’ll hear what thoughts and feelings my mind is racing with. I’ll realize how I am feeling about my life in general. All this with just taking a few moments of silence to focus on my breathing.
Action to take right now: Take ten deep breaths. Focus on breathing and listening to your body, listening to what is around you, and listening to what life is telling you right now.
Get something done on your to do list
When I say your to-do list, I’m not necessarily talking about work. It can be something from your personal life too. Maybe it is one of the things on this list. Maybe it’s writing a book. Maybe it’s writing an algorithm for that tricky programming challenge you have. Do one thing to get your to-do list shorter. Don’t have a to-do list? Make one today!
Action to take right now: Make a to-do list. Or if you have one, look at which item on your to-do list will help you the most and work on it right now.
Being kind can be incredibly difficult these days. It is taken for granted. It can be used against you to do things you don’t want to do, or won’t get anything in return for. Unfortunately, it is the right thing to do, even if others aren’t kind or don’t return your kindness. All you can do is trust that kindness is the right path to take and that even if others aren’t kind, you can hold yourself up high knowing that you did the right thing.
Action to take right now: Do one act of kindness to a stranger today. It could be holding a door open for someone as they make their way through. It could be letting a car into your lane when others don’t.
How will you make today a great day? What actions do you take every single day to live a good life?