Have you ever noticed how frequently we just fritter away our lives simply by thinking about what we could do, or regretting something we should have done? Rather than actually doing something?
"We should just hop in the car right now and take a trip to the seaside."
"I should do something with my parents again."
"I really should really give my boss a piece of my mind".
Then we skip doing what we were thinking about. We just seamlessly move on to "If only we'd gone to the seaside when we had the money."
"If only I'd done something with my parents before they got so sick."
"If only I'd told my boss what I thought instead of putting up with years of being bullied."
How crazy it is that we first make plans and create visions, only to become lethargic, afraid, or unwilling to spend the money. Then we regret that we wound up doing nothing, and now it is too late. So much of our lives are lost in daydreams and regrets instead of investing that same time in what is most important: finally doing the shit we want to do!
And because humans tend to read thought-provoking articles like this one, giving it a nod of approval, and then
forget the thoughts the article as soon as they read the last sentence, here come five concrete suggestions on things we should do more often, starting right now!
I'm sitting at my desk, plunking away on Facebook and retouching pimples from a photo shoot. It's any day in the summer of 2013 and I've been meaning to visit my grandma for two months. But oh well. Too tired after studying for university, too many weekends planned with friends, too many funny memes on Facebook—oops, it’s evening again!
Suddenly, my dad calls. "Grandma is in the hospital," he says. Yesterday she rode her bike 35 miles to buy wool for a new knitted sweater. During the night she had a stroke. Not hemiplegic. Not paralyzed. Not surviving.
In less than a second, a seventeen-story house of cards collapses on me. Along with all the shit I had frittered away my precious time on for the last few weeks and months without thinking. That was time I will never have with my grandma again. If only I had visited her. At least called. Even if once a week. Or even only once—very briefly. But I didn’t. And I can never make up that time.
Ay, caramba! No one ever knows how much time they have left. No matter how old, no matter how healthy, no matter how near or far away. There is nothing—absolutely nothing!—that can or should stop you from spending time with the people you love. Use your phones, emails, WhatsApp, trains, cars, flights, letters, or carrier pigeons. Take a few days, hours, or just minutes. In the middle of stress, on the toilet during a break, via a hands-free Bluetooth from a car ride on the way back from shopping.
When someone is gone, you won't regret missing a meme on Facebook or not putting in the extra hour. But you will regret not giving that special person five minutes of your time when they were worth 5000 years to you.
Dreams can be anything. Quitting your job, traveling around the world, having children, getting your driver's license, building something, tearing something down, running naked through Washington D.C. at night. No matter how big, impossible, or crazy your dream may seem—it always has a very small beginning.
Nobody wakes up in the morning next to a bag full of money, time, and courage and then simply walks through the front door into the achievement of their dreams. Once you understand that, you have your opportunity: you can begin to look at the seemingly impossible from the opposite side: not from the frighteningly large end result, but from the tiny beginning. Think not: "What's the hardest, biggest step?" but instead: "What's the first, smallest step?"
And then take it!
Often it only takes a tiny push to start the momentum. It can start with telling your dream to a trusted person—and BAM! It's no longer a secret, but something official that's now much harder to put aside. Trick yourself.
When my dream of a multi-month road trip through the U.S. came to me, I was seven years old. I knew it would be even longer than my entire lifetime to that point before I would be old enough to freely board a plane. Damn.
So, I began to think back from the end I wanted to achieve to the beginning step. What would be the first thing I would need to live this dream? Well, undeniably and bluntly: money. That was the day I started saving. A half-dollar here, fifty dollars there. Every coin, every deposit, was another incentive to keep going.
It was April 2016, almost 18 years later when I was 25 years old, when I looked at my savings account and saw that I had the necessary sum. The next day, I applied for my U.S. visa online. A year later, I was on a plane.
Take the first step.
So much advice, so much education, so many examples, so much persuasion. As soon as we are born, we are influenced. By our own experiences of course, but also by the fears and anxieties of those who accompany us through life.We learn from our parents. Not only by what they say out loud, but also unconsciously by what they show us through their actions. We listen to our teachers, instructors, and professors. Do this! Do that! This is important now! This is for your future!
While we learn many useful things from others, we also begin to feel fear and pressure based on experiences that others have had, and not simply on our own experiences.
Learn to listen to your heart! We all have an intuition, a gut feeling. You know—like when you walk down a dark street at night and suddenly you know that you shouldn't turn down the next street or alley. You need to write your own story and you have a right to your own experiences. You may fail, be wrong, put yourself in danger, or even lose everything—but you did it with all your heart, you will learn from it with all your heart, and you will grow from it with all your heart.
We have to go to relatives for Christmas. My boss expects overtime. I must decorate.
Like hell you do.
Of course, compromises are inevitable in life. The downside is that they creep into our daily lives over time like house dust that eventually covers everything and becomes sticky and greasy if you never clean it off.
Write a list of things you don't really want to do but keep doing anyway. In your family, at work, for others, for yourself. Be honest. Paper doesn't bite, paper doesn't judge you. Put a red “X” on at least one point. That will be the thing you say "no" to next time.
Not "Yes, but...."
Not "This is the last time that I...".
Not "Let's see...".
I'll go ahead and state out loud that each of us has at least one quirk. Wanting to jump in puddles, having to cut the crust off bread, freezing in cold overhead light, always hanging the green sweater in the closet on the right side. Don't hide these things—live them. Celebrate them. They are not embarrassing and do not need to be adjusted or suppressed. No, not even in public.
The public—after all, that's all of us—all have idiosyncrasies and weirdness. Be proud of them instead of hiding them. They make you unique. Inspire others with them and show the world that it is not only perfectly okay, but absolutely necessary to be exactly the way you are.
Be silly, be loud, be free. Live, laugh, and love so that someday you can look up at the sky and know: this was your life—and you truly lived it. Without speculations, without regrets.
Need some more inspiration? Here you go: