“It’s important to live in the is and not in the was.”
— Colis Cowherd
Dr. Alan Zimmerman’s Personal Commentary:
If you were to list the most important things in your life, you would probably list such things as your family and friends, your faith, health, and career. They would all be good answers, but none of them would amount to much if you didn’t spend TIME on them.
That’s why your use of TIME is one of the biggest determining factors in the amount of success and happiness you’re going to experience. If you use your time WISELY, you will be happier and more successful. But if you waste your time, you will waste your life.
As author Jim Rohn so aptly wrote, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”
So what constitutes a WISE use of time? It includes some of the following strategies that I teach in my program on “The Payoff Principle: How To Motivate Yourself To Win Every Time In Any Situation.”
1. Spend more time in the present than you do in the past or the future.
After all, there’s not much you can do about the past or the future … right now. As psychologist Abraham Maslow taught us, “I can feel guilty about the past, apprehensive about the future, but only in the present can I act.”
In other words, your power resides in the NOW … in the present. You can do something NOW to learn from your past or get to feel better about your past. You can do something NOW that will impact your future for the better. So spend more time in the present than you do reminiscing or regretting your past or fretting about your future.
Sparky Anderson said it quite well, saying, “People who live in the past generally are afraid to compete in the present. I’ve got my faults, but living in the past is not one of them. There’s no future in it.”
When you spend more time in the present, you need to…
2. Focus on the most important things in your present.
It’s a lesson that one boy … who grew into a man … never learned. As Glenn Van Ekeren tells the story, a young boy was walking home from school when he saw a shiny new penny on the ground. He raced over to it, grabbed it, and put it in his pocket. During the rest of his walk he beamed with pride.
He thought he was the luckiest boy in the world. He was a penny richer just because he was observant of his surroundings. And he was giddy with excitement, dreaming of all the treasure he might find in the future.
From then on, every time the boy was out for a walk he kept his head down. His attention was always focused on the ground with the hope of finding money. And he grew into adulthood preoccupied with finding money.
Throughout his lifetime, he discovered a dollar bill, 2 half dollars, 9 quarters, 40 dimes, 19 nickels, and 352 pennies.
But during that same amount of time he missed 35,127 sunsets, 10 shooting stars, a glimpse of a legendary world leader, a flower that blooms once every 7 years, 20 kites dancing through the air, and countless people spreading good cheer with friendly smiles.
Any one of those missed encounters would have been worth so much more than his total findings of $12.72. Wouldn’t you agree?
So even though he was focused on the present, he was focused on the wrong things in the present. Could the same thing be said about you? Hopefully not.
As I mentioned above, take a moment to list the most important things in your life, and then take another moment to consider whether or not you’re focusing enough of your present time on those things. As writer William Feather warned, “Plenty of people miss their share of happiness, not because they never found it, but because they didn’t stop to enjoy it.”
Once you’re focused on the most important things in the present, make sure you…
3. Find meaning in your present.
Truly happy people have learned to do this. In fact, it’s often the key difference between the positive, upbeat individual and the person who is negative and depressed.
That’s what Jimmy learned. His story was outlined in Bill Roiter’s book, “Beyond Work.”
As a young man, Jimmy looked for a job he liked. To pass the time and pay his bills, he took up driving a cab — and found that he liked it. He especially liked setting his own hours and meeting the large variety of passengers whose lives intersected with his. It was the start of his 40-year career as a cab driver.
With his wife’s help, he saved enough money to buy his own cab license and he went on to buy nine more cabs. He found himself not only doing the driving and socializing he loved but also running a successful business.
When his wife died some years later, the joy went out of running the business. Jimmy sold all but one of his cabs. He had enough money to retire, but he found that his new sitting-around lifestyle left him alone and unfulfilled. He needed the activity, the social connections, and the meaning of his former life.
So Jimmy decided to keep a modified version of his former life. He would get up early in the morning, as he always had, drive until lunchtime, and then relax in the afternoon. He once again found meaning in the present. As Robert M. Young put it, “People are always asking about the good old days. I say, why don’t you say the good ‘now’ days? Isn’t ‘now’ the only time you’re living?”
In addition to finding the meaning in your present, don’t forget to…
4. Find humor in your present.
You know the old saying, “He that laughs … lasts.” It’s true. Modern medicine supports this with a thousand research studies. When you find more humor in your present, you tend to not only live longer but you also experience your present as a “present.”
So I scour the papers every day looking for something that will give me a chuckle or even a good belly laugh. For example, I enjoyed the collection of crazy classified ads that one person had put together. They included such things as:
FREE YORKSHIRE TERRIER.
8 years old. Hateful little dog. Bites.
1/2 Cocker Spaniel, 1/2 sneaky neighbor’s dog.
Mother, AKC German Shepherd.
Father, Super Dog … able to leap tall fences in a single bound.
FOUND DIRTY WHITE DOG.
Looks like a rat … been out a while.
Better be a reward.
$300 hardly used. Call Chubby.
California grown – 89 cents lb.
JOINING NUDIST COLONY!
Must sell washer and dryer $300.
WEDDING DRESS FOR SALE.
WORN ONCE BY MISTAKE.
FOR SALE BY OWNER:
Complete set of Encyclopedia Britannica, 45 volumes.
Excellent condition. $1,000 or best offer.
No longer needed, got married last month.
Wife knows everything.
Laughter is good for your heart and soul. It spices up your present. So will this 5th strategy.
5. Squeeze all the joy out of your present.
Don’t rush it. Savor the good times … right now … in the present … instead of rushing to the next thing and the next thing.
Try Mark Collis’ technique. As one of my “Tuesday Tip” subscribers, he wrote, “How many people spend the entire month of December decorating, cleaning, purchasing and preparing for Christmas only to spend it all in a 30-minute orgy of gift opening? In our family we have made a point of savoring the moment. Even when my children were small, we would open a present or two, then have a leisurely breakfast, then open one present at a time until everyone was done, stopping for a snack or coffee, trying on a sweater or playing a CD before moving on to the next one. We’ve been known to take three hours to get to that last present.”
Of course that ritual might drive some people crazy, and maybe it should. They need to learn about living fully in the moment, instead of rushing it. They need to learn about squeezing as much joy as possible out of the present. As Mark went on to say, “For me, so much of the fun and joy of an experience is in the waiting and anticipation, not merely the event itself.”
Finally, to ensure a great present…
6. Help others have a better present.
That’s what Ruthann Ritchie does. She’s a harpist in Minneapolis. She packs pack up her harp, ANYTIME she is called, day or night, to sit by the bed of someone who is dying, to play her harp for them. As she puts it, she helps the dying walk into heaven.
It’s also what Derek learned to do, and it changed his life.
After completing his graduate studies, Derek became a successful investment broker in London, earning a lot of money. Yet he suffered from recurrent bouts of deep depression. After seeking professional help, Derek left his high-flying investment brokerage job and started working with a housing association — at a small fraction of his previous salary. His bouts with depression disappeared immediately.
Derek learned that he didn’t value the kind of success he had achieved. He realized … for him at least … success was all about helping other people. And when he focused his energies on that kind of work, not only did he make the present better for other people, he made the present better for himself.
The same point applies to all of us. So ask yourself, “What are you doing … in the present … to help others have a better present?”
What are 3 things you’re going to do TODAY to squeeeeeeeze more joy out of your present?
Make every day your payoff day!
Dr. Alan Zimmerman
©2011 Reprinted with permission from Dr. Alan Zimmerman, a full-time professional speaker who specializes in attitude, motivation, and leadership programs that pay off. For more information on his programs … or to receive your own free subscription to the ‘Tuesday Tip’ … go to http://www.drzimmerman.com/ or call 800-621-7881.