Here I am sitting at my table typing this post and I am looking out my window and I can see clearly the big snow-capped mountains in front of me. It looks peaceful and it is such a beautiful tranquil setting. But, then I can also see the cities and towns that sit at the base of these mountains and it’s not so peaceful, it is busy and often chaotic. We seem to live in a society that runs at maximum speed, people are always in a hurry and are always busy. We seem to always follow this trend of acting quickly and running through life full-speed ahead. We live in a society where everything seems important and urgent. It can make you feel like you need to keep up, otherwise, the world will leave you behind. In our world today, especially as Americans we want instant gratification. If you want something, you want it now! You don’t want to wait or be told that it will take time. With social media and google search, we can get access to anything instantly! We don’t have to wait anymore. But, life isn’t like this. Sure your life can change in an instant based on your choices, but good things and lasting things take time and effort.
We get too caught up being busy or going through life quickly and not really noticing what’s in front of us or what’s important. We need to slow down. We need to realize that not every task or every goal and desire is urgent and that we shouldn’t get too caught up in the future, but live in the now and take life day by day.
The key phrase is SLOW DOWN, even if it’s just a little bit. We have more time than we think we do. Sure, we may have a lot on our plate and sometimes more than we can handle, but there is enough time to complete our tasks and accomplish our dreams.
When I say slow down, I’m not talking about meditation or relaxation, both of those are wonderful things for anyone’s life, however, I am talking about how we think and act is why we need to slow down. The fact that the meditation industry is reported to be a billion-dollar industry, goes to show that people are wanting to discover how to slow down and relax. I have discovered from my own life that slowing down is more about focusing on what matters most, who you are, and what your purpose is.
A couple of years ago I learned the importance of slowing down. I was 22-years old, a newlywed and I was about to become a father in nine-months when I started my college education. I felt behind and that life was passing me by. There were people my age who already had their degrees, some were in law school and medical school, but here I was just starting with classmates who were in junior high when I graduated high school. It wasn’t like I didn’t do anything for those four years, I had a good job and then I went to serve a two-year LDS Church mission. But, I put so much pressure on myself to rush through school that it ended up negatively affecting my life. My mom always told me as a kid, “don’t bite off more than you can chew”. I felt like I was doing the opposite and I was doing more than I was able to. I was focusing too much of my time catching up to others and comparing my life to others and what their life was doing. I even had some people tell me that I needed to hurry up and finish school and get a good job because people my age were already in those jobs. For too long, I focused on what the world wanted me to do, which was hurry-up, play catch up and do more than I can.
During the course of my studies and running a business from home for a couple of years, I was an at-home dad with my kids. I spent so much time rushing through life and trying to stay busy that there were some days, where I had to ask myself, “did I even play with my kids today?” I fed them and changed their diapers, but did I actually spend quality time with them? Even my relationship with my wife, I had to ask “did I show her love today? Did I give her affection and my attention?” I also had to question myself and if I was doing things to help me become better. Some days, the answer was no. I was too busy focusing on my tasks. I needed to slow down. The days that I felt the most stress or was easily frustrated those were the days that I didn’t take time to make myself better, I didn’t spend quality time with my kids or with my wife. I focused too much on being busy, I focused on trying to catch up, and I was focusing on things that just didn’t matter most.
“No other success can compensate for failure in the home.” – David O. McKay
I had to check myself. I had to realize that being busy wasn’t good. I needed focus on what mattered most. That was my family, my kids and my wife. They are my top priority. I also needed to take care of myself, do those things that make me happy, going for walks, going for a drive and taking time to relax and read a book or watch some TV. I also needed to realize that I wasn’t behind and that the world wasn’t passing me by. I learned how to balance and I trusted that school would get done and that doors of opportunities would open for me. In December of 2017, I graduated from Arizona State University, I was thrilled that I finally did it! But, now I am in graduate school to receive my Master’s degree. It’s a 12-month program and I am confident and patient that life is going to be great and rushing it isn’t going to help.
So my lesson that I learned is slow down. Good things are going to come your way, but being in a hurry isn’t going to make them come any faster. Slow down. Don’t worry. Trust the process. Life can be beautiful if we allow it. But there is some danger in feeling like we need to rush through life because we can miss out on some sweet and special experiences.
Tim Ferris author of the 4 Hour Work Week wrote:
“Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is a form of mental laziness –lazy thinking and indiscriminate thinking”.
Slowing down can make a difference in your life. Quit thinking that being busy is good. Our time in life is precious and very valuable, what we do with our time is important. Enjoy the time that you do have, don’t get so caught up in making a living or being consumed with your work. I believe that life is better and work is more effective and fulfilling when we take time to slow down.
Or in the words of one of my favorite people, John Wooden:
“Don’t let making a living prevent you from making a life”.
I don’t write this article telling you, that you need to do these 10 things if you want to have a happy and successful day and if you don’t do all 10, you suck and you’ll never have a happy or successful day. Those kind of lists are lame. These are simply 10 things that have made my day more productive. Even if you just choose one of these ten things to implement into your day, I know that it can help you have more of a meaningful, happy, and successful day.
1. DAILY MEDITATION
No matter the approach to how you meditate, meditation can have many benefits. If prayer and pondering is your source of meditation, then get on your knees and pray. If breathing exercises or techniques is your source, then do it. It doesn’t matter how you meditate, if it’s praying, or sitting on a yoga mat in the wilderness, just find time to meditate. Meditation can help provide focus and clarity on what you need to accomplish that day. Or if you’re searching for answers, meditation can be used as a great assistance in discovering answers for your life.
There are many benefits that can come from meditation. Such as less stress, better sleep, healthier and happier relationships, it sharpens your concentration and helps manage anxiety. According to headspace.com, “Anxiety currently affects about one in fourteen people worldwide. That’s 7.3% of the total world population. A systematic review of in-person meditation training found that 69% of the studies analyzed showed meditation practice alleviated symptoms of anxiety.”. So whether you want to be happier, have a better relationship, sleep better, have less stress, or just have more concentration, than meditation can help you. If you’ve never meditated or don’t know how and would like to learn how I would recommend headspace. Click HERE to download the app and learn more.
2. MAKE YOUR BED FIRST THING IN THE MORNING
You know that scene in “The WaterBoy,” when Bobby (Adam Sandler) tells his Professor, “No Colonel Sanders, you’re wrong. Mama’s right.” Well, Mama was right when she told me every morning, “Ben, make your bed”. Because there are some serious benefits to bed making.
I recently read a research article about how people who make their bed in the morning are more happier and successful than those who don’t make their beds. The study included, 71% of bed makers consider themselves to be happy, and 62% of non-bed-makers consider themselves said they were unhappy. It went on to say that, bed makers are more likely to own a home, have good exercise habits, and like their jobs, and feel well rested. While non-bed-makers are the exact opposite, they hate their jobs, wake up tired, avoid the working out and they rent apartments. So yes, when your Mama told you to make your bed, she was saying, if you want to be happy today, then fix those sheets!
I read a quote, not too long ago that goes, “Ordinary people seek entertainment. Extraordinary people seek education and learning. The most successful people read books and they read them a lot.” Find time every day to read a book. If you’re an avid reader, I’m sure you read more than 25 minutes every day. So, keep doing that! When I was younger, I did not like reading. I hardly ever picked up a book, unless it was for school. But, the last five years I have developed the habit of reading and it has enriched my life. I still don’t like to read novels, but you will see me read educative and self-improvement books.
Carry a book with you. Whether on your phone or tablet or if your “old school” have that hard copy with you. That way, if you’re waiting at the doctor’s, or waiting in line at the DMV, instead of wasting time on your phone with social media, pull out your book an read.
I don’t care how busy your life may seem, I believe everyone has at least 25 minutes to read. Audiobooks count, too! If you have a long commute, listen to a book. Also, if you need a book suggestion, I recommend this one. (Yes, I’m a little bias, since I wrote it with my wife. We have audio, too!)
4. DAILY PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
I’m not saying you need to get a gym pass, but it could help. You can workout at home, or go for a jog or a speedwalk. At my house, my wife and I have the TRX, Beach Body DVDs like T25 and Insanity. My wife just loves Shaun T. No matter your method or technique, exercise for at least 20-30 minutes.
There are many benefits that come from exercising/working out.
Exercising can control your weight, helps prevent weight gain.
Exercising combats health diseases and conditions. Or like the Mayo Clinic mentions, “Regular exercise helps prevent or manage a wide range of health problems and concerns, including stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, depression, a number of types of cancer, arthritis and falls.” (Para. 7).
Exercising gives you an emotional lift. It helps you feel good. Exercising helps stimulates brain chemicals that help you feel happier.
Exercising can help you have better sleep.
Exercising can improve your intimate relationships.
There are many benefits to exercising, so the bottom-line is, just do it! If you struggle with exercising, you just have to get into the habit of doing it. Find an accountability partner that will help keep tabs on you and make sure you are exercising. I also, worked-out from home, but most days it was easy to just not do it. It was just me being lazy. So, to help me break out of my lazy habit and create an exercise habit, I bought a gym pass and paid six months in advance. That was me showing commitment, otherwise, I’d be wasting my money. Going to the gym these past five months 4-5 times a week, I have seen improvements in my body, health like with my asthma, and simply I just feel better about myself.
5. WRITE IN A JOURNAL
Now, this is something that I can really improve. Whenever I bought a journal to write in, I would do it for a week, then stop. I suck at journal writing. So, I found what works for me was, writing apps. Instead of a pen to paper, I type up my thoughts and impressions. There are some seriously great benefits that can come from journal writing:
It can and will increase your gratitude in yourself, with your others and your situation.
Helps clarify your thoughts and feelings. Journaling allows you to write what you are feeling and what thoughts you have, it helps you get more in touch with yourself.
Clears your emotions and reduces stress.
Journaling can help you get to know yourself better.
It can improve your writing skills.
Write in journal or type in a journal every day for at least 5-10 minutes. There is always this misconception with journaling, that it really is a big time commitment. You don’t need to make your journal all fancy, just write your thoughts, impressions, and feelings that you had throughout the day. Allow yourself 5-10 minutes to have for self-reflection, it could be a great way to end your day.
6. WRITE AND LEAVE A THOUGHTFUL/ENCOURAGING NOTE FOR SOMEONE ONCE A DAY
Leaving a note can and will go a long way. If you know someone who is struggling, having a hard time, or even someone that you live with or interact with every day, giving them a note that says, “I’m thinking of you”, “you da’ man”, “I love you”, “keep fighting”, etc. Those notes will not only make them feel encouraged and loved, but it will also increase your love and character. These notes will add some suspense and excitement to your day and it can help strengthen your relationships. It’s exciting to leave these notes and watching from a distance when they find these notes, it makes you feel good knowing you made someone smile.
When I served a two-year church mission in Philadelphia, I had a partner once who has Crohn’s disease and was sick all-the-time and struggled with his confidence. He was struggling and I would hide sticky-notes every day that he would find. These notes were all one-liners but centered around encouraging him. When I was transferred to a different area and we weren’t partners any longer, he showed me all 50+ sticky notes that I wrote for him. Made me feel good, knowing I made a positive impact in his life.
The goal is to be creative. Here are some fun places to place your notes:
On a windshield
In their shoe
Inside their laptop
In a drawer
The rearview camera on your vehicle, so when they put the car in reverse they see a note
The toilet seat
John Wooden said, “You cannot live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”
7. SAY “THANK YOU” MORE
“Thank you is quite possibly the two most important words in the English language” -Unknown.
Showing gratitude for something or towards someone can go a long way. It can literally change your day. One of the greatest attributes one can have in this life is gratitude. So, commit yourself to saying “thank you” more.
The benefits of saying thank you are immense and we have so many opportunities every day to thank people. So, think for a second. How many people have you never said thank you to? Who could you throw a thank you at again, but this time doing it with more meaning? Go thank those people, even if you have to go out of your way.
Don’t treat thank you’s like a transaction. Don’t cheapen it with reciprocity. Saying thank you can be deeply personal and touching, don’t ruin the opportunity by expecting something in return for your gratitude.
8. DRINK 60-100 OUNCES OF WATER DAILY
I know this one seems random to be on this list. But, hear me out. I’ve always been really bad at drinking water and I read earlier this year how much water can help. So, for the last six months, I have drunk about 80+ ounces of water each day. I downloaded a water drinking app, called “Drink Water” and it reminds me throughout the day to drink water. I just simply type in my weight and height and it tells me how much to drink each day. It’s easy and it’s helped me. I’ve been able to control my appetite, I have more energy, I feel more productive and I think water has even helped my skin.
Finding how much water you should drink daily can be tricky. The Institute of Medicine suggests that men drink 104 ounces of water daily and women drink 72 ounces of water daily. But, it is still not that simple. Depending on your exercise, weight, and age it can determine how much water you may need. To see a chart suggesting how much water you should drink daily, click HERE.
Drinking healthy amounts of water can give you many benefits. Such as healthier skin, smaller waistlines, a better functioning brain, helps control your body temperature, helps eliminate waste in your body, helps your joints, and even protects your spine and other body tissues.
Drinking enough water helps you live better. It should be a no-brainer, substitute the soda every-now-and-then and drink some water. Just remember our body weight is 60% water and every system in our body needs water to effectively function.
9. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
Gratitude was always considered a religious term and tradition, but now science backs up the claim and supports that gratitude does make you happier. Gratitude can decrease depression and improve optimism. Robert Emmons a gratitude researcher, confirms from his studies that, “gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.”
Counting your blessings helps you focus on what’s most important and places less importance of materialistic things.
Before going to bed, take time to reflect on your day and identify 3-5 things you are grateful for. Robert Emmons conducted a research on a group of young adults who performed daily gratitude exercises, such as counting their blessings, they showed higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness, and energy compared to those participants who focussed on hassles or negative comparisons.
“The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.” -William Penn
10. STOP WORRYING ABOUT THINGS THAT YOU HAVE NO CONTROL OF
There will come a time in your life where you will have to face a harsh truth, the truth is you don’t have control over many things that occur in your life. Embrace this truth and don’t resist it. There are things in life that you won’t be able to prevent, you just have to be willing to let it go and not worry about it. Worrying doesn’t do any good. It wastes your time and energy.
If you struggle with worrying (like myself at times) you have to determine what you can control. When those worrying situations arise, stop, relax and assess the situation. Discover what you have control of and let go of what you don’t. I like the saying, “You can’t prevent storms from occurring, but you can be prepared for how you will handle those storms.” You can’t control other people’s behaviors, but you can control your behavior and how you react.
Be willing to accept that sometimes, all you can control is your attitude and effort. When you focus on things you can control, you’ll find yourself being much more productive.
“If you get too engrossed and involved and concerned in regard to things over which you have no control, it will adversely affect things over which you have control.” -John Wooden