One Day at a Time
I have been focusing on taking “one day at a time” ever since my father was diagnosed with renal failure four months ago and opted against dialysis.
In fact, it is a way of thinking that I try to put into practice every day.
Be in the moment. Enjoy and appreciate each day.
Stop worrying about the future and the what ifs. Make the best of every situation.
This is often difficult to reconcile with the needs of work, family and health. At work, projects must be planned to meet a future deadline. Family members often want to plan events so they can “get them on the schedule.” And taking care of our health often means making medical appointments in advance. So it can be impossible to stick solely with the “one day at a time” mode of thinking.
But, I propose that in most instances, it is possible to focus on the day, hour, and even the moment.
My first “tool” for doing this is to focus on one positive (or at least not negative or worrisome) aspect of my day. It might be work-related (yes, believe it or not, some work things can be enjoyable!), it can be a gathering with friends coming up in a few days, or often something as simple as what I will watch on television later that night.
Second, and most useful to me lately, is to have a mantra each morning that I try to follow throughout the day. Sometimes it is just one word and other times a phrase. Also, the nature of the mantra depends on the activities of the day. And, how I am feeling. For instance, on a day when I had an incredibly busy schedule at work and was worried about getting everything done, my mantra was “focus on one activity at a time.” On a recent day when I wasn’t feeling up to par, my mantra was “you can make it through the day.” A beautiful day a week or two ago had a one-word mantra: “appreciate.” This approach is useful because when I feel like I am getting stressed out or thinking too far ahead, the mantra brings me back to the moment and the circumstances become manageable and in many cases more enjoyable.
Despite the realistic need to look to the future and plan, I think that we live in a culture today that is fast paced, moving at lightning speed to the next activity and the beauty and comfort of the day or even the moment is not appreciated. The day flies by and gets lost as we email, tweet, multitask, and rush through each meal in order to take care of the next thing. So it is easy to make an excuse that it is not possible to realistically live one day at a time.
I disagree. I learned through my own health crises that each day is a victory. And for my father, another day is a win. So resist the urge to become a “super-planner” of the future. I don’t mean to downplay the value of being organized and a Type A personality. I fully admit that my tendency is to think forward and plan. But taking the time to breathe deeply over my coffee in the morning, focus on my mantra, and be mindful of what lies ahead for the day actually produces a level of calmness that helps me to be more effective and happier.
For those that want to plan out each day, week, month and year, I urge you to take a few minutes each day to breathe and take in what is around you.
Because much of life is out of our control, and you, as the super-planner, may wind up disappointed at the results of your master plan and, unfairly, be upset with others for ruining it.
So, sip your beverage of choice, swallow slowly, create your own mantra and take it all in. What we have today may no longer be with us tomorrow.