By Jay Forte
At the grocery store yesterday, while buying some great ingredients for a dinner with friends, I watched a dad walk down one of the food aisles with his daughter and son (probably about 7 and 9 years old). They picked up box after box and can after can and read the nutritional ingredients together. I overheard him say, “You have to know what you are eating and only eat the great things – this will help you be strong to live life like it matters.” Wonderful lesson for his kids. Wonderful lesson for me. Live life like it matters.
Most days we get out of bed unaware of the gift of getting out of bed and having access to an entirely new day. We have a blank day just waiting for us to fill it in with the things that matter to us – our families, our work, our hobbies, our passions, our beliefs. We can choose what goes in the day. We can make the moments of our days matter.
Many of us, however, take life for granted – that it will always be. That one day is like any other – nothing special. But talk to those whose lives are affected by loss, illness, age and fear and we quickly see how fragile, important, fleeting and precious life is.
Jon Kabat-Zinn, author many great books on mindfulness and consciousness, talks about being present to our lives. When we take the time to be present to and in our lives, we start to really connect with all that life is (and can be). But we don’t get this awareness if we don’t pay attention – if we don’t actually show up to the moments of our lives. These moments have everything for us; they have excitement, adventure, passion and opportunities to help us celebrate. They have pain, struggle, challenge and loss to help us learn. Both come to those who connect with life – paying attention and living life like it matters.
I routinely coach retiring Baby Boomers – people born between 1946 and 1964. More than 12,500 boomers are turning 50 every day; that’s about one every 7 seconds. By 2030, the 65-and-over population will be around 71.5 million; by 2050 that same group will grow to 86.7 million. Retirees are being confronted with relearning how to make life matter after so many years of work and routine; they are finding it is not easy, without some help, to reinvent ways to feel relevant, vibrant and valuable in retirement. Living life like it matters is about purpose – about having something important to do, contribute and be part of at every age.
We all go through this. As we move from high school to college to employee to married to parent to grandparent to retiree, we are the same people; we have the same talents and passions. What changes, however, is our world and our place in that world. At each stage in life we have to relearn how to show up to our lives and make them valuable and important. That is just how it works. But with the commitment to wake up each day focused on making life matter, we have the ability to find our way each day to be happy, engaged and living our potential.
I just did the calculation – I have been on the planet 20,333 days (almost 56 years). Have I lived each day like it mattered? Not at all. There were many days that I just took for granted – that when this one finished, many more will follow – uninterrupted. I had no respect or regard for the preciousness of each day. But seeing the number 20,333, I now see that life is finite and that the more successful way to live is to choose how to show up to each moment in life. I have a choice in how I value and spend my days. I have a choice to align what I do best to meaningful places in my world to feel connected to life. Writer and theologian Frederick Buechner, says it best, “Our vocation in life is where our greatest joy meets our world’s greatest need.” Connect what gives us the greatest joy to things in our world that need what we do best. This is how to live life like it matters.
Discover what living life like it matters means for you, then promise yourself as you put your feet on the floor each morning, that today will count. Today will be amazing. Today will matter.