by Seth Schwartz Ph.D.: What’s the most important day of your life? The answer to that question is simple.
- Today is the most important day of your life.
- The importance of today may involve something you do for someone else.
- Even “bad days” should be lived to their fullest. You can set up tomorrow based on what you do today.
- The most memorable events of our lives are set up by things that happened on other days we cannot remember. So every day is important.
The past cannot be changed, and the future has not happened yet. You can’t do anything about things that have already occurred, and trying to live in the future will take your focus away from the present. So the optimal strategy for anyone is to make the most out of the moment that is right in front of us.
But what if today is just another ho-hum, ordinary day? What if we are just sitting in meetings, or driving across the country? What if we just had a terrible fight with someone close to us, or lost our job, or lost a family member? Is today still the most important day?
The answer is still yes! Doing our best today may make things easier for us later on, or at least help us to cope with whatever situation we are in. Ignoring today and hoping it will go away certainly won’t work. We will still be dealing with the same challenges tomorrow, and the day after that. Wishing today away will just ensure that things won’t get any better.
Years from now, you might not even remember today or what happened. Today may just melt into this month, this week, or this year. But today may still help to set up the days that you will remember. Your wedding day, or the birth of your first child, or a huge career milestone are all set up by events happening on other days that we can’t remember. Had key events on those other days not happened, our key memories might not have happened either.
Making the Most of Today
I have an expression – every day that I wake up and see the light coming through the window is a blessing. Each morning I ask myself what I can do to make today memorable. The answer usually involves doing something kind for someone else. Can I help someone else finish their work? Can I help someone else to feel better when they have been down? Can I provide support for friend, family member, or coworker who could use a hand? Can I simply provide an ear for someone who needs to talk?
In Judaism the word “mitzvah” refers to doing something kind for someone every day. In Hebrew school every Saturday we were asked what we had done to help other people the previous week. Did we help an older person cross the street, or console someone who was sad, or buy food for someone who couldn’t afford to buy their own? Did we encourage someone who had a promising idea, or read what someone had written, or give someone an authentic compliment? Did we hold the door for someone whose hands were full or give up a parking space to someone who was in a hurry? All of these things, and many more, represent mitzvahs because they involve doing something to help someone else.
So even if today is not that meaningful for YOU, something you do for someone else may be very meaningful for THEM. Let me give you an example.
A couple of years ago, a colleague of mine asked me whether I wanted to coauthor a paper with one of her Ph.D. students. I didn’t know the student – I had never met him or heard his name – but I offered to read the paper and give him feedback. I finally had the chance to meet this young man this past summer, and he spent half an hour telling me how much my feedback had helped him, and how much of a mentor I was to him. All because I read and commented on a draft of a paper that he eventually published, with me as a coauthor. This person was not a native English speaker, and the time I took to edit his writing had made him a much more confident writer in English. I had no idea that I had impacted him so much – again, I had never met him prior to this summer.
The moral of this story is that you never know how much a good deed for someone else will impact that person. So the greatest meaning that today brings may not be for you – it may be for someone else. If you ignore today or wish it away, someone else may not reap the benefits that you could have provided for them.
So go make the most of today – you can deal with tomorrow, next week, or next year when it gets here.