"This is not a book to be used for passing the time; it’s a book to be used for squeezing every last day, hour, minute, and second out of your life until your life is done and you’ve given, loved, and celebrated all you could."
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How many days have you been alive? It’s a thought provoking question, isn’t it? Death, as they say, is inevitable. But with that thought lingering in the background, the author asks a much more important question: How do we want to live? We have become so accustomed in this life to thinking in terms of years lived, but what would happen if we focused instead on counting and maximizing the DAYS of our lives and lived each one of them with a plan of intense focus and action?
This is what Robert D. Smith is saying we must do in his first book, 20,000 Days and Counting: The Crash Course for Mastering Your Life Right Now. On the 20,000th day of his life, Robert decided he wanted to take time and not only reflect on how his previous 20,000 days had been lived but also plan out how his next 20,000 days should be lived. And he did this all in two days.
This is intentionally a short, quick read, as the author keeps a theme throughout the book of imploring us to get out and START LIVING!
The Big Idea
What is your plan?
"Are you spending life merely reacting to events as they happen, or are you moving forward each day with a clear objective?...Your life will take place whether or not you have a plan, so have a plan. Choose one. Say YES!"
How, exactly, are you supposed to live out the rest of your days unless you know exactly how they are supposed to be lived? Robert’s key to living a life of intentionality and purpose is centered on having a plan for living. In quoting Henry David Thoreau, “Take time by the forelock. Now or never! You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.”
This is a real challenge to all of us who are breathing. Life in general is moving so very quickly that to actually think we can have the audacity to plan, dream, and take action to fulfill the precious thoughts we have about how life should be lived is extremely counter-cultural. How many of you have been told to just “take things as they come”, “don’t rock the boat”, etc.? Have you ever stopped to think if this advice would help or hurt what you want to do in life?
Having a clear objective each day about WHY you want to live the life you do and HOW you will live that life will bring immense clarity to any situation you find yourself in.
Your Search and Your Purpose in Life (in about 20 minutes)
"Your search is your purpose. Remind yourself of it daily. Remember that it’s the little things that add up to the big picture."
This is truly what got me inspired about Robert’s book. If you have read any type of self-help book written in the recent history, you will find that many implore you to take a weekend, month, sabbatical, etc. and find a way to “find yourself” before penciling out a mission statement that may or may not really resonate with who you are. Have you ever tried to do this? I know I have, and have come away frustrated by the experience.
The author says to follow this three-part process, and he gives us the following advice. “We are short on time, so we have to hurry. So be open to this. You must expect it to work; then it will.”
1. Get a blank sheet of paper. Title It, “My Purpose in Life”.
2. Start writing. Right now. Write. Write all you can. Words, phrases, complete sentences, just write. Don’t stop. Write some more.
3. Repeat step two until you get the answer that makes you either cry or jump up and down with excitement. Condense it into one sentence. This is your purpose.
I personally did this one Sunday morning, and the clarity of thought that came from this brief exercise was amazing. In a little more than twenty minutes, I was able to write down the major drivers in my life and put on paper what my life lived with purpose looks like. I have since made two copies and put one on the inside of each journal I carry for personal notes so I can review it often.
The easy part of this is the actual writing. The more challenging part is dedicating the time to review it and read it each week to drive the point home that this is what your life should be about.
You Only Have Two Choices...
"Of all the decisions we have to make every day, how many real choices do you have? There are only two. That’s right, just TWO. You can easily decide yes or no. How simple is that? But not always easy."
The two choices we all have. Isn’t that an interesting perspective to use? How often do we have a tendency to overcomplicate and add stress to any situation? “Well, we could do x, but really that wouldn’t be as good as y; however at the same time there is always z and you know how much I can’t stand to do without z…” Enough is enough. Taking decisions and breaking them down into “yes or no” answers is a very small change that can add value to every decision-making process.
At the same time, Robert adds that you also must allow yourself to say “yes” to open yourself up to the possibilities of life. Think about things like this: how far do “no’s” get you? What if, over a period of 365 days, you said “no” to every person who asked you to lunch. Would you have added many new relationships or friendships to your life? On the other hand, what if you gave yourself permission to say YES!? Yes, to the possibilities and opportunities that come with it. YES to doing your best work, turning off the TV, and going out to live life. YES to saying YES!
Robert acknowledges this is not always an easy and automatic response to situations. “But when you open yourself up to yes, amazing opportunities, existing possibilities, and good results come your way. Marvelous memories are created.”
What challenge can you own and say yes to right now, he asks? Can you break down your decisions to yes or no actions, and be open to the possibilities that both answers bring?
Deciding how you want to live your life, planning it out, and then having the willpower to put that plan into action is not an easy, quick makeover. As with everything else, there is a process that you must go through, a shedding of past thoughts and paradigms and the making room for new ones to enter in.
In the end, we all will create a legacy based upon how well we do with what each day brings us. We all have a simple choice to make each day: Will today be a statement of my life purpose? Will I love those around me? Will I do what needs to be done?
You can only answer yes or no each day.
What will it be for you? What will your life statement be? How will your next 5,000, 10,000, or 20,000 days be lived?