Man surprised me most about humanity. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.” – Dalai Lama
I think we all would agree with the Dalai Lama’s sentiment. But most of us (myself included) forget all too quickly and just go about our lives as we always have. It’s not until something happens, something momentous, that we pay enough attention to make changes.
Don’t take for granted what you already have
Wealth can lead to better health. Wealth can provide better healthcare, clean water, and food necessary for good health. But that’s not what I’m talking about here. In this case, I’m thinking about health and wealth from a first world perspective.
If you were to ask any sick person, rich or poor, what they want – health or wealth, I can almost guarantee you they will want health. Yet those who are already experiencing good health typically want more wealth.
Health > Wealth. If you would have said that to me 6 months ago, I would have agreed with you. And then I would have carried on with my life as before, paying more attention to building my wealth than the value of my health. Not that I ignore my health – I eat healthy and exercise regularly. But I took it for granted and forgot how life could change in an instant.
“Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you”
I recently had a good wake up call. What I thought was a knee problem wasn’t really a knee problem. Alan and I went to the doctor for the results of the MRI with the expectation I would have surgery to “fix” my knee, but we got surprising news.
The PA struggled to explain what the radiologist, doctor and he had seen on the MRI, probably because they’d never seen anything like it before. All we could really decipher from the conversation was that my leg was full of cysts and I needed to go to someone who could figure it out. A referral was made to Mayo Clinic.
It took a few hours for that news to actually sink in. There were so many unanswered questions and, I admit, my mind went to all sorts of dark and scary places.
“Life doesn’t happen to you, it happens for you” (Jim Carrey and Tony Robbins)
This simple statement woke me up. Over the coming days and weeks, I worked on my mindset. I realized many of the things that seemed important before were unimportant in the grand scheme of things. I figured the “cysts” probably weren’t life threatening. Still, I worked on my mindset – I focused on the positive and the things I could control. I was prepared to deal with anything.
After a few long weeks of waiting for my appointment, I found out I have hundreds of benign nerve tumors in my leg (key word: benign!). After a subsequent surgery, I was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder (Segmental Neurofibromatosis). It’s so rare, in fact, that it’s like winning the lottery.
And it truly feels like I have won the lottery. For the rest of my life, I will have a constant reminder to be grateful. Grateful those tumors are benign. Grateful for access to good health care. Grateful for the amazing people in my life. Grateful for my new approach to life. Grateful to remember the importance of today.
What if there was no tomorrow?
What would you do if you found out that you were dying? Would you spend time with your loved ones? Real, quality time? Would you tell them how important they are? Would you take time to (literally) smell the roses, notice the clouds in the sky, appreciate the sunset?
As much as we don’t like to think about it, we are all dying. Sorry, but it’s guaranteed.
I don’t mean to be morbid here. And I know it’s not a popular topic. But if we considered this fact each and every day, we would live our lives differently.
We would take a step back and notice what’s really important.
We would learn that there are the things we can control and the things we cannot. No sense wasting time on the things we can’t control. But we could change our lives (and the lives of others) with the things we can control.
Yet, how do we keep this in our consciousness when it’s not happening to us right now? How do we remember the importance of health, the value of living right now, right here, today?
I don’t have a solid answer to this question. And I think it is different for each person. But I do think reminding ourselves each and every day is helpful. How you do this is up to you, but here are some suggestions:
- Give this popular song a listen (and check out the story behind it)
- Hang this on your fridge
- Set reminders and quotes on your phone
Either set up your own quotes and reminders, or use an app, such as Thankful For
- Mindfulness and meditation
We are inundated with thoughts from the moment we wake up until the moment we fall asleep. 50,000 – 70,000 thoughts go through our head each day – our minds are like teleprompters on speed. Add in the regular distractions of today’s technology and our minds are in a whirlwind of constant activity. Mindfulness and meditation can help:
“Mindfulness is about training yourself to pay attention in a specific way. When a person is mindful, they are:
- Focused on the present moment
- Not worrying about anything that went on in the past or that might be coming up in future
- Purposefully concentrating on what’s happening around them and to them
- Not being judgemental about anything they notice” – Reachout.com
Meditation is a practice that helps bring about more mindfulness. It’s been shown to have far reaching benefits, both mentally and physically. Don’t know where to start? I suggest starting with the Headspace app if you’ve never done meditation before (this is where I started).
Whatever you choose to do, always remember that today is a gift. Make it a good day.
Have you ever had a momentous experience that changed your life? Do you live like you were dying? If so, how? What do you think would help remind you of the importance of today?
P.S. I have plans to go skydiving this summer, but no bull riding 🙂