Heart disease. That is scary. Once the ol’ ticker goes, so does the soul that inhabits the body. Heart disease is so scary that millions will go on a lifetime prescription journey in the hopes of avoiding it.
The heart is a muscle. Like any other muscle, it can be trained. If you exercise it and give it the right nutrients, you can strengthen it and significantly reduce your chances of disease in the future. Between medication and diet/exercise, what would you choose?
Having a strong, healthy heart should be a priority. As stated earlier: once it is gone, so are you. As a result, we go to great extremes to protect it. But the worst heart problem cannot be fixed with exercise. Medication cannot cure it. Doctors may be able to repair it once it is damaged, but they are powerless when it comes to repairing this most serious of heart problems.
Some would say your heart and soul are one in the same. I agree. But where the heart muscle will one day cease to exist, your heart soul will continue into your next existence. But without love and charity in your heart now, you might find yourself in a shack on the outskirts of heaven instead of that mansion you were hoping for.
The question in the title is the question I have been considering lately. How do you live a perfect day? What does that even look like? Is it possible? Honestly, I do not know. However, I do know it is worth trying find out.
What would make a day perfect? To define this, we must go back to the philosophy of stoicism. The stoics believe we are responsible for everything within our control. Therefore, a perfect day can still involve rain, snow, personal loss, and other “less than ideal” situations. A perfect day is not a cosmic alignment of the stars. Instead, it is what you did to make the day perfect. Were you able to control the things that were in your control?
If we go back to the question of what a perfect day involves within the parameters of what is in our control, what are some of the things you can do to make it perfect?
Wake up refreshed and energized.
This begins with executing a routine the night before. If the unexpected happens the night before, which could very well happen, then it is out of your control. Either way, we must play the hand we are dealt to the best of our abilities. Just remember, the better you prepare the night before, the better your odds of success on the following morning.
Eat and drink right.
A perfect day doesn’t involve putting something in my mouth that I will regret a few hours later or will destroy my chances of a perfect day on the morrow. Remember, we are what we eat (and drink).
Get the things you need/want done.
Plan it out, create the list, and check off the boxes. But what if your idea of a perfect day is to take one off and do nothing? Then make the arrangements beforehand so that you have no misgivings while you are enjoying your day. And if your day is about super-productivity, then go into attack-mode and get after it. Of course, outside influences might slow or halt your progress. Don’t worry, they are outside your control. Deal with them and move on. What is not outside of your control is the wasted time. If you can identify and eliminate it, then you will be able to crush your “to-do” list.
These three things could put you well on your way to achieving that ever-elusive perfect day. But those three do not seem to be enough. Something seems to be missing:
Oh, the icing on the perfect day cake. It is an act of unconditional love for someone other than yourself. This is giving the cup of water to the one who thirsts. It is the essence of godliness. If you want to make a good day divine, then be on the lookout for these opportunities that have the power to change the lives of those you encounter. It is the final and most important ingredient to make your day perfect.
Consider the souls that have touched your life. Consider the acts of kindness, love, and friendship that you will never be able to forget. These are rare gifts that we should hold dear. Those moments are the catalysts for the stories worth remembering and worth telling. And once they are passed down, they inspire others to acts in similar ways.
Or maybe, it will inspire the recipient of that love and friendship to be more loving and to be a better friend to others. Maybe one generous act of kindness crossing your path of destiny will change your course so dramatically that others will also be affected. The result would be an exponential return of love. The result would be a truly better world.
No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without forever leaving some mark on it forever.
It might have been a mess when we got here. It certainly was far from perfect. What will it look like when we leave?
How will the impact of your presence affect:
The lives of those around us
Where we work
We can’t expect to walk into a good place, but we can make it better than when we found it. We can’t expect others to do it, but we are not accountable for their actions. We are only accountable for our own.
I wake up. I struggle to get out of bed. Instead of checking in on how I feel, I look to the sleep section on my Fitbit app. Ugh. Another mediocre night of sleep. I think about the long day ahead and force myself to get dressed and go workout.
I am at work and check my email. I check my schedule to make sure I am where I am supposed to be at the appropriate time. I reach for the coffee to help me get through the meetings with those that do not want to meet, to get through the tasks that need to get done, and to get through the reports that need to be completed.
Back at home. Chores, dinner, a wound-up kid with tons of energy that need to be burned, and a spouse whose day wasn’t much different than mine.
Bedtime. Will I be able to get to sleep? Tomorrow is a new day with a new set of struggles like the ones of today.
The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.
Neale Donald Walsch
What if the day looked different? Of course, it would be the same day with the same set of obstacles. But what if I had a different perspective? Instead of drudgery and have-to, what if it was opportunity and want-to? What if…
The alarm goes off, and I take a moment to check in with myself. I made it through the night to see another day. Not everybody gets that chance, but I do. I get dressed and exercise grateful that I have a mind and body that can still do it.
At work. I have a job that pays the bills and allows me and my family to live a relatively comfortable lifestyle. I have a chance to help others and make new connections. Somebody finds value in what I do. I find value in what I do.
Home. I have a wife and child who love me. There is food on the table and shelter over our heads. Our basic needs are met.
Bedtime. The bed is comfortable. Sleep comes with the knowledge of peace and security. Sleep comes because I did not squander the day in idleness, but instead made the most of the opportunities given to me. And if I am given another tomorrow, then I am given another opportunity. I am given a gift to be grateful for.
Let’s start with friends and five things to keep in mind…
1. Forgive imperfections. Your friends are not perfect. Does it matter? No, not if their good qualities exceed their bad. It is those good qualities that we really admire, and one of the reasons for the friendship. In this way, good friends make good role models and help us along in our own personal development.
Of course, nobody is perfect, including our friends. But that is okay. You would grow weary of a perfect friend eventually creating a rift in the friendship. Like you, they are imperfect human beings trying to survive in this world to the best of their abilities. For this, we should cut them a break.
If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.
2.Encouragement. Good friends want to see their friends succeed. The better off your friend is doing, the more pleasant it will be to spend time in their presence. And when they are not doing good, the relationship becomes strained. So, when we see them struggle, we try to help them. The right encouragement helps them to shift their viewpoint. It gives them a positive affirmation that they can overcome their difficulties.
My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.
3.Be kind. A smile goes a long way. Kindness goes even farther. We all have the monsters in our lives that need slaying. And when your friend is in a battle with the monster of the day, derision never helps.
Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
4.Speak the truth. If you lie to your friends, they won’t be your friends for very long. They don’t need that in their lives and will eventually find a way to separate themselves from you. A basic principle we must all adhere to is to speak the truth because our character is what attracts people to us.
Life is short, and truth works far and lives long: let us then speak the truth.
5. Don’t neglect them. I have lost touch with one of the greatest friends I ever had.* Even with all the technology available to us, I can’t find him. I no longer know his phone number or his address. He has zero social media presence. I miss him. I want to know he is okay.
We do not know what tomorrow will bring. This might be the last day you see that friend you love so much. With that in mind, we cannot let the time slip by neglecting our duties as friends. That day might not ever come around when you get around to making that call. Check in, make sure they are doing okay, and let them know you are there for them.
Let us greedily enjoy our friends, because we do not know how long this privilege will be ours.
Now that we covered friends, let’s move on to you…
1. Forgive your imperfections. Your friends are not perfect, and neither are you. After all, you are human. To not be perfect is okay. It doesn’t mean you can neglect your own self-development, but you don’t have to keep psychologically abusing yourself.
2. Encouragement. You are more enjoyable to be around when you are doing better in life. Only if we all could be doing better in life! Sometimes we struggle, and sometimes there is no one we feel we can go to for encouragement. You are going to have encourage yourself. You must tell yourself to get up and to forge ahead. With or without a cheering section, this is your path and no one else can walk it for you.
3. Be kind. Your battle is hard. The fates have dealt you a bad deck of cards. What should you do? Smile. Even at the worst, you are still alive. You still have much to be grateful for. Self-derision is not the answer. Give yourself the dignity you deserve.
4. Speak the truth. Look into the window of your soul and see it for what it is. Don’t lie to yourself. Putting on the blinders of self-delusion will lead to a pitfall. You can’t improve if you don’t know your issues. If you refuse to believe you are in a battle with the monster, you cannot win.
5. Neglect. You can’t do it to your friends, and you can’t do it to yourself. Take a moment and check in with yourself. Put down all the distractions and see how you are really doing. If you ignore yourself, you might end up losing yourself.
Become a friend to yourself. Learn to love yourself. Some would say this is the only way you can learn to love others.
* Bernie: I don’t know where you are, but I hope you are doing well. Our circle, our most inner circle from way back when, are concerned about you. You were the best of friends, and we miss you. You may never read this, but hopefully somebody we both know will get in contact with you. Peace my friend.
Walking down the street, you direct a smile to a stranger. What usually happens? The stranger smiles back. Such a small gesture with a profound impact. Enough, that it could change a person’s day.
You come home. Your spouse is angry and sends a few angry comments your way. They were undeserved. Rather than letting them go, you retaliate. All hell breaks loose, and nobody wins.
You check your Twitter feed and notice something curious. A negative and inflammatory tweet went viral. Not really that curious, it is like the news. The negative reigns supreme. In this case, it goes through the echo chambers of the world, bouncing off the walls of cyberspace and spreading like a bad virus.
Life is an echo. What you send out comes back.
What goes around comes around. The universe has a curious ability to return what you send out. Consider today what that will be. Positive or negative, the choice is ours.
I have been thinking about this lately and may make it my new mantra:
I am medicine.
Powers to heal and to destroy
Proceed from my mouth.
Will I practice good medicine?
Or will I practice bad?
When I am in another world and fail to be mindful of another’s presence, I must remember: I am medicine. What I don’t say can hurt as bad as not saying anything. And when I am fully present, I must not use more medicine than necessary. Whether good or bad, too much medicine can become toxic.
When someone is angry, confused, or suffering, how will I use my medicine? Will I prescribe the bad stuff to counter the bad stuff, or will I try to heal with love? Sending out the bad medicine will never make things better. And since we are all fighting a hard battle, I should remember Plato’s words and be kind. Through kindness, I may prevent making someone’s battle harder than it already is.
This medicine that we have is easy to administer, yet its power is immense. Bad medicine will intensify in the mind of the recipient long after you left. In a similar fashion, words of love linger long after they are spoken.
Our words can evoke a powerful magic sending its healing energy to those in need. It is a power we can all tap into, because we are all medicine.
I asked an old professor how it was my fault that someone else was getting under my skin. Epictetus, the great Stoic Philosopher, did not give me a direct reply, but he did give me an answer. How can someone dead for two millennia give me an answer? Am I a medium who converse with spirits?
The answer is both yes and no. No, I cannot communicate directly with the dead. I can speak with them, but sadly I never hear their voices. And though I cannot hear their voice, I can hear the spirit of the words they left behind. I’m reminded of what Ben Franklin said, “If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead and rotten, either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing.” And the people I consult with, including Epictetus, managed to have their words passed down through the ages.
Any person capable of angering you becomes your master. They can anger you only when you permit yourself to be disturbed by them.
Epictetus was a slave for a good portion of his life. And though his master could possess his body, he was never able to possess his mind. I once heard a story about one torture session. Epictetus told his master that if he did not stop applying pressure to his leg, it would break. His master did not stop and broke the slave’s leg. What was Epictetus’s response? He simply told his master, “I told you so.” Consequently, Epictetus would be lame for the rest of his life.
It is not enough to be hit or insulted to be harmed. If someone succeeds in provoking you, realize that your mind is complicit in the provocation.
The great Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius, once wrote, “The best revenge is not to be like that.” [By the way, Marcus Aurelius studied Epictetus] What the emperor suggests is easier said than done. When we feel a perceived injustice, we want to strike back. We do this because of our bruised egos. We feel that because we are grown adults, we do not have to endure this provocation from others. We must remember that the ideal adult practices self-control. If we can be goaded by another, it is really our own fault. It is a lack of self-control.
Whenever anyone criticizes or wrongs you, remember that they are only doing or saying what they think is right. They cannot be guided by your views, only their own…Say to yourself each time, “He did what he believed was right.”
Our puppy Rooster can be very frustrating. Sometimes he will get out and decide to explore beyond our property. If too close to the road, we will fear for his safety. All the other times, it is just annoying. Rooster’s concept of right and wrong is not based on maliciousness. Whenever he goes exploring, he is doing what he believes is natural. Next time he does this, I need to say to myself, “He is doing what he believed was right.” Maybe by doing this, I will be less annoyed.
If someone criticizes or wrongs you, this would be an idea to keep in mind. Chances are if the tables were reversed, you would hope they responded in a similar fashion. Too many social media battles are fought because there is no tolerance for a difference of opinion. If both parties feel they are right, you will most likely be unsuccessful in changing their viewpoint.
The cause of my irritation is not in this person but in me. -Anthony de Mello
Remember when Paul said, “The greatest of these was love.” * If someone is irritating us, let us not take it out on them. We allowed them to get under our skins. Instead we should treat them with love and get to work on ourselves. Do this, and they may not seem so irritable in the future.
Could you imagine what it would have been like getting on a steam train back in the mid to late 1800’s? What a rush it would have been going 70-80 miles per hour! Before that, you were confined to going the speed of a horse.
This new mode of travel provided speed, convenience, and less worry for the passengers. Unless of course, there was an accident. And back then, accidents happened often. In the late 1860’s, George Westinghouse patented the railway air brake. This new braking system reduced accidents and gave the trains the ability to travel at faster speeds. But more importantly, it saved the lives of countless crewmembers and passengers.
If someday they say of me that in my work I have contributed something to the welfare and happiness of my fellow man, I shall be satisfied. -George Westinghouse
Many of us work for our own good or for the good of the organization that employs us. For the good of others is too often an afterthought that comes in the form of some charitable donation. Imagine if our focus was different. Imagine if we worked to improve the welfare and happiness of others. Directing our focus towards that endeavor would improve the quality of their lives and ours. It might be a small drop in this pond we call the world, but how many would feel its wave?