Make the rest of your life the best of your life

Make the rest of your life the best of your life. Does that make sense to you? It should because if we fail to make it better, it simply means we make it worse. Some may be tempted to say. “Wait a minute! How can I MAKE my life better? I can’t wave a magic wand and make everything better. Life happens to me. I can’t control what happens to me.”

To which I reply, hogwash! Of course we can control what happens to us. After all, what happens to us is a result of our actions. In a word, we reap what we sow. If I eat right and exercise, guess what, I remain fit. If I eat a gallon of ice-cream every day and continually stuff my mouth with chocolate, then what? I’ll grow fat, that’s what! No, life is not something that happens to me, it’s something I make happen by my choices.

Of course, the unexpected does happen. My house could burn down, for example. But it’s what I do about it that determines whether the rest of my life gets better or worse. If my house were to burn down, I could complain about it or do something about it. If I choose to complain about it, my life grows worse. But if I choose to do something about it. if I choose to start again, I grow stronger (life grows better).

As a matter of fact, this is precisely what happened to Thomas Edison. In 1914 a fire nearly destroyed his New Jersey laboratories. Valuable records of his experiments and two million dollars worth of equipment were destroyed. Yet, as he stood in the midst of the destruction and surveyed the damage, the sixty-seven year old Edison said, “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.” He chose to make the rest of his life the best of his life. You can choose to do the same.

“I don’t think I can.” someone told me, “You see, I’m unhappy. How can I make my life better when I’m unhappy?” When I asked him why he was unhappy, he told me he didn’t know. Did you ever feel that way – unhappy without knowing why? In modern society, such a feeling is not uncommon. But there is something we can do about it. And what is that? It is a simple exercise that anyone can do and everyone can benefit from. Just follow the steps below.

1. Make a list of your ten favorite pastimes. I’m sure you’ve seen bumper stickers that read “I’d rather be fishing” or “I’d rather be golfing.” Well, what would you rather be doing? List your ten favorite activities.

2. Now make a list of the ten things you dread doing the most. Do you hate to clean the house, do the laundry, or go to work? If so, put it on the list.

3. Next, estimate how many hours you spend every week doing each of the items on both lists. So, if you hate your job and work 40 hours a week, on your list of the things you hate to do, write “40” next to “My Job”.

4. Add up the total amount of time on each list so you will know how many hours a week you spend doing what you like and doing what you don’t like. Now, change those numbers into percentages. In other words, what percent of your week is spent doing what you like, and what percent is spent doing what you hate to do?

As a general rule, we can remain happy if we spend at least 25% of our time doing what we enjoy. So, if you are spending 20% or less of your time on what you like to do, you have just uncovered the cause of your unhappiness. To regain it, all you have to do is juggle your schedule to squeeze in more time for doing what you enjoy. Also, eliminate unproductive time spent on complaining. Rather than merely whining about your ‘problems,’ why not do something about them?

Remember, we don’t have to like EVERYTHING we do to remain happy. At times we have responsibilities, obligations, and duties that need to be done, like them or not. As George Bernard Shaw (1856 ~ 1950) wrote, “Forget about likes and dislikes. They are of no consequence. Just do what must be done. This may not be happiness, but it is greatness.” And to that I’ll add, if we reach greatness, or simply do what needs to be done, we cannot help but be happy.

That is the paradox. We can get great pleasure in doing what we dislike. For each time we do what we should, despite not wanting to, we prove to ourselves we are in control of our lives. There is great satisfaction in that. Besides, we have to live with pain anyway, either the pain of self-discipline or the pain of regret. And the pain of regret is far greater than the pain of self-discipline.

If we wish to make the rest of our life the best of our life, we’ll have to learn how to stop substituting what we want MOST for what we want NOW. In addition to setting our priorities, we also need a change of attitude. For example, many people are unhappy with their jobs and are thinking of changing them to do what they love or “follow their passion.” The problem is, many of them falsely believe that their happiness and fulfillment depend on outside circumstances when they actually flow from within.

If we are not happy with ourselves, we cannot be happy with our jobs. And when we’re not happy with our jobs, changing them doesn’t help because we carry our discontent with us to the new job. The truth is, we can be happy anywhere, doing anything. It’s a choice we make. It’s as simple as deciding to do our best at all times, at all places. Once we make that decision and follow through, happiness is inevitable. And once we are happy in what we do, we become free to move on to bigger challenges, changing jobs not because we’re unhappy, but because we have outgrown the previous one.

The moral is, then, find happiness in your work, or you may never find it elsewhere. Here’s another tip, although hard work brings success, it does so only to a limited degree. You see, true success only comes to those who work harder on themselves than they do on their job.

In other words, you constantly need to improve yourself. Here is another way to express this rule: set high goals, not for the riches they will bring, but for the person their pursuit will make you become. For when you work toward lofty goals you become persistent, patient, powerful, tolerant, flexible, positive, and self-disciplined.

When you work on yourself, you will be prepared to handle whatever comes your way. For like H. Jackson (Jack) Brown, Jr., you will realize that “Happiness is not the absence of problems; but the ability to deal with them.” Finally, two more tips on how to make the rest of your life the best of your life. First, remember that happiness is a choice and a state of mind, so if you’re not happy, change your mind! Lastly, keep in mind that happiness is like a kiss — in order to enjoy it, you have to give it to someone else.