Monday, September 22, 2014

The "One Day at a Time" Lifestyle

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” -- Abraham Lincoln

A recent trip to Philadelphia yielded a conversation during which my friend told me, “I hate it when people say, ‘Just take it a day at a time.’  Who can do that?!”  I responded, “As someone who lives that way, I can promise you that it’s doable.  Some people are just wired that way.  For those of us who aren’t, it takes work, but it’s worth it; it makes my life much better.”  
Living life “a day at a time” is a foreign film without subtitles to some of us.  I remember the days before I began living life one day at a time and they were not pretty.  I lived in a perpetual cycle of fear and worry.  I’ve shared with most of you the physical part of my journey.  Another part of my healing process involved changing my mindset, not just in regards to my health but to my entire life, too.  Figuratively, I was driving down the road at 100 MPH at night, constantly more concerned about that which lay beyond the range of my headlights instead of the 200 feet in front of me.  If I wasn’t concerning myself with the future, I was hyper analyzing the past.  Only, I was not doing it to take away important lessons from my mistakes and was, instead, getting stuck in a rotten pattern of self judgment and doubt.  
It was during my early days being under Upper Cervical Care that I started becoming more aware of my mindset (being in a brain fog kept me unaware of many things).  Surrounding myself with people that lived by the “one day at a time” mantra was eye-opening.  I had basically been trained to anticipate the worst and hope for the best.  Seeing these happy, purposeful, dynamite personalities living their lives to the fullest allowed me to recognize the futility in spending so much time caught up in the past – which is over – and the future – which I cannot control.  There’s no future in living in the past.  “The past cannot be changed.  You can learn from the past but you can’t alter it,” Bryan Golden, author of Dare to Live Without Limits, wrote in a 2009 article on this topic.  “The past is a seminar you have taken.  Make note of what worked and what didn’t.  You don’t want to repeat the same mistakes.  You do want to replicate successes.  Worry is a complete waste of time and energy.  You will never achieve anything by worrying.  To make matters worse, any time spent worrying takes away from the time you have available for dealing with today. “

It’s quite a burden, carrying the past on your back with your mind simultaneously weighed down by the future.  “Exhausting” is one word I’ve seen used to describe that lifestyle by a fellow liver of life just a day at a time.  To live anything more than a day at a time is to approach life, energetically, like a sprint.  It takes enough energy just to get done what you need to right now.  Add to that the energy required to dwell over what already happened and brood over what could… you only have so much energy.  Life is a marathon.  Distance runners have to learn how to pace themselves to make certain that they have enough stamina for an entire race.  Counselors use that analogy when helping addicts overcome their vices.  Many of us get addicted, if you will, to – as my mom often says – the woulda, coulda, shoulda.  It doesn’t begin that way, no more than a chemical addiction does, but it can end up that way.  And as they say to addicts, “When you allow yourself to be consumed with anger and worry [or judgment and doubt, etc.] or become embroiled in non-stop stress that you’ve accepted as a way of life, your strength is sapped, depleting you of the energy and motivation to continue.”

The biggest thing that kickstarted my transformation to a new way of thinking was my mentor’s favorite saying: “What you think about, you bring about.”  So, living life a day at a time is merely an exercise in being aware of what you do want and not wasting time or energy on what you don’t.  Intention is very important in this lifestyle.  If you make clear what you want, then you plan and think toward your goal.  It prompts you to maintain a high standard for yourself, but it’s also not about being perfect.  It’s about present time consciousness and the acceptance of the fact that learning never stops – it’s just part of the journey.  Every day, I wake up with a quick self note about the things that I want.  Every night before I go to bed, I restate that purpose.  Everything in between is about staying in the moment, my intentions already set. 

We speak often in the office about health being a goal that requires certain fundamentals, amongst them a good attitude.  Who can realistically overcome problems (health or otherwise) if they’re full of negative thoughts about days, week, months, or years ago or ahead?  Living life a day at a time lays the groundwork for a less stressful existence.  Today is over once it’s over.  Tomorrow is a new day.  You take the good things from yesterday forward, acknowledge the previous day’s less awesome moments for learning purposes, and embark on the next step in the journey.  The only thing that you have control over is your actions, anyway, so there’s little sense in prognosticating.  From personal experience, I can vouch for this being a very enjoyable way to live.  The great stuff is greater and the lousy stuff isn’t nearly as a lousy. 

“One day at a time- this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.” -- Ida Scott Taylor

Thinking good things for you, as always,

Dr. Chad

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