Because my life experience has shown me that there is no guarantee that any of us is going to be here tomorrow, you would think I would not be a big fan of making New Year’s resolutions. But several life-threatening experiences also showed me that each day–each moment, in fact–is a chance for resolution. After facing my share and more of moments that begged me to be fully present to the present, my counsel as we move into a new year is simple. Every moment matters–and the opportunity to create moments that create a better you is literally within your grasp.
Eight years ago, I had to face the fact that my then-thirteen-year-old daughter needed a kidney transplant. What a stressful time this was! Not only did I see the fact that she could not be healed by other means as a kind of failure, but it turned out I was the perfect donor for the organ transplant. Perfect except for one thing: I was genetically predisposed to suffering kidney problems myself. As I planned the kidney donation process, I experienced a remarkable, out-of-body healing experience. It seemed unbelievable, but when I went on with the process of donating my kidney, doctors confirmed that my kidney had been injured and healed.
During the organ-donation process, I learned some important things: What I wanted and what my daughter needed were two different things. The moment I saw her healthy and alive after she received my kidney, I understood this profoundly. I also realized that we can’t take the moments in our lives for granted.
And so I offer these six tips to help others resolve to make every moment matter in the coming year.
1. When in doubt, write it out. It’s easy to get caught up in the rush of life and develop TMS (Troubled Mind Syndrome.) When the in-box of your mind is overflowing, stop and write down a moment in your life that mattered to you–in detail. It’s a great way to get into a place of personal importance to you.
2. Record it. Use your cell phone or other handy camera to snap and save the images of moments or people that matter to you. If you’ve resolved to spend more time with your daughter, take her photo, and then look at it when you need to motivate yourself to carry out the resolution.
3. Time it. Keep an old-fashioned, mini-hour glass handy. When you feel burned out, tip it over to let the sand run down–and with it, your angst. Next, flip it back, breathe deeply, and think about something that really made your day–until the sand runs out again. This beats the heck out of road rage (but please don’t do this while driving).
4. Invoke recess. The twenty-first century is a pretty incredible place to be–but along with the dazzle of technology comes the overload of the human nervous system. When we were kids, at least once a day we got out of class for twenty minutes to climb a tree, ride a swing, throw a ball or just sit in the sun. It’s doubtful your boss is going to come in and tell you to go outside and play with a hula hoop, so take it upon yourself to seize the moment and get outside even it’s just for five minutes feeding the squirrels. Two things will happen: the squirrels will appreciate it, and it will keep you from going nuts.
5. Read the obits. Every day, check the obituary pages just to make sure you are not in them. If your picture and life story are not posted, it’s a really good day. In that moment, remind yourself that life is a matter of moments that you create and that create you.
6. Remember, the word “resolution” is really about resolve–defined as “finding an answer; to decide or declare.” Knowing this might not add years to your life, but it will most certainly add life to your years.
By the way, my daughter is doing just fine, thank you!
John St. Augustine is the author of Every Moment Matters: Savoring the Stuff of Life (Hampton Roads, January 2010).