Do you remember that dreaded day in high school when you sat down in class and the teacher at the front of the room said, “Get a paper and pencil out, today we are having a pop quiz.” I’m sure some kids weren’t even phased by it because they had studied and were prepared, but for me it was terrifying. Those were the days when I came face to face with the consequences of my procrastination and lack of preparation.
What if at the end of the day there was the possibility of a pop quiz? What if someone came in and said, “Get a pencil and paper out and write down your greatest accomplishments from the day. The strength of your answers will determine your ultimate success and happiness in the future.”
Would we be eager and ready to write down how we took advantage of every moment and focused on becoming better, or would we feel that terrified because we knew we had procrastinated and wasted our time? What grade would we get? Would we start doing a lot more every day?
The truth is that the “studying and preparation” we do every day is what ultimately determines our long-term contentment and achievement in life. I’m a big believer in the Law of the Harvest: we reap what we sow. If we plant the seeds of success every day, we will reap a successful harvest. If we procrastinate the planting, we cannot expect to harvest.
Here are a few tips for making sure you can answer the pop quiz of life confidently:
#1 – Try New Things
So many of life’s great experiences wait just on the other side of our fears or our comfort zone. When the opportunity to try something new comes up, ask yourself, “Why not?” Many of the great moments in life are linked to new experiences. Don’t miss out on the great moments that are waiting all around you every day!
#2 – Keep Learning
When visiting web forums or social media sites it is not uncommon to see the letters “TIL” which stand for “Today I Learned.” When we were kids it seemed like every day had something new that we hadn’t experienced before. A child has the opportunity to learn about 100 new things a day and they love the feeling of learning something new. That’s why a young child will ask their parents, “Why?” about a thousand times a week. They are learning and growing. It wouldn’t hurt us to look around throughout the day and ask, “Why did that happen? How does that work? What can I do about that?” A lifetime of learning leads to a love for life.
#3 – Be Kind
It has been said that you can measure a person by how they treat the people who can do nothing for them. How often do you stop to talk to the people you encounter every day? Do you know the names of the people at the bank, the grocery store, Circle K, or restaurant? One great way to get more out of your day is to fill it with people you know. The best way to know more people is to be kind to everyone you meet and take a moment to learn a little about them.
#4 – Stay Productive
I avoided saying “Stay Busy” because sometimes we can fill our day with meaningless activities and feel busy but then at the end of the day we look back and realize we accomplished nothing. A great way to stay productive is to look at the things you would like to accomplish today, this week, this month, etc. and then plan some time to work on each of them. You will find that when you take steps towards your bigger goals, you will feel more excited to do them more often.
#5 – Avoid the “Success Killers”
Just as there are a lot of things you can do to feel more accomplished, there are some things that can sabotage your efforts. I call them “Success Killers”. Some common Success Killers include: television, social media, online gaming, solitaire, gossip magazines, etc. It could be anything really. At the end of the day today, look back at everything you did and see if there were a couple of activities that did nothing to make you happier or more successful. You may want to look at spending less time with them or avoiding them all together.
#6 – Look for Ways to Serve
I truly believe that giving meaningful service to other people is the greatest key to our personal happiness. This is the great happiness paradox: we find greater happiness when we stop looking for it and help others to feel it instead. I think that a lot of our non-clinical depression and self-esteem issues can be solved by going out every day and finding someone to serve. It may be just a smile and a “hello”, it may be helping them with their work, it may be just a phone call to tell them “thank you for being a friend.” When we serve other people, we develop personal joy.
#7 – Find A Purpose
I have noticed for some time that a lot of the happiest and most satisfied people I know have one or more big “life goals” they are working towards. It may be to run a marathon, write a book, start a business, develop a product, or learn a new hobby or profession. It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as it is something big, something that inspires you, and something that will take a lot of time and hard work. When we have a big goal that we feel passionate about we become more excited to work on that goal every day. Every step you take towards your life’s purpose will get you more excited to take another step tomorrow.
Life doesn’t throw us too many pop quizzes along the way. In fact, most people experience something like a “pop midterm”. Those are the moments in life where you wake up and realize that you have wasted the last 5-10 years on cruise control. Some people lose a job and realize they haven’t taken the time to develop any skills that would help them find another one. Sometimes we are in need of help and realize we just haven’t spent the time developing real friendships the way we should have.
Don’t let it happen to you! Make the most of every day so that when you give yourself the pop quiz at the end of the day, you will be ready to say you did everything you could.
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