As a young mother with two busy toddlers, life can feel like a bit of a whirlwind. Each day I notice something new about my kids. I always celebrate the change, then feel a little sad that it is all passing so quickly – and seemingly right before my eyes. As it turns out, I can’t seem to freeze time or even slow it down the tiniest bit. I’ve been considering some ways to do the only thing I have control over – getting the most out of every single fleeting moment of this life.
Treat Each Day as a Stand Alone GREAT Day
Life for each of us can start to feel a little routine. I know that I feel it at home, and my husband feels it in the workplace. You wake up, start the day, finish the assignments, eat dinner, go to bed, and start all over again the next day. Occasionally the routine of our lives can begin to feel like groundhog day – as if we have lived this day over and over. But I don’t want to give in to this repetitious existence.
We have to treat each day as something new, exciting, and that we have never experienced before. When we wake up expecting to face the same old, boring routine, it’s likely that is all that the day will bring us. But when we wake up with gratitude, excitement, and new eyes we will see things that we otherwise would have missed, or have perhaps been missing all along.
I noticed recently that my husband felt far more joy being with the kids between 6-8 than I did. While I was anxious to get through dinner and get them to bed, he came home with new eyes and a grateful attitude, offering energy and enthusiasm that I lacked. The truth is, he was tired after a long day too, it is simply his attitude and fresh eyes that make him feel so excited to be around them. I realized this with excitement, recognizing that I didn’t need more sleep, but simply new eyes.
I now try to imitate Ryan’s attitude by treating each moment of mothering with as much enthusiasm as I did the day I first saw their sweet eyes and hands. With this wondering and fresh attitude, I have felt more appreciation for the small things that are all too easy to miss.
Find Joy In Learning Something New
I am happiest when I feel I am working towards my potential. Becoming the best version of myself is the seemingly impossible mission of my life. I am grateful to be a growing, progressing, and learning human being. My personal ability to learn from mistakes, overcome weaknesses, and try again brings so much purpose to my life. I cannot imagine how discouraged I would feel if I didn’t believe this about myself.
If you want to lead a more fulfilling and happy life, always be learning something new. Wake up each day planning to progress in this arena. School makes this easy, as assignments and projects forced me to have an agenda of learning on my day. However, the best thing it did for me was give me confidence in my ability to learn. I personally enjoy the learning that happens now on a personal level far more than I ever did in school. I get to decide what I want to learn, and then pursue it slowly and steadily each day.
Decide now to be a lifelong learner. Make a list – a long list that you can add to – of things you want to master throughout your life and get going. Once you’ve mastered something, move on to something else. Ensure that you are always progressing.
You’ll never cross each item off your list. But someday you will be 85 years old. You will look back and see what you did accomplish that you never would have if you hadn’t decided right now that you could.
Smiling and laughing release endorphins, lower stress, and decreases instances of anxiety and stress.
So, smile more. At yourself, your kids, your spouse, and strangers. Wake up and plan to brighten someone’s day. It’s not that hard. It’s not as awkward as you think. And it will quickly become a habit that brings a little more joy to your life and the world around you.
As a little girl – only 9 years old – I remember getting myself ready for church and looking in the mirror. I’d stare and wonder what I could do to look a little better than I did. And I’d throw on my biggest smile, as if I’d just opened the exact Christmas present I’d hoped for. And suddenly I felt so much prettier, and completely ready for the day. I knew it would be a good day because I felt confident and ready to go.
When I feel happier, I am more confident. I am a better version of myself. And sometimes it simply starts with faking it.
Make sure your kids see your smile – even if you aren’t someone who naturally lights up for little reason. Put it on your face as you talk to them, and let them feel that you enjoy being around them.
Smile when you are with your spouse in the evening. Too often, Ryan walks through the door in the middle of a tantrum, a messy house, and an unfinished dinner. I’m frazzled and offer little more than a quick kiss as a welcome. But, something I take time to pause and thank him for working all day, and smile and relax. Amazingly this moments pause empowers me to tackle the rest of the evening joyfully.
Always Be Reading Something
I have always loved reading, and Ryan even more so. I go through phases when I read more than others, because it can feel so impossible to find a free moment. But, when I look over the course of my life, I am happiest when I lived life while simultaneously working through a book – no matter what the content it.
Too often we become consumed with the to-do’s and projects and plans for our personal life. Our problems, and our neighbors problems, and the world’s problems feel all consuming and overwhelming.
Get out of your world for 20 minutes, and see life through someone else’s eyes. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, their story will change your perspective, slow your heart rate, make you more grateful for your life, offer solutions to your problems, and inspire you to become better.
Finding time to read in a busy life doesn’t have to be difficult. Ryan has laid out his tried and tested method for finding time to read, no matter how busy the rest of his life becomes.
Books have shaped who I am today in so many ways. Reading has taught me who I want to be, and who I definitely don’t want to be. I’ve expanded my view and understanding of the history and geography of the world. My imagination has expanded. I have learned life lessons from people I will never meet. And, I’d say most importantly, my overall joy and appreciation for life has increased. I am grateful for the stories I find in books. I am inspired with each book to write a better and more meaningful story for my own life.
Relax, and Enjoy Being with Those You Love Most
With all of our goals and our to-do lists, it seems the focus is always on the success of the outcome. Whether we are planning a birthday party, to host a house full of guests, to take a family vacation, or to simply make it through a weeknight dinner, true joy comes from the people we are with, not how the details turn out.
We aren’t living life for the perfect pictures or the magazine-worthy house. We are here to enjoy ourselves and to enjoy other people. Don’t let our focus on the perfect outcome ever take away from how we feel about those we are doing it all for.
Relax on the goals for the outcome of any endeavor. Lessen your stress, and allow a few things be less than perfect.
Offer that extra energy to those people who make your life matter. Love them more, show them more, be with them more, serve them more, give one more hug, and remind yourself that this is what matters anyways. This is where we find true joy.
Approach Each Moment with Gratitude
The unavoidable truth is that grateful heart is the key to a fulfilling life. It’s always going to be easier said than done. Yet, when we do it, it makes everything else easier, brighter, more meaningful, and far more fulfilling.
Today I had one of those tender reminders. By 7:20 I had lost all of my patience for Henry and Annie and hurriedly rushed through the routine to get them in bed.
I snapped at Annie’s attempts to wiggle out of my arms rather than snuggle, and put her swiftly in bed with no intent to try again.
I then went to Henry’s room to quickly hug him before closing his door.
But, of course, I’d missed a major part of the nightly routine, and he tenderly reminded me to sing to him. I laid down next to him, prepared to leave at the first sign of a wiggle. But he just laid in my arms, singing each word.
As we got to the third and final song of his routine, he shuffled around until he could look in my eyes and stroke my cheek. He did this for the whole song, looking in my eyes, singing, and smiling the whole time.
I melted and remembered what it’s all for anyways. It’s amazing how hard it is to remember something so important – why I’m doing all of this.
With a softened heart I slipped into Annie’s room to find her waiting for me, sitting patiently in her bed, holding her blanket and ready to finish our snuggle. She laid in my arms for one more song, and all was forgiven.
These moments of quiet rapture filled my heart with love, as well as with a desire to gratefully accept and live all of the moments.
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