(This post originally appeared as my guest post on 12Most.com)
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
Ferris Bueller had it right when he chose to live a definitive day. I’ve been guilty of accepting that I exist in a world where we move too fast, in too much noise, and race through our days with unconscious disregard for each other. A few years ago, I realized (like Ferris), that I didn’t have to accept this; that I had inherent, potential power to move beyond the ‘noise’. I offer you some rather mundane, yet potentially powerful, important verbs to practice, everyday:
1. Listen – This is one of the most challenging verbs to master. We are assaulted by aural stimuli every waking moment – cars ping and phones buzz; a pump at the gas station started talking to me the other day. It’s no surprise that, for many of us trying to keep our minds on track, we rarely take a moment to go beyond hearing. Listening is a skill that you can practice every day in small doses; with the bank teller, the store clerk, or your five-year old (I realize that the latter can present a bigger challenge!). Take an active role, focus, and genuinely listen.
2. Smile – I promise you that no one will think you’re loopy if, as you pass them on the street, in the mall or along the office hallway, you smile at them. I’m not suggesting a maniacal grin or a creepy leer but a simple, sincere smile – a genuine, silent ‘hello’.
3. Stop – As Bueller said, life moves pretty fast. It is possible, however, to occasionally ease up on the accelerator and gently press the brake. Each day, if only for a moment, come to a complete stop. Cease. Desist and resist the temptation to be ‘doing’. No need to tangle up into a lotus position or light candles and chant; just be still for a moment.
4. Go – Get up. Go. Move. Our uber-connected world allows us to work from desktops and laptops and, of course, mobile devices. The latter have not necessarily made us ‘mobile’ because, typically, we employ them from planes, trains, and automobiles. Start slowly – you don’t have to leap up from your desk and dead lift 350 lbs; park farther away, use the stairs, or, if ambition moves you, take a Zumba class. Physical exercise oxygenates your brain and moves it to a higher functioning plane.
5. Drink – Hoist a glass and imbibe! I am, of course, referring to an alternate happy hour and not the one that comes with half price wings and pretzels. Face it; you’re probably dehydrated right now. Don’t feel thirsty? Surprisingly, that doesn’t mean you’re hydrated. According to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, chronic mild dehydration may lead to cognitive dysfunction. Eschewing H2O to sip on coffee, soda pop, or juice all day could be robbing you of effective thinking and limiting your productivity. Wanna grab a drink? 😉
6. Dream – Were you going to be an astronaut? Drive the fire truck? Commandeer a submarine? Fly like Superman? Think back to those dreams you had when you were five, when anything was possible. Grown-up rationale and insistent logic tends to interfere but it’s possible to revisit that five-year old you and to believe that anything is possible. Dreaming is a creative process that opens you to opportunity and fires up potential.
7. Appreciate – I think I can accurately access the general demographic of this blog’s readership and suspect that most, if not all, enjoy abundance. I recently found myself overwhelmed by abundance and underwhelmed by my appreciation. Every day, look to appreciate something, the immediate water from the faucet or the clerk working on the holiday so you can buy ice for your cooler. Perform random acts of ‘Thank You’.
8. Remember – Activate your hippocampus and occipital cortex to recall the best family vacation, how delicious the bread was fresh from the oven (when I was a kid, my Dad baked bread every Saturday morning), or your best high school memory (there must be at least one, right?). Stay in touch with your past and what you loved and learned; share these memories to help and teach others.
9. Hug – There are only good side effects to this medicine. Sure, an apple a day may keep the doctor away but research indicates that hugs reduce hypertension (the leading risk factor for heart disease) and raise oxytocin levels (reducing stress and improving heart health). This prescription requires no pharmacy and best of all, it’s free of charge. This script reads at least four each day!
10. Learn – “Never live a day in vain”; by learning something new every day (a new word, how to tie a reef knot, or quantum mechanics – it doesn’t really matter what), you keep your brain in shape. The human brain is able to continuously adapt and rewire; even as it ages, it can grow new neurons. Studies have indicated that the onset of age-related memory loss can be delayed if the brain is continually challenged. Use it or lose it.
11. Excel – You are very good at a great many things. Chances are…you could be better. Shake off any clinging complacency, venture out of the comfort zone of good into the land of better. You don’t have to make quantum leaps but, in everything you do, take a small step closer to best.
12. Breathe – If you’re conscious, then obviously, this verb is part of your day but it may surprise you to learn that, when it comes to breathing, most of us don’t perform well. In Poke the Box, Seth Godin said; ‘Juggling is about throwing, not catching’. Breathing isn’t about the inhale – it’s about the exhale. Each day, be more conscious about the exhale. Become aware of how often you find yourself literally ‘holding your breath’ – then let it out. Your brain and your body will love you for it.
The word ‘Practice’ carries more weight than most of us appreciate. We understand that ‘Practice makes Perfect’. Doctors Practice Medicine because it is not a perfect science; the field of understanding continues to grow broader and more intimate. You Practice Yoga; every moment in a pose invites improvement and greater insight into your body’s ability.
Every day can be a ‘Practice makes Perfect’ day… what are you practicing today?