If Something is Important…

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If something is important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it at all.

Dan John

 

This is my favorite quote by the philosopher coach, but it seems to be also a frequently misunderstood one.

You could say: ‘But there are some things that are important to me, yet I cannot do them every day  – there are not enough hours! For example going travelling, dance classes, date nights with my partner etc’.

However, I don’t believe ‘important things’ mean specific activities. Otherwise this quote would literally mean ‘do not do any activities that you can’t do every singe day of your life’. Which mean a very limited life indeed.

I believe the quote means ‘values’.

As a demonstration of what I mean, think about exercise. The New Zealand Ministry of Health recommendations are: Complete 30 min per day of moderate exercise. Does this mean you must brisk walk 30 min day in and day out until you die?

No!

It’s a game you see. You get to pick your exercise. You can of course stick to brisk walking most days, but you can also get creative:

Day 1: You might brisk walk for 30min

Day 2: You might jump rope for 5 min (which replaces 30 min brisk walking by the way)

Day 3: You could attend a 60min dance class

Day 4: you could perform 15 min of strength training

Day 5: You could do a 20-30min yoga session

Day 6: You could do a high intensity Tabata protocol – 4 min only, but replaces 30min of moderate activity.

Day 7: You could swim for 30min

Day 8: You could do a 2 hour hike in the bush

Day 9: A light 20min stretching session to recover from Day 8…

Some days you might do more, some days you might do less. But the piggybank of ‘exercise’ gets a daily deposit.

The same thing applies to all our values. What is important to you? Is it family? Friendship? Health? Mindfulness? Kindness? Compassion? Learning? Discovery? Courage? Relaxation?

Now think in how many ways can you practice each value in your daily life?

Let’s say friendship is important to you. Does it mean that you go out of your way to hang out with your friends daily? I think there are many more ways to exercise friendship.

  1. Txt a friend, just one, and ask them how they’re doing – 2min
  2. Answer a message from a friend with honesty and kindness – 5min
  3. Actively listen to your friend’s concerns – 15min
  4. Call a friend who is struggling, or call a friend if you’re struggling and give them the opportunity to be a good friend. Either way is practicing friendship – the giving of love is just as important as the receiving – 30min
  5. Think of what being a good friend means to you, and be that towards your partner, your child, your coworker – 10min
  6. Do a loving kindness meditation with your friend firmly in mind – 5min
  7. Further an acquaintanship and move it closer to a friendship – 15min
  8. Help someone you care about – 5+ min
  9. Initiate an honest difficult talk that you have been avoiding with an estranged friend – 30+min
  10. Extend the hand of friendship to someone you are interested in – 10min
  11. Take a step towards terminating an unhealthy friendhsip that isn’t working, so you can give more energy to your healthy friendships – 5min
  12. Sit quietly with a friend and be present – 5+ min
  13. How can you apply friendship values to yourself? Are you a good friend to you? Do you speak kindly and honestly to yourself? Do you sit quietly and be present with yourself? Have you done so today? 5+ min

Some days you do more, some days you do just a little thing. But there is no way it’s impossible to do ‘something’ every day for the value of friendship. It requires just minimal thought and basic creativity. And the Long Game Mindset – an understanding that things are not built in a day and that consistent daily deposits into the value bank counts towards the long term growth and strength of the value in your life.

And the same minimal creativity can be applied to all the things that are important to you: health, family kindness…. But what’s even better, some actions include in themselves several values: for example, talking to an estranged friend with honesty and kindness takes courage – double tick if courage is also your value!

And you know what happens after awhile? Your days begin to be filled with the things that are meaningful to you in that time of your life, and the meaningless stuff gets crowded out, since there are only 24 hours in the day. And so your life gains more depth, more strength, and more richness, like high quality dark chocolate.

This is not an exact science, and none of us are perfect, me least of all. But I have found over the years that this principle is not only worth living by but it is both achievable and sustainable.

If something is important, do it every day. If it’s not important, don’t do it at all. 

Thank you, Mr John.

Kat

 

 

 

 

 

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