If you’re reading this, there’s still time.
The title of this post is also the title of a book by one of my dear friends, Morley, who is a street artist in LA. You should check him out on Instagram at @official_morley.
Today I’m thinking about the phrase “the good old days”. Ah yes, nostalgia. Load me up with a bunch of original Nintendo games, grab your tamagatchi, and let’s take a trip down memory lane.
We love to do this don’t we?
Remembering positive things from the past is wonderful. There is something all warm and gooey about it. For a minute, we take ourselves out of our current situation, with all its complexities and problems, and we’re transported to a place where we’re young and innocent, and most importantly, life was simple.
It’s really the simplicity we miss, right?
But life wasn’t really all that simple back then. We had problems — it’s just that they look so small in hindsight. As we move forward in time, the hard times seem to fade, and the joyful things seem to stick. That’s why it’s fun to look back. Kind of amazing isn’t it? I think there’s something to be learned here… but I’ll come back to this.
So here we find ourselves in the present. The complicated present. We’re older than we used to be, with more responsibilities, more demands placed on us, and it’s easy to look back and miss “the good old days”… but the past isn’t where we live. The present will shake us and grab our attention if we linger in the past too long.
Often times we enjoy reminiscing about the past because it’s certain. It’s set in stone. It’s known. The future, on the other hand, is cloudy and uncertain… and truly, most of us feel very powerless when we think about the future. We feel like our lives are on a path, and the momentum carrying us is too strong to change.
Stop for a second and take note of where you are. Notice your feet on the ground. Your back arched or straight. The sun on your skin (I hope you’re somewhere sunny). You are a creature of the present. The now.
You have the power to influence the space around you. This influence exists in the present, but echoes forward into the future. So you can ask yourself, “what do I want my future to look like, and what choices can I make now to make those desires a reality?”
I know this is basic stuff — but how often do we just go through the motions in our lives, following the path of least resistance? How much do we let other people decide our futures for us? Are we truly deciding for ourselves who we are and where we are headed?
It is never too late to take control of this power we inherently have to control our own lives. We are not powerless. No more excuses. We can start right now.
Here are a few ideas that might help.
1. Remove non-negotiables.
Often times, there are things we would love to do, but we think we can’t because of this and that…. Sometimes the reasons are legitimate — other times they are simply excuses not to act.
In each of our lives, we have a set of non-negotiables. These are things we are absolutely unwilling to change or lose. It’s good to have non-negotiables. They are part of who we are.
The problem, most of us simply have too many of them. The list of things we are unwilling to let go is just far too long in order for us to truly be in control of our own lives. Our non-negotiables cease to be an identifying blessing, and they become a burden.
Take stock of your life and think about what truly matters. What do you have to have? What could you really live without if you had to? Get this list as small as you possibly can.
2. Remove negative people from your life.
I’ve heard it said that we are the sum of the 5 people we spend the most time with. That should scare the crap out of you.
There is no space in there for negativity. Anyone who is constantly second guessing your dreams as “crazy ideas” is not helping you. Anyone who is constantly complaining about their life is not helping you. Anyone who is telling you who you should be instead of affirming you in your own journey is not helping you.
It can be hard to excise these people from your life, but I promise you it’s one of the healthiest things you could possibly do to take control of your future.
3. Quit your stuff.
When Jess and I moved from Tennessee to California a few years ago, I taped off a 5'x7' section in the garage and said “anything that doesn’t fit in here, doesn’t go with us”.
We sold our house, all our furniture, and almost everything else we had accumulated in the first 8 years of our marriage.
Can you guess how I felt?
Sure we have a house and stuff again — but that process reminded me how little we truly need. I’d do it again if we ever wanted to. If I have my family and a sense of purpose, that’s all I need. And boy, that feels good.
4. Save up an emergency fund.
This one is a lot of work, but it’s a game changer.
When you have money in savings, it changes the way you make decisions. You no longer feel forced into situations because you “need the money”. You can focus less on the money you need, and more what you truly want to do with your time and energy.
I’ve also heard this called a “f*** you fund”. Haha. The idea is that you want to have enough money saved up that if you ever find yourself needing to walk out the door at your job, you can.
It’s not so that you can be an insufferable jerk at work — it’s so you can truly make decisions in your life based on who you are and what your goals are, instead of your immediate financial needs.
5. Set goals based on your deep needs.
Making $100,000 a year is not a goal. It’s a benchmark for income, sure, but money is meaningless in and of itself. It becomes meaningful when we use it.
The things we choose to spend money on say a lot about who we are. Our spending reveals our priorities. So how could we set meaningful financial goals without first defining our true priorities?
Sit down (with your spouse if you’re married) — and ask yourself (yourselves) what truly matters to you. What are your deep needs? Think about the things that truly bring meaning to your life.
For example — one of the main things Jess and I love about our house is that it’s perfect for hosting lots of family on special occasions. Sure, we enjoy the space on our own too, but having it to share with family allows us to bring family together in one place fairly often.
The deep need here isn’t really about the house, it’s about family.
I feel like I could go on here, but I’d be rambling even more than I already have. I hope this is a meaningful little stream of thoughts for you.
All of these things are worth implementing in your life no matter your age or place in life. If you’re reading this, there’s still time.
Morley has another saying that I have posted in our living room — it says “One day you’ll laugh at how much you let this matter.” When I was thinking about how we remember joy more than pain in the past, I recounted how many times this was true for me. Hold on to the joy. Let the rest go. You’ll look back years from now and see the significance of the joy, and the insignificance of everything else.
Now go put this stuff into action!