This morning I woke up about 5:45 AM. I couldn’t go back to sleep so I eventually got up and sat down in my favorite upholstered rocking chair. From the strategic position of this beloved chair I can look out our bedroom windows and see directly east.
During much of the year the sunrise is obscured by the growth of deciduous trees that cover much of our property. However, during the late fall and winter this thicket of bare trees stand tall as a lonely testimony of the coming winter. As I peered out the window this morning deep in meditation I was struck by the beautiful glowing hues of orange and pink light as the morning rays of sun peeked over the horizon. Once again I was reminded that each day is a gift.
For thousands of years poets and bards have written about the power and opportunity that exist within each day. Some sage scribes have wisely observed how a single lifetime is aptly portrayed in a single day. The sunrise begins a new day of life as the world comes to celebrate its fresh start through the sounds of birds, stirring insects and waking of mammals. The day continues on as it peaks in mid-day at full strength and full of brilliance. As the day continues to grow old it slowly wanes into a mellow evening. Finally each day ends quietly at sunset with a certain stillness. There are some lessons we can learn about the power of each new day.
We just simply assume that there will be many tomorrows. We sometimes act as if we are entitled to a long life…as if it is owed to us. This is a false assumption because no one has been given the promise of another tomorrow in this world. In western society we don’t even like to discuss death. We want to mask its reality with words like “passed away” or “departed” or “no longer with us”. We sanitize the prospect of death by sending many of the dying to hospitals and we use modern embalming methods to make the dead seem like they are still alive…only sleeping. But the reality is that life is short and if we receive the gift of another day…only then will we be here tomorrow. Everyday is a precious endowment and each morning, as the first waking consciousness of thought floods into our minds, we should be thankful for the gift of another day of life. Being a religious person, I personally thank my God for this special gift.
The distinctive impact of every day is that it holds the promise of a fresh new start. It provides the opportunity to do something different, start something new, break a bad habit, or establish a good habit. In other words, it gives us the power to choose a new course or direction. So why don’t we typically appreciate this fact and fresh prospect? Why do we continue to do and “choose” the same old things every day, including some that are detrimental to us? The answer lies in our life style. We are culturally programmed to desire comfort and resist change. We often know we should change things and we promise ourselves we will do it someday. The problem is that “someday” seldom comes and eventually we all run out of someday’s. This self-imposed “comfort zone” convinces us that change is always something we can do tomorrow. But, here is an absolute truth…today is a gift, and tomorrow is promised to none of us! Dr. Roger Birkman encourages self-discovery and reminds us that:
“Some people who have become successful at “hiding behind” socialized behavior are reluctant to consider the truth about who they really are. Most people don’t mind dealing with their strengths, but prefer to close their eyes to any possible weaknesses.”
Leaders are “agents of change”, and if change is to occur at all it must begin somewhere and within someone. The role of leadership is to envision a better future and become the change agent that makes this future possible. This is true of business, community or personal life. But it all starts with an individual choice to begin a process of change. It has been said that we must become the change we wish to see. Many businesses have “closed their doors” because its management waited too long to begin meaningful change. Many others have failed because they were so unaccustomed to change they were unable to motivate others to participate in their final attempt toward survival. In a similar vain, many individuals have self-destructed because they waited too long to change their dysfunctional lifestyles or to ask for needed help. What I am getting at here is one simple point! Whatever you need to change in your life, or in your business, the time to do it is now! Tomorrow may be too late and odds are if another tomorrow does come, you will also be unwilling to do it then.
I have the good fortune to teach management classes at Bellevue University. These are college Online courses particularly oriented for working adults. Most of these students have full-time family and career responsibilities. These classes are not easy. The outcome and expectation of these classes is the same as in a traditional classroom environment. To be successful requires a real personal sacrifice and dedication. Why do these individuals with other full-time responsibilities tackle a demanding and difficult one-year accelerated management program? Because a day came in their lives where they realized they needed to make a change. They also realized they needed to do it now! Like most individuals, each one of them could have come up with a dozen legitimate reasons why they couldn’t go back to school and get their college degree. Instead, they choose to make an important investment in themselves and their futures…and to do it now. You really have to commend and admire these change agents.
How about ourselves, and the changes we need to make? There is no time like the present. To fulfill our role as leaders requires us to “seize the moment” and begin the difficult process of change…right now. Problems and difficulties don’t go away or solve themselves by negligence; they tend to only get worst. Now please don’t get the wrong impression from this article. My intent is not to encourage anyone to plunge forward with a decision that has not been well conceived, thought out or planned. We need to get the facts and analyze the need for change before lurching into the unknown. However, when we are convinced and know that change is necessary, it is time to act and begin the process.
Do you see changes that need to occur in your personal life? Remember that tomorrow is promised to no one. Each day is a gift. Do you see changes that need to occur in your community? Become that advocate of change because tomorrow is promised to no one. Each day is a gift. Do you see changes that need to occur on the job, in your career or in your business? Become a change agent because tomorrow is promised to no one. Each day is a gift. As authors James Waldroop and Timothy Butler remind us:
“If you are alert to the signs and symptoms of the patterns that cause you trouble, if you are willing to recognize them for what they are, and if you are willing to work hard to keep yourself from falling into the old familiar behaviors—then over time your struggle with self-defeating behaviors will become less difficult and you will be increasingly successful in your efforts.”
I would like to conclude with a couple of thoughts…
- Begin to look upon the start of each new day as something special. Don’t take a single day for granted. Take at least a few moments during each day to walk around and observe the world. Savor the natural beauty and majesty of an occasional sunrise or sunset. Ask yourself, what did I learn today? Did I make a difference in someone else’s life? Did I encourage someone, thank someone, help someone or bring a smile to another person’s face? These are the soft-skills that effective leaders must master!
- Learn to separate your work responsibilities from your family life. Don’t carry your work and its frustrations home with you at the end of a day. There are many distractions in life and they can consume our minds and limit our happiness. Work is important…but there is more to life than work. Remember that no ones headstone has the following engraving. “I wish I had spent more time…in the office.” Some people foolishly think they can achieve immortality through their work. I prefer the comment I heard in a Woody Allen movie. A character states, “I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it by not dying!”
- Each day let your loved ones know just how special they are. You may not get another chance in this lifetime. Too many people delay spending time with their loved ones thinking they can do it on vacation…or when we retire…or during the holidays. Like the need for change, it is often put off until it is too late. Especially if you have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles or elderly friends and relatives. Talk to them today…because each day is a gift. If you have a poor relationship with a former friend, coworker or neighbor, talk to them today. Make a serious effort to heal the breach and build a new relationship. Remember people are more important than possessions.
Tomorrow morning another sunrise will occur and a new day will dawn. Billions of individuals will see just another day much like the millions of days that preceded it, and the million more days they expect to follow it. But within this mass of humanity a few individuals will see something more meaningful. Some will be inspired by this unique opportunity to accept leadership roles and become advocates of change. They will realize that this single day is unique and there will never, ever be another one exactly like it. They will understand that they have the power to choose a different outcome in their lives or surroundings. They will make a bold choice to be, or do something different.
I hope that one of these unique individuals is YOU!
About the author:
Greg has an extensive thirty-five years experience in public speaking and has spoken to hundreds of audiences worldwide. Greg has a Master of Arts degree in Leadership from Bellevue University, where he also has served as an adjunct professor teaching courses in business management and leadership since 2002. His first book, 52 Leadership Tips (That Will Change How You Lead Others) was published in 2006 by WingSpan Press. His second book, Making Life’s Puzzle Pieces Fit was published in March 2009. Both are available at amazon.com. Greg is also the president of Leadership Excellence, Ltd and a Managing Partner of the Leadership Management Institute. Leadership Excellence, Ltd. effectively builds individuals and organizations to reach their highest potential through enhanced productivity and personal development using a number of proven programs. He is also the president and founder of weLEAD Incorporated.
Birkman, Roger. True Colors. Nashville, Tenn: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995
Waldrop, James., Butler, Timothy. Maximum Success. New York: Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., 2000