Capture life as it happens. If time feels like it’s passing you by – which it always is – take a photo. Write a song. Immortalize how you feel at that very moment. Save a smile for later. Reminiscing on memories preserves the fun of living through them. It allows your future self to vividly reflect on times past; beauty can emerge with a change in the beholder. A seemingly bleak reality could have produced your glory days, and you’d never realize until they’re in the rearview.
Mark milestones. Heed firsts and lasts, bests and worsts; recognize the symbolic importance of the mundane. Otherwise, reality hits and you’ll wonder when the world became so different. Life doesn’t wait for you to notice. “Living is easy with eyes closed.” If you spend your days meandering down life’s lazy river without sacrificing a second to comprehend it, you’ll end up in a world you don’t recognize. “And you may ask yourself: Well, how did I get here?”
Maintain your sense of structure. The only person preventing you from descending into an amorphous lifestyle devoid of discipline is yourself. Your routine doesn’t have to be conventional or regimented; unless you have cows to milk, why wake up that early? If you’re a night owl, carpe noctem, my friend. Make ample time for your school or profession, but balance it with time for meaningful leisure (and sometimes meaningless leisure.) Don’t work where you sleep. Discern how you dedicate twenty-four hours, then perpetually re-evaluate to maximize fulfillment.
“I don’t need time,” Duke Ellington once said. “What I need is a deadline.” If your life and work lack deadlines, manifest them. Conjure healthy stress as a motivator. It would be much easier to complete a marathon by walking 26.2 miles at a comfortable pace; yet, marathoners run – not because it’s the rules, but because they set goals for themselves. Some procrastinators need to be backed against a wall to become productive. Try building that wall yourself.
That Duke Ellington quote has influenced me since I first read it years ago – now, I can’t seem to find any evidence that Ellington actually uttered those words. Whether or not it’s misattributed, it demonstrates that if people can find solace or relatability in something, they are more likely to believe it. In a time of revolutionized mass communication with the Internet, the necessity for caution in our online behavior is more dire than ever. Misinformation is designed to warp our perception of the world – the stakes are relatively low with an inspirational quote from a dead musician, but they become dire when regarding politics, science, and medicine. Don’t take unverified, unreviewed content at face value. Consider the wisdom of Albert Einstein: “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.”