In Rogue One, Jin Erso, when faced with overwhelming odds, says: “We’ll take the next chance and the next and on and on until we win … or the chances are spent.”
I like the quote because a series of chances is a good way to describe each day.
Each day we have a series of chances (disguised as segments of time) to tackle all sorts of work, obstacles, puzzles, clues, relationships, and fun.
How do we do this well? And how do we feel good about it when it seems like we have more options than chances to take them?
Below are three ways to make the most of every chance as you spend it.
1) Focus on being present in the moment
It does no good to spend “Chance 5” thinking about “Chance 10.” Tonight I’m hosting a game night. I will have a blast, but also be coordinating food and drinks for 30 people and trying to ensure that the two or three or four games that we are playing give enough different choices so that everyone is having fun.
But that’s Chance 10. Chance 5 is right now and it’s a writing chance. It’s like picking a card that says, “Write about anything you want for one hour.”
Wow! That’s a huge gift. I can spend this hour flipping back and forth between the web and this editor (which I do some days) or I could worry about which games we should play later or I can enjoy this time and create something that others might also find helpful.
2) (Almost) always say yes to time with your parents, kids, and siblings.
Notice that I am not saying yes to ALL people. There is nothing wrong with saying Yes to others. I plan to spend half my day today with good friends who aren’t family.
However, your original family and/or the original family you create for others are more important than other people. These are the people that you will almost always look back with and want more time with. You may think you’re young and you’re kids are young, but that will change quickly. You may think your parents are still relatively young, but soon they will age. It’s just life and math.
Today’s the day you have a chance to spend with them or on the phone with them. Take it.
Tim Urban, in this Wait But Why article, notes that by the time we graduate High School, we will have spent 90% of all of the time we have with our parents (a little less if you live at home for college).
So when your son says, “Dad, do you want to play basketball in the snow?” The answer is yes, even though you hate snow and have already thought of six ways you will injure yourself.
(NOTE: The “almost” listed above is because as humans we do need to set aside time to develop ourselves and occasionally veg, but this doesn’t mean skipping a game with kids in favor of watching hour number 8 on Netflix, just because that’s an easier thing to do).
3) Understand the power and limits of a single day
There are two distinct aspects of each day. One I love and the other I hate.
a) Power: Each day is new! And I love that.
The sun rises and that means that we have a clean slate. We can get better, write that book, make that phone call, walk for the first time in years, or start eating vegetables (one of my new things this year).
Even if I munged every chance yesterday. Yelled at the kids, snapped at the wife, meandered my way through my work day, ate a donut (or three), skipped lifting, stayed up too late, impulse bought a new game — all of that is gone! (well I probably need to apologize to my kids and wife, but even that is a new chance).
And I’m given a stack of chances for the day.
b) Limit: I only get so many chances. This part I hate. (But I’m getting better)
My to-do list has 146 items on it. If we add up the time for those 146 items, it totals up to about 300 hours. Bad news, I don’t have 300 hours for my personal to-do items today. And if we divide up the time into chances, I really have about 9 chances today. One is very large (game night) and will be amazing. Some are mundane (clean BBQ grill for game night) and others are in between.
The takeaway though is that no matter how amazing I am today, I will not ever be caught up.
c) Gratitude: Offsetting the limited chances of the day
The fix to this limit is as you finish your day, remind yourself some of the good things you did. Tonight in the shower or as you fall asleep and the voice-of-shame rushes in to tell you about the chances you missed, whisper to yourself about the “at leasts.”
At least I wrote a birthday message to my friend on Facebook.
At least I read that amazing blog post.
At least I spent the chances that I was given.