One day at a time is more than a song, more than a slogan, way more than a 70’s sit com. It’s a way of life and thinking that is essential to personal growth. Today I want to offer encouragement to all those who struggle with living one day at a time. I want to briefly explain what it means to live in the present, give some practical advise on practicing the habit of living in the moment, and some resources for continuing the practice of living one day at a time.
What does “one day at a time” mean?
One day at a time is a way of living where one focuses on the present and practices detachment from the things of the past and the worries of the future. This is an easy concept to grasp intellectually, but a very difficult one to practice in our every day lives.
Some have a tendency to dwell on all that has gone wrong in the past – and even what has gone right. At first, this may not seem so bad. But taken to extremes, it can be very consuming in both time and energy. If you find yourself consistently dwelling on past events in your life, ask yourself if your thoughts are helpful. If you are briefly looking at your history to use as a neutral reference to avoid mistakes and learn, then good. Move on quickly and return to the present. If you are ruminating, like a cow chewing its cud, then you need to stop and realize that you can’t do anything about what’s already happened.
More harmful is our habit of living in the future. And I use the term “living” loosely. Our thoughts are typically worries and “what ifs” that keep us in a constant state of anxiety and fear. These forward looking thoughts are toxic. They need to be redirected immediately. Again, if you are looking briefly at the future to make a quick plan for how you will celebrate a child’s birthday or writing down when a particular bill needs to be paid, then that’s fine and healthy. But, when you are virtually paralysed by fear of how things “might” turn out if this or that happens, then you are not living in the present and not living one day at a time.
So, how can you live one day at a time?
Living in the present is a habit – sorry if you hear that term from me all the time… but it’s true. You have to develop the habit of living in the present. At first, this may entail a constant evaluation and redirection of your thoughts. When you catch yourself becoming sad about past experiences or worrying about what might happen in the future, simply bring yourself back into the here and now.
Realize that you are completely powerless over what has already occurred and what will happen. You are not God and you don’t have a time machine. You are responsible for your thoughts and actions right now though. So work on developing the healthy habit of living in the present, one moment at a time.
It’s a funny saying that if you constantly have one foot in the past and one foot in the future, you end up peeing all over today. But, this is really serious and a crucial step in living a healthy and happy lifestyle. I’d like to offer encouragement for those of you who struggle with worry. It’s very normal and nothing new in the human condition. You are not alone. But, you must put out some effort to change.
Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.
Here are some resources for living one day at a time.
The best resource is awareness that comes from prayer and meditation. And here is the prayer that I say nearly every day to help remind me of what I have control of and that I must live in the present.
The Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference
This prayer should be memorized and said over and over again. I could write an entire book on this prayer. It really embodies so many crucial aspects of healthy thinking. Not only does it help us to recognize that we are only in control of relatively few things in our life, but it acknowledges our need for God to help us figure out what is what.
It also relates to living one day at a time in a very profound way. We can not control what has already happened and we can’t control or even figure out what is going to happen in the future. God help us to realize that and start thinking and living accordingly.
Further, here is a daily reader book that I highly recommend. It’s not very expensive and it is filled with encouragement, inspirational quotes, sound principles for personal growth. I literally read it every day.
Form the habit of living one day at a time. May God bless you and help you to be filled with encouragement and present with him and yourself in the moment, not worrying about what has already happened or what might happen.