We’re a number obsessed bunch. 10 Things to Do Today To Make You a Better Person Before You’re 90 might have been a more attractive title for this, and may have gotten me more likes on Facebook. I could then feel very proud about the number of likes and brag about them to my non-existent cats. I have 3.14 of those. I could then have counted my comments, looked at engagement figures on all my social channels, fawned over the analytics data showing me how many people seemingly visited my site for my new article, and after all that I’m sure I’d have felt at least 57% better about myself, would have been 31% closer to completing my bucket list, would have 2% more followers on Twitter, and would have a 17.3% greater chance of happiness than the top 95 percentile of my peer group.
But I was never great with numbers, so I ask myself, and you, a more difficult question. What should you do today?
I’m writing this in February, so the new year‘s sheen has dulled a bit, you’ve put aside your written or imagined long letter to yourself about how the previous year went. In it you were patting yourself on the back or kicking yourself in more sensitive areas of your anatomy, but now you’ve gotten past all the stuff you did wrong or right last year. You’ve moved on.
Unfortunately, you’ve also moved on from your resolution to wake up earlier every day and exercise this year, to learn the language of that obscure Amazonian tribe just to be a more interesting person, to read a book every night, to eat healthier, and to watch less videos of my 3.14 imaginary cats on YouTube for fear of missing out.
Now you’re settling into the trotting stage of the year, everything on auto-pilot till June hits and you have a mild panic attack about half the year being over and how you must do something. The same is repeated in the second half of the year, of course.
Does all of this sound familiar?
We obsess over numbers, and obsess over dates on the calendar to divide our sense of time into inconvenient long stretches of complacency. Our shorter days are reduced to more numbers. So many numbers. So busy. Hours in a meeting. Kilometers driven. Number of screaming children herded. Dozens of reports submitted. Gazillions of points scored on Candy Crush. Thousands of emails cleared from your inbox. And yet, sometimes, when you’re being honest with yourself, you do ask: What did I actually do today?
The answer to that for most of us is “a lot” and also “nothing”. It’s the world we’ve built, and while we can go into an unending discussion about economics, history, technological development and society as a machine, all you care about, and should care about for now, is you, and this day.
Here is today. A finite amount of time with a natural beginning, middle and end. A perfect setting for the story you will weave around it no matter what. In this day are You, the only thing that matters because it is the only one you can actually control. What should you do today?
Two things. Yes, just two. Do something of value for yourself, and do something of value for another person before the day ends. That is all.
Value is not money. Value is something more human and universal. Earning money is not of value to yourself in the way I mean, though it can help sometimes. Similarly, giving money to someone is not always of value to another person. You’re going to have to go beyond that. Money is easy. Money is inexpensive.
To be of value, you must give something that makes the person think, feel and be better. That something need not be tangible and is often not, but it must be given freely and with no expectations. You must do the same for yourself. Have you done something to make yourself think, feel and be better today? Have you done something to make someone else think feel and be better today? Those are the only questions that matter.
In case you worry, let me assure you that value is not a scarce or subtractive commodity. Giving it does not deplete it from your reserves. In fact, in some cases giving it may increase how much of it you have and get, so give it freely and with pleasure.
Today, I’m in better shape than many other days in this department. Sitting down to write this is half of things I should do today covered. That leaves one, but there are more hours, minutes and seconds in a day than we realize, and it takes less of them to be of value than we can imagine. So my day is young, as is yours, whatever be the time on the clock.
Have you done what you should do today?