I love the way the sun goes down each night and comes up again each morning. It provides predictable breaks in the flow of time, creating the manageable, bite-sized periods of life that we call “days.” Can you imagine how it would be to not have days, but just a free-flowing expanse of time? Without the contrast, without the natural endings and beginnings provided by day and night? I literally cannot imagine it. But sometimes, in my mind, I operate as though this were the case. Maybe you do too.
Do you sometimes feel like each of your days bleeds into the ones before and after until they become meshed together in one blob? Do you ever wake up in the morning already feeling burdened and overwhelmed by Yesterday rather than energized and eager to begin a fresh new Today? Does it ever seem like Tomorrow never really comes because you just keep living Yesterday all over again Today? In this post I will provide you with a very simple tool to help you leave the past where it belongs–in the past–so that you’re free to create each new day the way you wish. Sound good?
Most humans spend around 95% of their time in the land of “Has Been.” Our minds like to dwell on what has already happened in the past, because it’s concrete, certain, and we have evidence to show what happened and why and how. It seems more real than the land of “Will Be.” A lot of the time, when we think our minds are focused on Tomorrow and all the things we need to do and what’s coming up in life, we’re actually still in “Has Been” land because it’s all generally the same stuff we did Yesterday.
It is uncomfortable to truly spend time in the land of “Will Be” because it’s uncertain, we have no concrete evidence for how things will work out, we don’t have control over it, and it seems almost fake. Our brains don’t like this unpredictability, but our spirits love it and crave it. That’s because our spirits yearn to Create, and you can’t create in the land of Has Been. Everything we have yet to create is in the land of Will Be. And the only time we can ever create in is Today.
I don’t know about you, but I have ruined so many Todays by letting them become polluted by the mistakes and failures of Yesterday. I think things like, “That was such a stupid thing to do!” “I can’t believe I said that.” “What did I even do all day?” “If only I had ______ then things would be so much better.” “Why don’t I ever learn?” These thoughts, which are all from the land of “Has Been,” are so burdensome that the energy needed to accomplish my goals ends up going towards re-creating Yesterday’s failures. But with a new mindset, you can free yourself from this tyrrany.
The tool is simply this: at the end of each day (or first thing the next day if you forget), label that day with just one word, and write it down somewhere. You can write it in a journal, on a calendar, on a document on your computer, or use the Notes app on your phone (which is what I do). That’s it. Just one word for the day. It only takes a few seconds! You can always write more, and I usually do, but I can feel successful even if the one word is all I write. This tool is so simple and easy that you will probably think it can’t possibly be powerful. But give it a try and see what it does for your mind. I learned it at a training ten days ago, put it into practice, and have already seen my mindset improve, which has created more energy, less stress, and better results in my life!
Try to settle on the label that best encapsulates most of the day, or something significant from the day. And please be more creative than just the words “Good” or “Bad.” Those labels have little meaning. I love positive labels, such as Amazing, Accomplished, Connected, Powerful, Peaceful, Fun, Vibrant, Decisive, Inspiring, Treasured, Relaxing, Clarity, Fulfilling, Generous, Influential, Reverent, Meaningful, Growth, etc. If the day wasn’t so great, you can use a negative label, for example: Frustrating, Disappointing, Lonely, Blah, Hopeless, Exhausting, Loss, Despondent, Confusing, Dramatic, Tired, Strange, Indolent, Flurried, Complacent, etc. Neutral labels can be useful too, like Quiet, Independent, Unbelievable, Interesting, Wow, Unexpected, Busy, Nostalgic, Extreme, Low-key, Alert, or Unforgettable. (It’s not easy to think of neutral ones, but I like how they can go either way. Please comment with more that I and other readers can use!)
So why does this work? Giving names to things makes them real in our minds. It’s hard for us to even think about things until they have a label, or name, or category of some kind. If it has a label, suddenly it Exists as Something. (You might argue that each day already has a name, such as Sunday, April 30, but dates are arbitrary and not personally meaningful in and of themselves.) Giving a label to the day separates it as distinct in your mind from other days that have gone before, and makes it feel “finished.” You don’t have to worry about it or dwell on it anymore because its creation has been completed. Those days with negative labels can be put behind you and filed away along with the lessons you learned. The days with positive labels can be celebrated as a great accomplishment and an example for future tomorrows. And the other days…well, they’ll count for whatever meaning they held for you, instead of just disappearing into oblivion forever.
Since I’ve started doing this, I automatically start out each morning thinking about what kind of day I want to create, rather than just letting the day “happen to” me. This makes it more likely that I will consciously and intentionally take the actions needed to get my desired results. Labeling each day causes our minds to become more aware all day long of what we are creating, and that awareness multiplies the choices in front of us about how we show up in each moment. If the way I’m showing up isn’t aligned with what I’m wanting to create, I can course-correct and salvage the rest of the day.
Recently in church we studied the account of the Creation in the book of Genesis and other scripture, and I noticed that the principle of labeling or naming what you create is an important part of the process of creation. God exemplified it first. He calls each segment in the creation of the Earth “The First Day,” “The Second Day,” and so on through “The Sixth Day.” And He also looks at what He created and says that it was good. Do we do this? Do we acknowledge that what we put forth effort to create is good? I think that one reason we don’t is because we don’t want to seem boasting or prideful. But we need to acknowledge, celebrate even, the good things we create and accomplish! In that acknowledgment we find closure for that particular creation and gain the accomplishment energy to go on to what we’ll create next. It’s a beautiful upward spiral.
So I challenge you to try labeling each day! It really is so easy to do. Just set an alarm on your phone if you think you might forget to do it. Make note in the comment section if you’re committed, to add some accountability. Also come back here and let me and the other readers know what your results are with this so we can celebrate with you! Or just comment with some awesome words that would make good labels. Let’s get a dialogue going!
(photo credit: David Swindler, Action Photo Tours)