I’ve always been a big fan of getting the most out of every single day. I rise early, work hard with as much attention to detail as I can muster, appreciate the small moments, and make a legitimate effort to complete every item on my daily “to do” lists. In my mind, there are few things better than the feeling of satisfaction you get from knowing you made the most of the day that was so graciously granted to you.
Naturally, there is always room for improvement – the opportunity to stretch further and squeeze even more out of life’s fleeting moments. “Die Empty” by Todd Henry is an audio book I recently got into that discusses all sorts of ways to make the best of every day. In it, the author mentions why the mantra of “live as if today were your last day on earth” can be somewhat misleading (as it refuses to recognize the contexts of every day realities) and why he instead prefers to pose the following concept:
Imagine, he says, that there is someone who has been tasked with following you around all day long tomorrow. While following you throughout your day, this person has been required to take copious notes on your actions, and to report back at the end of the day to submit the day’s data collection as part of your life’s ” permanently public record” made available to all.
He goes on to ask how our daily lives may be lived with more purposeful intention and dedication if we knew our actions were going to become part of our publicly produced legacy. I was intrigued by this concept and the idea that we all have our own shadow men/women to some extent, they being our own conscious and subconscious minds. Of course we keep tabs on our own actions (or lack there of) in our own minds, but that often doesn’t make us any more dedicated to improving the rest of our days. We know we should be capitalizing on our limited time and experiences, however, without that physical accountability keeping us in check, our mental ques have little hopes of being reinforced enough to actually convince ourselves to make things happen.
That’s why this idea of having a physical shadow man/woman throughout the day is so intriguing to me, and I’ve begun approaching my days as if being constantly followed by a meticulous mentor who is eager to learn from my every move. It keeps me mentally in the game, focused on how to make every moment count. Rather than mindlessly going through the motions, I consider what I’m doing, why I’m doing it the way I am, and what’s next. Most importantly, moving forward with the thought of a pseudo-someone keeping tabs keeps me motivated to keep my work honest and genuine. No more cutting corners to be all the sooner on lunch break, and no more abandoning a task at the “good enough” stage.
With my co-workers, words are more sincere, expectations are exceeded, and the willingness to be of assistance is always present. That is not to say that my work has transformed into perfection. Perfection, after all, is not the ultimate goal. Rather, I am committing myself to a level of excellence that I have not yet learned to expect from myself. This mindset stays with me outside of the workplace, as I imagine my “shadow man” following me to the gym and closely studying my work ethic, then heading home with me to see if I am indeed able to maintain the momentum of productivity and progress.
When your every day is treated like another page in the permanent record of your life, no doubt you would give everything you had to making it a story worth reading. You and I deserve that.