What Didn’t You Do Today?


Image by Dean Moriarty from Pixabay

Our culture is obsessed with doing stuff

It’s a crazy busy world we live it, my friend, with a definite emphasis on the crazy. You know this well. If you allow it, between your job, your side hustle, your fitness regimen, your family (or your attempts to either form or avoid same), and just keeping life going, it’s easy to spend every waking moment consumed by activity and effort — until you collapse with a beer and watch Netflix or sports. Which pretty much consists of other people being consumed by activity and effort.

For many of us human beings, myself included, it takes determination not to become a human doing instead. Even the fawning lip service given to mindfulness and living in the present moment tends to come at us in the form of exhortations to Do! More! Better! In Less Time!

We confuse improvement with action

One of the things I truly love about people is that we (mostly) want to do better than we’re already doing. Sometimes that means we want more money or more stuff or more status, but even at our more venal levels of ambition, we share a wish to be better versions of our present selves.

Especially at the dawn of a new year, and in this case a new decade, we’re driven to revisit our hopes and dreams, re-examine our plans, and re-establish our goals. 

Again, I love this about people. Our desire to grow is so strong and our intentions are (usually) so earnest. But we get it wrong a lot, and it kinda breaks my heart sometimes.

I don’t have an answer for what Buddhists would no doubt call the suffering caused by desire. That’s way over my pay grade.

But decades on Planet Earth have taught me this

The value of your day today— if it needs value beyond being the gift of time and life — may have less to do with what you did than with what you choose not to do. If you, like me, tend to set your sights high and be hard on yourself when you don’t hit your targets, this is good to keep in mind.

Maybe your sales numbers or your click-throughs or your calories burned, or your word count or your dollars earned aren’t what you hoped they’d be. You didn’t knock it out of the park today. At the end of the day, you didn’t get ‘er done. 

It’s a discouraging lens through which to examine your experience.

If you allowed something to get in your way, it may be worthwhile to spend some energy thinking about what that was and how you might do things differently tomorrow.

But perhaps what you need is less, not more

So much of success, at any level, is about focus. And that means turning away from things other than your chosen area of, well, focus. So if you didn’t meet your goals today but you also didn’t fritter away your time scrolling through your InstaFaceSnapGram, then good on you. 

Things got away from you and you didn’t hit the gym like you’d promised yourself? You also didn’t dive into the box of donuts in the staff room. Again, good on you.

If you carved out time today to write your novel or your screenplay or your big-ass report, and then watched the cursor blink at you in mocking little bleeps until your time was up — then pat yourself on the back for staring down that screen and not distracting yourself. Understand that sometimes your brain needs some time to incubate before it executes, and you gave it that time. It’ll pay off eventually. Meanwhile, cheers.

And maybe there were other things that were good to not do, and you didn’t do them. If you declined to pass on some juicy workplace gossip, or you refrained from flipping off the @$$hat driver who cut you off on your way home, or you didn’t reply to that alluring, seemingly innocent text from an old flame — because you know very well doing so could singe your current, solid relationship — then, my friend, your day was a raging success.

Be kind as you hold yourself accountable

It’s good to have goals. But you are more than your achievements. And sometimes, it’s what you don’t do that really makes your day. 

Here’s to another day.

5 Replies to “What Didn’t You Do Today?”

  1. Laurie

    Jan, I usually don’t need a reminder to be kind to others; I need this – a reminder to be kind to MYSELF. I am currently reading Mary Oliver. She is such an inspiration to fritter my time away on “unimportant” things, a walk in the meadow, a trip to the woods, even just staring out the window. I need those moments.

    On a completely unrelated note, I tried and failed to find your contact info. I wanted to let you know ahead of time I plan to publish a post on my thoughts on abortion and I give you credit in the post for initiating my recent thoughts on the topic. I will gladly send you the post before it is published. If you want me to remove any reference to you, I will.

    • Jan M Flynn Post author

      By all means, Laurie, feel free to reference me in your post. I know you and I may have points of disagreement on that oh-so-difficult topic, but I also know you will approach it with deep thoughtfulness. I trust you, so no need to send me the draft before you publish. Feel free to link to my site if you wish: http://www.janmflynn.net

  2. Anni

    Amen. I am ready and willing to congratulate myself for getting a handful of little daily things accomplished, even if the big looming task still looms at the end of the day. And I especially give myself appreciation when I have turned what could have been a conflict into a laugh, defusing a potentially unpleasant situation, with either a stranger or an intimate. Seeking patience with myself so it benefits those around me as well is a worthy goal for any day. But right now, I have the latest load of laundry folded and I got another load in the dryer before noon, so… HUZZAH!!

    • Jan M Flynn Post author

      Cheers!!! Nobody’s keeping score but us, so we get to give ourselves all the props we want 🙂

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