It's Called "The Present" Because It's a Gift

Today is a gift. That’s why it’s call the present.

Just imagine. There is a bank that credits your account each morning with $86,400. Day after day you get another $86,400. You get to spend it any way you want.

Now that sounds wonderful. But there is a catch. If you don’t spend your $86,400 on a particular day, you lose it. You can’t save it or carry it over until the next day. It’s use it or lose it — pure and simple.

In a very real sense, that’s what life is like. Every day you get another 86,400 seconds to spend any way you like. You can spend it wisely, or you can waste it. It’s your choice — but your choice will make ALL the difference in the world.

Unfortunately I find too many people who spend their time foolishly. THEY WASTE THEIR TIME ON THINGS THAT AREN’T ALL THAT IMPORTANT AND END UP WITH A LIFE OF REGRETS. That’s what Gerald Bell found out.

As a researcher at the University of North Carolina, Bell surveyed 4000 retired executives. He asked them, “If you could live your life over, what would you do differently?” The most common responses were:

* Care for my health better,

* Spend more time with my family,

* Do more fun things,

* Put greater effort into self-development activities,

* Focus more on my spirituality, and

* Devote more time to community service.

They looked back, and they regretted the way they had spent their time.

What about you? Are you guilty of spending your time on the wrong things? Are you putting off what you SHOULD be doing or what you really WANT to do? Are you procrastinating?

I remember the argument that went on in my family — between my aunt and uncle and their son. They kept telling their son, “You won’t amount to anything because you procrastinate too much.” And their son would reply, “Just you wait.”

Other people aren’t so much doing the wrong things as THEY ARE SLEEPWALKING THROUGH LIFE. They’re not quite aware of what’s going on around them.

I’m sure you’ve had the experience of driving home from work, and when you got there, you didn’t know “how” you got there. You didn’t remember passing by certain landmarks, and you didn’t notice anything around you.

Well some people live their whole lives that way. They sleepwalk through life. They get their 86,400 seconds every day, but they don’t know where they go to. What a waste!

It’s like the man who had great difficulty getting to sleep at night. So his doctor prescribed some sleeping pills, and that night, as soon as his head touched the pillow, the man fell asleep.

He woke feeling completely refreshed, bright, and alive. He went off to work with a spring in his step.

Walking into the office, he told his boss, “You’ll be glad to know I had no trouble getting to sleep last night, and I woke up this morning even before the alarm went off.”

“That’s great,” said his boss. “But where were you yesterday?”

Good question. Where were you yesterday? Were you fully alive and fully alert — and spending your 86,400 seconds wisely?

I would suggest two guidelines to make sure you spend your time appropriately.


There’s a poster that talks about this. Perhaps you’ve seen it, but it’s worth repeating. “To realize the value of ONE YEAR, ask a student who failed a grade. To realize the value of ONE MONTH, ask a mother who gave birth to a premature baby. To realize the value of ONE WEEK, ask the editor of a weekly newspaper. To realize the value of ONE HOUR, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet. To realize the value of ONE MINUTE, ask a person who missed the train. To realize the value of ONE SECOND, ask a person who just avoided an accident. To realize the value of ONE MILLISECOND, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.”

The lesson is clear. To spend time wisely, you must first understand how absolutely important time is. It’s one of the greatest treasures you will ever have, and almost everything in your life will depend on how you handle this treasure.

In fact, you should really have my CD on “BALANCE: Any Fool Can Make A Living, But Only The Wise Make A Life.” It will help tremendously.

Second, BE CAREFUL OF SAVING SOMETHING FOR A SPECIAL OCCASION. Be careful of putting off and putting off.
After all, this is the only time you have — for sure. You don’t know what the future holds. So that makes every moment special.

My Grandpa Zimmerman taught me that. Nothing delighted him more than having all his kids and grandkids around him. So whenever we all gathered together, he would run to the wine cellar and pull out a bottle of wine to celebrate the gathering.

Invariably, Grandma Em would say, “John, we’re saving that bottle for a special occasion.” And Grandpa John would reply, with tears in his eyes, “Em, what could be more special than having my family here?”

Even though that was 40 years ago, I still remember his words, and I try to live by his message. Make every moment count. Celebrate now. Don’t put off the specialness.

Ann Wells wrote about the same lesson in the “Los Angeles Times.” She wrote about the time her brother-in-law opened the bottom drawer of her sister’s bureau and lifted out a tissue-wrapped package. “This,” he said, “is not a slip. This is lingerie.”

He discarded the tissue and handed Ann the slip. It was exquisite — silk, handmade, and trimmed in lace. The price tag, with an astronomical figure on it, was still attached. “Jan,” he said, bought this the first time we went to New York, at least 8 or 9 years ago. She never wore it. She was saving it for a special occasion. Well, I guess this is the occasion.”

He took the slip from Ann and put it on the bed with the other clothes they were taking to the mortician. His hands lingered on the soft material for a moment, then slammed the drawer shut, turned to Ann, and said, “Don’t ever save anything for a special occasion. Every day you’re alive is a special occasion.”

His words changed Ann’s life, and they changed my life. Are you savoring every moment of life–NOW, enjoying every experience to the fullest–NOW? Or are you waiting for a special occasion? It’s your time. Use it wisely.

As for me, I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and love — or magic and meaning — to my life and the lives of the people around me. Every day, every minute, every breath is a gift from above — and I want to use it — rather than lose it.

Action:  Take an honest look at the way you use time. Are you totally content, or do you feel off balance? Do you spend more time being enchanted by the wonder of life, or do you spend more time just trying to get through it? Do you spend time, or waste time? If you don’t like your answers, you can start changing right now. Plan out 3 little things you can do today — and each day this week — to make the day more special.