Do you remember the movie, Pay It Forward? For a school project, a little boy came up with the idea of paying good deeds forward as opposed to “paying back” for bad things. It’s about being proactive rather than reactive, taking initiative rather than revenge, and making the world a better place rather than living solely for self.
That’s what I’m thinking about on this New Year’s Day. Come December 2015, what would I like to look back on and say, “2015 was a good year”? What accomplishments would I like to be able to list when 2015 starts ticking to its end? There’s no better time to start thinking about the end than right now at the beginning! Starting today, we all have a clean slate, a clean calendar. What would you like to fill yours up with?
In my birthday post last month (57 Things I’ve Learned in 57 Years), the last item on my list was, “You can suffer a little now (by denying yourself), or you can suffer a lot later (by indulging yourself now). Choose wisely.” That is the basis of living life forward. Any changes you want to make in your life will most likely include a little pain, a little suffering—denying yourself food, demanding some of your “free time,” sacrificing sleep, putting others before yourself, expending effort, not taking the path of least resistance, etc. But once you make those sacrifices—suffer that pain—you will have lost some pounds, gained some strength, deepened relationships, completed projects, built your internal core… Next December, you can write in your journal (or however you commemorate your successes), “I lost X pounds this year, read X books, ran a 5K, finished a major project, had X ‘dates’ with my spouse/child/friend, read the Bible through, walked X miles, started taking ___ classes, traveled to ___, etc., etc., etc.” Hopefully, you can see past all the X’s in that statement and fill in the blanks with your desired outcomes. Can you envision your desired outcome? Do you know what you want? If you can “see” it, you can have it!
On the other hand, you can forget all that striving and straining and sacrifice, and indulge yourself to your heart’s content now. Eat whatever you want, live completely for yourself, sleep your life away, give minimal effort in all your responsibilities, be a couch potato, live the easy life, look out for #1, etc. Next December when you’re wondering what you’re really doing with your life (Another year has passed, what do I have to show for it?), you will be heavier, feel and look older, be professionally stagnant, be absent a few more brain cells, and be relationally and spiritually decrepit. And if you’ve been indulging yourself for years, your pain may be significantly greater. You could be relationally and spiritually bankrupt, be physically disabled, be hopeless and aimless. And you’ll wish you had lived differently in 2015. You’ll suffer regret. And that suffering—and the by-products of self-indulgence—is much worse than the “suffering” associated with self-discipline. Self-discipline actually rewards you during the process (ever heard of endorphins?). But the suffering of “what could have been” is not only detrimental to you, but it often affects many other people, as well.
So why not adopt the “live it forward” attitude. Instead of suffering regrets next December for “what could have been” this year, commit today to living this year in such a way that will bring you joy and satisfaction on December 31, 2015—and beyond. Suffer “a little” now so you can reap much later. And then do the same thing next year.
Each day, each moment, live life forward. When making choices, consider “How will I feel about this in 5 years, 20 years, 40 years?” Live with the end in mind.
“The pain of discipline is far less than the pain of regret.” Sarah Bombell