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The Good Life

A Better Day Tomorrow
by Elizabeth Kanabe

At an internship, I had what seemed a very strange conversation with the accountant, Arthur, about a week before I was to finish there. He asked how I was doing, and I answered excellent, as always. When I asked how his day was, he simply said, "Better."

So naturally, to this I asked what was wrong?"

"Nothing," he replied. "Everything is great."

"Well, then, what was wrong?"

"Nothing," he replied.

To me, the word 'better' implies that something is more right than in the past, and therefore, something must have been wrong since he is now better: recovering, almost, from something in the past.

He insisted that nothing was wrong the day before, but still that he was "better" today. I got the old "you'll understand one day..." and when I finished my internship there the following week, he wished me to "be better" in the future in my farewell card.

I thought about that conversation often, as if it were a puzzle to be solved. How could nothing be lacking, not be wrong in life, yet the next day become better? Several months later, I had my answer. One morning, someone casually asked how I was doing .

"Great!" I replied. "As a matter of fact, life just keeps getting better every day!" And of course, at that moment, I stopped and thought of Arthur. It seemed so obvious there and then, but I hadn't understood that phrase just a year before. Each day builds on the prior day and we move forward, we live life, share experiences, and our happiness grows.

We face obstacles, and bad things happen in life. But we have the ability to be happy. Each birthday should not be thought of as a year closer to death, a year further away from that 20-year old body, but as a true celebration of everything that we were fortunate enough to have experienced in the past year that make our lives more enjoyable and more worth living than the year before. That is assuming we constantly work to improve our lives as we should. We must take active action to do so.

Just because your life is going well now doesn't mean that inertia will continue to improve it in the future if you sit still. People should be open to, and excited for, continuous change and improvement. The most important and hardest part is following through. People often lose steam when trying something, and a week later are back to the same repetitive routine as before--and they are not any better off a year later. Think of how many workout routines are started and stopped, how many people think to go back to school but never do.

I attended a discussion/book signing by Larry Bossidy, former CEO of Honeywell and recent co-author of Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done. He recently received an e-mail he said he'd wished he'd gotten ten years ago: "We act our way into a new way of thinking, we don't think our way into a new way of acting."

What I got out of that is not that we shouldn't think about what it is that we do and why. You must both think and act to grow. Often we realize why something is right and adjust our actions accordingly. But it takes experiences to adjust our views so that we can understand things better and refine our thoughts. We cannot theorize that something will work better or that we would be happier with it: we have to actually do it and experience how much better things are.

In order to really change, you change your actions along with your thoughts. You can think and learn all day long, but if you don't act based on what you learn, what have you accomplished? It is not enough. Not only aren't you fulfilling your potential, but thinking that something will improve your life, taking everything into consideration, and not acting on it, would be a conflict between what you think is right to do and what you actually do. This would mean that you don't really believe it to be true, or else you would act in accordance with it to improve your life.

Likewise you can motivate others or get them to agree that something is right, but if it doesn't accomplish a result, was it worth the time and effort? Were they really motivated? Did they just think that what you said is possible, but doesn't apply to them? Actions and results lead to reinforcement of thoughts, if you don't deceive yourself about the truth.

We learn from others in our lives. Our actions do require thinking and planning beforehand; however, having a plan is never the same as executing it.

Making a big change such as deciding to go back to school is no easy task. But the first step is the hardest. Once back in school, the momentum is usually enough to keep you going. As you start to see results, it is enough to inspire you to want to continue. Or you might reconsider if it was what is best for you, and if it is not, you will adjust your thinking along with it rather than act against your belief. Actually achieving results is much better than just a formulated idea of what the outcome might be.

In addition to trying something new, how you handle change, obstacles and challenges will determine success more than intelligence alone can. Things will not always work out as planned--they rarely do. Those with the confidence to learn from experiences and who have the ability to put experiences to use in improving their performance have a good chance of success and always improving themselves and their lives.

So take a good look at who you are and what you'd like to improve, what you'd like to be more involved in, what you'd like to accomplish-- and make sure that you are taking the necessary actions to get yourself there. This will lead you to a better day tomorrow.

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