Daily Practices to Improve Your Life by Brook Noel

This past weekend was a very reflective one for me–and quite a few of our friends and family members. Every year in the small town where my mother, brother and I grew up (about 5 hours north of where I live presently), a water ski barefoot tournament is held in honor of my brother’s memory (he was an INCREDIBLE barefoot water skier–one of the best there is)!. These tournaments started in 1999 and we just had the 7th one this past weekend. This weekend was especially significant because we have had Caleb’s ashes for nine years and with his closest friends, we chose this year to spread them in the water

There are some things I must explain about “Up north” for you to understand the story and lesson I would like to share. This heavily-wooded little town holds about 600 people year round and thousands in the summer. Its main attraction is a chain of 9 lakes connected by channels. If you have a boat or love the water–this is the place to be.

Life moves at a slower pace there–or maybe life goes at the pace it should and we just move faster elsewhere. There aren’t any drive-through fast-food options for over 25 miles, so you actually have to plan what you are going to do for meals. Stores still close at 4PM and 5PM so commitments don’t eat into the nighttime hours. There isn’t a gym or fitness center for miles — so you’ll see  many people swimming in the lake, walking, jogging, or biking. Hotels don’t have high-speed internet (that’s why I was so quiet LOL!) and there isn’t a Best Buy to grab a new computer game to keep a young one busy.

Despite all these “missing things” there is one thing you will notice as soon as you set foot in this little unincorporated town. People are connected. People laugh together, share  together, work together. When tragedy strikes, people help and grieve together.  Inside the slow pace something incredible happens–people live together instead of apart, and they cherish the moments versus missing them. After spending a weekend in “the woods,” it is easy to see why there is a voluntary simplicity movement where people are trading the fast-paced life for personal peace. Yet, living in “the woods” isn’t for all of us–and it isn’t for me (Could you imagine my life without high-speed internet – LOL)! So as I packed up my suitcase and returned home yesterday I packed 3 things I noticed that we can implement daily no matter where we live, that will enrich our lives.

Go with the flow – Sara was with me on this journey up north (some of you know Sara from the Health Challenge). By day 2 we had to chuckle as we discovered how “unwired” we were! Our hotel didn’t have a hairdryer or shampoo; we didn’t have high-speed; our cell phones were out-of-area in many places; and every task we had to complete for the tournament required at least 40 miles of driving round trip. We had the choice to “go with the flow” or become stressed because of what we needed to do, yet couldn’t get done. After washing my hair with a 1/8-inch thick bar of hotel soap, Sara and I connected for the daily duties. We both held the same attitude of going with the flow and letting the days unfold versus trying to create a “certain day.” For both of us, this made a big difference in our ability to enjoy and cherish the many moments that were to come.

Apply it to your life: How often do you get stressed versus going with the flow? How often do you focus on things outside of your control? How often do you try to create a certain memory or day versus letting the day unfold and bring its gifts to you? For at least 5 days each week, start your day with good intention and a solid plan of action, but when things go awry or off-plan, don’t miss the gifts the day might have in store because you are so busy trying to “push” the day back into something that it just isn’t.

Put people at the center – We are all susceptible to the paradox of living our lives backward. We put our to-do’s at the center of our life and put spending time with those we love AFTER we meet our to-do’s. Often, that can mean that our time with others is cut short when our commitments exceed our time limit. While certain time and seasons will require more to-dos than others, we must maintain our connection to the people we love.

Apply it to your life: Which people are at the core of your life? Family? Friends? List them out by name. As you look at your week, are you spending enough time with the people that matter most to you? Avoid letting your to-dos take away spending the time with the people that make life worth living and to-do’s worth doing.

Schedule living for today instead of tomorrow – Similar to the above concept, we often put off what we truly want and desire to do for once our must-do list is complete. Must-do lists are never complete–at least not while we are living! Take time every day, even if it is just a little bit of time, to do something you want-to-do. “Tomorrows” are not promises–just hopes. Today is our only guarantee. Let’s live it while we have it.

Apply it to your life: Where have you sacrificed your want-to-dos for your must-dos to the point that you never arrive at your want-to-dos? How can you incorporate some of your want-to-dos daily?

Leave a legacy: As I mentioned earlier, the weekend was spent holding this memorial tournament for my brother. For various reasons which are too lengthy to explain, there was some confusion over the coordination of the annual tournament this year. In fact, just two short weeks ago it didn’t even look like there would be a tournament. When word got around that the tournament might be cancelled, people voluntarily stepped up on their own and made it happen. Some of the people that became involved were his friends, others never knew him but knew of him. Stores made donations of food and raffle prizes. Sponsors stepped up without being asked. Celebrations were scheduled. Permits, insurance, ski boats, skiers – the laundry list of things needed for a tournament seemed to appear out of “thin air” from caring hearts.  When we arrived Friday evening a local restaurant had a celebration in his honor playing videos of his ski performances, giving away free food and free T-shirts that said “Footin’ in the Clouds.” (Footin’ is short for barefoot waterskiing.) What couldn’t be denied was how many people this simple soul had touched in his 27 years of living.  Nine years after his death, he is as present in that community as ever, touching lives and bringing out the best in people. One can only leave a legacy like that by fully living each day and caring and embracing those around them.

Apply it to your life: You can’t leave a legacy if you are living in the future – you can only create a legacy by living each day fully. What can you do to stay more in touch with each day and truly embrace its gifts?

Try it! Choose one or more of the lessons I brought home and write it out on an index card and post it where you will see it often. Remember that tomorrow is determined by today. Make today count–and challenge life!

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