Let me debunk a myth. Being a student at Southern Utah University is NOT preparation for life. Your time as a student here IS life. Your time here today, this hour, even the few minutes I am speaking with you, is as much “your life” as the same amount of time four or five years from now, after you graduate, have a job, more money and paid vacations. I have heard students say, in fact I said it myself as a student, once I “get through” college and on with life—real life—everything will be . . . better.
Let me warn you—if you do this. If you think this way, you might create a habit of always looking ahead for something better. Today might always be less in your mind than tomorrow. We seem to have a tendency toward this way of thinking. Once I get though this class—after my exam—after graduation—when I have a job—when I get married—when I retire—then I will be able to live my life. Then I will be happier!
If the next pasture is always greener than the one you are standing in right now then you will always see dry grass at your feet. You will always feel hungry today.
Goals, planning for the future, looking ahead are healthy, and very important, and motivating. They put us on a path. But too much focus on the end of the path—the destination—has a tendency to lead us to believe that what we do today is not as important as what we will do tomorrow. Today becomes merely preparation for tomorrow. It becomes a means to the ends. Today becomes less—because tomorrow is the goal—not today.
I hope you all have firmly fixed in your mind a goal to graduate and that you keep one eye fixed on that that goal. But you have two eyes! I hope you keep your other eye every bit as firmly fixed on another equally important goal. That goal is not the future. It is today—to get the most out of right now.
If you can focus on today, two things happen. First, all of your problems appear smaller and become more manageable. Second, you will find more fulfillment and happiness today. Let me expand on these two reasons to keep one eye firmly fixed on today.
First, life’s challenges are smaller and less overwhelming if we take them one day at a time. Last year I visited with an ultra-marathon runner. He runs one hundred mile races every year. (He also happens to be 66 years old.) Think about that. A hundred miles is almost four regular, run-of-the-mill marathons back-to-back, all at once! “Ready, Set, Go!” and then run until you cross the finish line 100 miles down the trail. Wow. I asked him, “How do you run a hundred miles?” He answered, “I don’t. A hundred miles is too far. I run one mile a hundred times. It’s a lot easier.”
A difficult class—a heartache from the past—a bad habit—a new language or talent—relationships—are all easier if we take them one day at a time.
I learned this lesson as a small boy on hikes with my father. When I concentrated on the entire trail, the long goal, miles long, I became overwhelmed and knew that I would never make it—it was just too far. My feet started hurting. The sun grew hot. I needed a snack, another break. But my father would say, “Lets just walk over to that tree,” as if the tree became the goal. And then when we arrived, he would say, “l’ll bet there is a great view from that ridge just up ahead.” The shorter distance was easy for my little legs. He distracted and tricked me all the way to the top through a series of short, easy goals. In his way of moving forward the goal was right in front of me all the time rather than miles away.
And ever since that day when I have something too large for me to accomplish or work through I have been tricking myself to the finish line in the same way my father use to do. The trail was no longer a burden it became a delight. It became the best part.
Second, there is more enjoyment in taking one day at a time. Completing a class can only occur once every semester. But learning something awesome can occur every day in that class! If you focus too much on graduation you tend to look over today and take the path of least resistance—driven to the goal. Perhaps you take the most convenient general education classes—the easiest—the most familiar—the least challenging.
When today is your goal—getting the most out of today—you are more likely to stop on the sidewalk and smile at someone from another country and make a friend. You are more likely to take a risk—like you’ve never learned a new language so you take Chinese or French—you have never played a musical instrument or painted a picture or thrown a pot or slept in a sleeping bag or gone rock climbing or read Aristotle or seen a Shakespeare play . . . the list is as long as there are people in this room.
Like the hike with my father—he made it a beautiful walk and shifted my focus from the heat of the day and length of the trail to interesting rocks and trees and beautiful flowers and clouds and all the other wonders along the way. He helped me see the beauty in the moment.
Our goal here at Southern Utah University is to plant flowers along your path—great learning opportunities—clubs—study abroad—internships—mentors—new friends—many of whom are very different than you. Your goal should be to find the flowers.
If your goal is to find the flowers—to make the most of today—you are more likely to get the most out of today.
And life is a series of todays!
Today is the most important day of your life. Have a great one!
Learn more about President Wyatt here.