When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like, "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. - Steve Jobs
Of all the things said about Steve Jobs after his death, this particular quote stands out. It's not the usual touchy-feely cliché that people quote but are incapable of taking to heart. Jobs makes a really important distinction here about following your bliss and flippantly running from problems. He essentially says that life can throw crap at you, and you can expect that. It's when you face crap day after day that you need to figure out where change is possible.
Jobs also brings up a truth that we seem to dismiss in our culture. For reasons I can't understand, we celebrate misery like it's some kind of badge of honor. What do you win for allowing yourself to stay in a crappy situation?
Acknowledging the need for change is something that requires courage. Fear gets in the way. I can't tell you how many times in my life I've allowed fear to keep me in a suboptimal relationship or a job where I was just treading water.
In the absence of courage, I find that there are other things that help you along. Some of it is just sheer experience, and the knowledge that you've been there and survived hard decisions. Even more important is perspective. When you're knee-deep in bullshit, it can be the simplest things you encounter. I have these moments every day. Watching Simon walking up stairs, alternating feet, is an ordinary occurrence, but it's the kind of thing that really matters in life.
I'm not getting any younger. I need to be asking myself that question every morning.