What Makes a Fulfilling Day

If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day.
You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.

Jim Valvano

How many days do you spend just going through the motions? Sticking to the routine you’ve become comfortable in? Thinking that you’ve lived a full day because you made it through the day without incident?

But maybe it’s the incidents that actually make your day full. It’s the times you discovered something new because you took a different route to work. Or you actually read that Facebook post about someone’s friend with cancer and allowed yourself to feel for them. Perhaps it’s intentionally looking for the humor that life presents all the time but we don’t look for.

Jim Valvano made a good case for living this way in his well known ESPY speech from 1993. Suffering from cancer and not knowing how long he had to live, Valvano presented a three prong approach to living each day fully. “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day.” These words of his are simple but so often ignored on a daily basis. I’m as guilty of it as anyone. There are many days when I do one of these things. Maybe days when I do two. And to do all three is rare. But there are more days when I don’t do any of them at all.

When you have a health problem or other major life event, conciously living in the present and embracing emotion is often easier. You begin to see life as a finite resource. Your whole life you might have heard that you don’t live forever. But it’s hard to conceptualize this while you’re young, in good health and living comfortably. But being young, healthy and comfortable doesn’t mean you’re living a full life. It just means you’re still alive.

Don’t get me wrong, being alive is good. Living, however, is better. It’s a skill that Jim Valvano seemed to have for much of his life and that he took to a new level after he got sick. Watch his speech below and take notes. Then make it a point to live intentionally. Laugh, think and let your emotions bring you tears of joy or sadness. Done daily, you really will have something special.


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