Grow and Develop by Living in the Present
Part I of “Edit Your Life” introduced the various “pillars” of highly successful people which are based on balancing components of health, growth, and development, social relationships, and spirituality. Part I also posed a challenge to “edit your life” by taking an inventory of your habits and relationships. The author of the book Conquering the College Admission Essay in 10 Easy Steps had numerous recommendations for a solid application essay. Another consideration when writing a paper is to use the active voice to create more action and authenticity in writing. The active voice is when somebody or something performs the action, rather than having the action done to them.
Active: Jack and Mary adopted a dog from the pound.
Passive: A dog was adopted from the pound by Mary.
Active: The batter hit the ball over the fence.
Passive: The ball was sent over the fence by the batter.
Life is too precious to let things just happen to us. You may not be able to control all the circumstances you find yourself in but you can control how you respond to them and what you learn from them. Albert Einstein is credited with saying, “Learn from yesterday, live for today and hope for tomorrow.”
Living in the present means to live with an attitude of gratitude. It means to remember some of the experiences you had when you were at recess on the playground back in Elementary School. Remember what it feels like to fall down and skin your knees, to be pushed down by someone bigger than you, or to have others cut in front of you in line. Remember what if feels like to be hurt or sad so you don’t cause harm to others and can have compassion for those who are experiencing pain, sorrow or loneliness. Learning from yesterday means to remember what it feels like to make it across the monkey bars all by yourself for the first time, to remember the exhilarating and carefree feeling of going very high on the swing and the rush of jumping off when the swing is at its full height. Remember what it feels like to have joy, laugh with your friends, or accomplish something that seemed too difficult or scary. These are just a few things that we need to experience when we are younger to help us cherish the present and hope for tomorrow.
Strive for personal growth and development. This may mean learning how to cook new food, teaching yourself a few simple phrases in a foreign language, setting a financial goal to get out of debt or starting a new business venture. Any of these objectives requires work and often includes a little bit of pain. Without pushing yourself, without stretching and working (hard!), you will never grow. Living in the present means to create the action. Not be acted upon.
Be present, wherever you are. Work hard when you’re at work. Be attentive when you are talking to your spouse or children. This may mean you have to stop folding laundry or doing the dishes to look them in the eye and truly listen to what they are saying. Put down your smartphone. Learn to communicate effectively and avoid impatience and intolerance.
Don’t live in the past. If things have happened in the past that you aren’t proud of, or don’t want to remember, avoid the temptation to ignore and repress them. Allow past experiences to make you better, not bitter.
Gelb, the author of Conquering the College Admission Essay, says a good essay should revolve around some point of conflict and should offer some kind of resolution. He notes that we all have conflict; we all get into accidents, and bad things happen to everyone. The point is, how do we resolve the conflict in our life? How do we learn from the bad things that happen and grow from them? How does this give us hope for the future?
If you’ve ever written an essay, you also understand that drafts are a necessary part of the process. That means we will make mistakes and fall short of our expectations at times. Remember to be patient with yourself. Congratulate yourself when you make a new recipe, even if it doesn’t look quite as good as it did in the book or on the YouTube video. Be proud of the work you’ve done and the ways you’ve improved.
Writing an essay takes time and multiple revisions. It offers a way for us to learn by practicing and redoing. Life is the same. It’s a learning process. It’s an experience. Living in the present indicates that we should evaluate where we are at. Purposefully, make the way that you live today to give you and others hope for tomorrow.
III. Say what you really want to say
To write a captivating essay, Gelb points out that in writing, frequently “less is more” and recommends finding strong verbs to clearly and simply state the action.
For example, compare these two sentences:
“Jim hung around the sidelines in a suspicious and resentful manner, casting unpleasant glances at Pete, who had taken his place in the lineup.”
Listen to this clear and forceful modification. “Jim lurked on the sidelines, glaring at Pete, who had taken his place in the lineup.”
As you edit your life, evaluate your social relationships. Do you clearly communicate with those who are really important to you? Are your relationships fulfilling? Do those you hang out with make you want to be better? Do they make you feel good about who you are? Are you the type of friend or mother or spouse that you want others to be to you?
When editing a paper, it is helpful (almost essential) to read your work out loud. When you have to give a presentation at work, want to ask for a raise, need to have a serious talk with spouse or teenager, practice what you are going to say OUT LOUD before actually having the conversation. Your tone of voice, your facial expressions and how you say things speak much louder than the words themselves. Psychology studies estimate that only 7 percent of communication is conveyed through words. For important conversations, practice saying what you want to say because the words you use in your head may not sound as good when they actually come out of your mouth. Once you spit out words, they never go away. Avoid saying something out of anger or spite that you can’t take back.
Selecting the right point of view when writing is very important. For example, using a first-person perspective sounds personal, comfortable and grabs attention. “I couldn’t believe it when I saw him coming through the door.” Second person point of view is not common. “You sit down at the desk. You look at your paper. You freeze.” Third-person is like the Bible perspective. “And the Lord God formed the rib which he had taken from the man into a woman…” Do you see how this parallels to life? Your vantage point, your understanding of people and life will naturally come from your perspective. To really communicate, and hence understand socially, you need to be able to see things from the perspective of others. It will be easy to do for some people and a challenge for others. However, learning the art of perspective will allow you to open your eyes and your mind to others in an enlightening and less judgmental way. Try to look at yourself at work, at home, and in the community from a different perspective.
Just like it’s hard to get started when you are assigned to write a paper, taking a different vantage point to relationships and communicating is sometimes difficult to initiate. Don’t worry, there is not a “perfect” paper and none of us are perfect but the more we work on emotionally connecting with people who matter the most to us, the easier it becomes.
Ask the right questions
Writing a good essay means writing about something you’re passionate about. Some provocative essay questions include: What do you consider to be your greatest victory? Have you ever felt betrayed? What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you? What fills you with pride? A college essay is written to help you connect with other people, to understand a concept or nature better, to preserve a tradition, or reinforce a moral standard. Sometimes essays are written to confess or forgive, provide caution or simply entertain. Life is like this. Ask the right questions about your health so you can better understand how your body works. By asking the right questions you will improve your quality of life, experience more pleasure, and feel a deeper meaning and purpose. This is broadly referred to as spirituality. Spirituality has different meanings and significance to each person. It generally includes a sense of connection to something greater than you and provides an increased perspective into the meaning of life. This sense of aliveness and greater purpose tends to allow people to look outside themselves and work for something bigger and better.
Successful people are generally good at incorporating all these key elements: health, growth and development, social relationships and spirituality. So take a moment to evaluate yourself and your life. Make the effort to edit your life and find the balance. Live for today and create a better tomorrow.
To get a well-polished paper, it requires several drafts and scrutinizing edits. You have to read through the drafts for different purposes. Read through the paper once to evaluate the concept, presentation, structure, tone, and flow of the paper. Read it again to look for spelling and punctuation errors. Consider reading the paper backward so these types of errors are easier to pick out of the text. Use computer programs and expert friends to help you refine a paper. Be open to good feedback. All of these concepts apply to edit your life. Listen to your conscience and trusted friends when you need to “fix” something in your life. Live in the present and say what you really want to say to those you care about. Find a healthy balance in your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Leave this world better, because you lived, and create a legacy of love for your friends and family.