“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time, enjoying one moment at a time, accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.” – Serenity Prayer, Reinhold Niebuhr
This well-known quote from a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr was adopted and popularized by Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs. The first sentence is the most famous, but today’s topic is the second.
The concept of living one day at a time is used to great success in addiction treatment, but it can be applied to any area of your life. This philosophy puts weight on a single day as your only concern for the moment. The past and the future are not where you are, but the present is, so leave tomorrow for tomorrow’s you.
Living One Day At A Time: Take Control Of Your Life
Giving importance to a single day is at the core of the idea of living one day at a time. Today matters and today makes a difference.
When you’re focused on a future in which you will have achieved your goals, you can lose sight of the moment you’re living in and the process of achieving them. If you’re stuck in the past and the scars it gave you are holding you back, you’re ignoring that you have the choice to leave it all behind.
This concept is interesting because it’s possible to look at it in two different yet equally motivating ways.
1. Enjoy living one day at a time
Don’t discount a single day and don’t waste it on doing meaningless things. Being caught in your fears or regrets makes you forget to enjoy the present moment. Let your attention stay on what needs it right now.
Spend every day doing things that make you feel either happy or fulfilled – socialize with the people you love and do what brings you joy, or take one step towards your goals and celebrate it. If you live this way, you will live a happy life.
• It encourages mindfulness
The past is in the past, and the future is uncertain. All you have is the present. You have a choice to live the life you have right now and enjoy what you have, or worry about what once was and what might come to pass.
Missing out on a single day worrying about the next one or the one before is a waste of time – and time is something you can never get back. Staying in the present gives you time. Every moment you spend mindfully is better than the moments you spend waiting for something or regretting something.
Only when you make every day count can you live fully and without regrets. You do this by taking everything every day has to offer. Being stuck in the past or fantasizing about your future is futile – the present is the only thing you have control over.
Enjoying whatever stage you’re at instead of putting happiness off until you’ve achieved some goal is all you can do. Live life fully one day at a time and don’t wait to be happy.
• It makes challenging goals manageable and keeps you moving
When you complete a goal for the day, it will give you a sense of accomplishment. Because goals that are possible to complete in one day will inevitably be reached more easily than some far away future achievement.
Achieving success every day will give you confidence and motivate you to keep going. If you have to take a hundred steps in a hundred days to get somewhere, the commitment and effort it requires are discouraging.
Changing your mindset and thinking about one step you must take today without concern for the other 99 takes away the pressure and lets you celebrate your achievements every day.
Instead of a huge amount of work that stands between you and what you strive for, every new day will bring you excitement. There isn’t a struggle in the future ahead of you, but almost guaranteed success today. You don’t have to do it, you get to do it.
2. Endure living one day at a time
Learning to live day by day is especially convenient when you want to achieve something that requires hard work and discomfort. People struggling with substance abuse can find great relief in this mindset, but everyone can use it to achieve long-term goals in any area.
The reason why this idea is so useful in addiction treatment is because it takes away the pressure of committing to something long-term. Your only concern is making it through today.
• It’s easier this way
You don’t have to worry about tomorrow, next week or a year from now – the future is the responsibility of future you. Instead of thinking of the endless stretch of days ahead of you and everything you must do, you only have to focus on today and your daily goals.
If your plans for the day include specific steps that lead to your long-term goals, reaching those will also be easier – if you work on them little by little every day, it adds up and you’ll get there before you know it.
When you’re trying to achieve something that needs hard work, you just want to skip ahead and have it be true already. This can’t be done, but not just because time skips don’t exist in real life, so you must keep going.
Going through the journey and learning from experience is as valuable as getting where you want to be. Without it, you can easily lose what you’ve got.
Time will pass anyway, so you might as well use it. If you don’t do anything to get where you want to be because the effort it takes is too much, in a year you’ll still be in the same place. If you do one easy thing a day, when a year has passed you’ll be a whole new person.
• Every day can be the first day and a new beginning
The magic of this philosophy is that it gives you a chance for a do-over every day. If you fail today, you accept it, learn from it, and move on. Tomorrow is a fresh start. If you don’t like how you feel or how you acted today, a new day means that you can do better.
When your thinking is focused on some vague future, no matter how specific your goals are, failing once can lead you towards giving up. When your goal is only to get through one day, when it passes and a new day comes, you can try again.
If you stumbled, it doesn’t mean that it’s over and that you might as well give up. When you focus on the future and have big goals, one misstep can make you think that you have ruined everything.
The next day, your attempts from yesterday will be behind you, and you’ll have another chance today. Yesterday won’t have been a failure, either: you’ll have more experience than if you hadn’t tried at all and the knowledge of what to do differently today.
6 Steps To Living One Day At A Time
The idea of only worrying about today might seem reckless – if you’re only thinking of the here and now, are you unconcerned about what happens in the future? But it’s just the opposite.
One day at a time is the key to a successful life. It’s a commitment to making things better.
Living one day at a time can give you your life back. Instead of not trying or giving up because things seem too hard, choosing to do something small every day means you’re moving forward.
You can apply this philosophy in a number of situations, but they’re most useful in difficult situations or when you’re trying to make a big change, such as:
• Addiction recovery
• Weight loss diet
The pain of loss seems like there’s no end in sight, but if you can make it through one day, it will hurt a little less until you can handle it. Having to change your behavior forever seems impossible, but changing it just for today can be done.
This approach is not only for overcoming difficulties, however, it’s also a huge part of being happy. The freedom of letting go of the past and the future and embracing your life is to be happy. Happiness isn’t something vague that will happen to you when you’ve achieved something or changed yourself – it’s a way of living.
1. Start right now
The best part of living one day at a time is that you can start immediately. It’s actually the most important part of it: don’t wait for perfect circumstances or to be ready. Just choose to do something today that will make you feel good about yourself.
Changing your mindset will be difficult if you continue thinking only in terms of what you want to achieve. Let it go and think about something you can do today.
Let’s go through the steps using an example of someone whose long-term goal is to change their body by working out. This goal is vague and entirely too difficult, but you have a general idea of how to achieve it: you’re aware that you’ll have to join a gym.
So your task for today is to do just that: find a nearby gym and get a membership. You don’t even have to work out today, and still, you’ve done something important with your day.
2. Set daily goals
Having small daily goals that support your long-term goals is a key to success.
Doing one thing that brings you closer to where you want to be on a daily basis gives you a feeling of accomplishment twice: once you complete that small goal and when you realize how close you’ve come to your long-term goals after some time has passed.
Instead of a vague goal of becoming leaner and more muscular, make it your goal to show up at the gym today. Look around and familiarize yourself with it a little. Work out if the mood strikes, but take it easy.
Tomorrow, skip the gym but make it your goal to look up exercise programs or find a personal trainer. The next day, start working out using the program you found or with your trainer.
After a week, you’ll be much closer to that gym body you want. It might not seem that you’ve achieved a lot, but you’ve made progress. Compared to doing nothing, you’re miles ahead. Now keep making small goals every day.
3. Don’t be too strict
People get stuck in the past because they don’t want to move on from a good thing they had or because they’re stuck out of shame and guilt. Moving on means showing yourself kindness, and living in the moment means taking control of your life.
This means that even if you don’t succeed every day after you embrace your new philosophy, you don’t punish yourself for it but you simply start over the next day. When a new day comes, yesterday’s failure is in the past and no longer your concern. All you can do is live today.
You’ve been going to the gym regularly, but yesterday you skipped it. Not because you had something else to do, but because you didn’t feel like it even though it wasn’t a rest day.
If you let this discourage you or give you blanket permission to skip whenever you feel like it, you’ll stop going entirely. Write off yesterday as a mental health day you needed and forgive yourself for not completing your goal, then forget about it.
Today is a new day, and you’re making new choices. Be gentle with yourself. You have goals for today you need to focus on that don’t depend on yesterday’s goals.
4. Celebrate your successes
Instead of being sad about your current body fat percentage, appreciate the fact that you’re doing something good for your body. You might not be aware of it, but if you’ve been working out, it’s impossible that your body hasn’t improved in some way.
Check in with yourself and list what’s changed since you started working on your goals. Can you climb more stairs without getting out of breath? Do you sleep better? Do you have more energy? You might not be leaner yet, but exercise has numerous benefits for your health beyond appearance, so let these achievements motivate you to keep going.
Acknowledge the beauty of the small things and be content with what you have right now instead of being impatient to get more. Leave something for your future self to strive for.
Reframe your thinking, and instead of waiting to reach your main goal of being happy, enjoy what you’ve achieved so far and celebrate every small success.
5. Savor the day
Anxiety about the future and being stuck in the past have the power to make you incapable of action. This is why ignoring both the past and the future is liberating. Instead of being paralyzed by what was and what might be, just take a breath and live.
Be aware of your journey and check in with your senses. You only get to experience today once. Do you want to spend it in a fog of unawareness as it passes you by or actually live it?
But how can you enjoy what you’re doing when your days are hard? If you’re in a difficult situation, such as getting over heartbreak, numbness can seem tempting, but it only prolongs your pain. To move on in any sense, you must feel things, take action, and go through an experience. There simply isn’t any other way to heal.
You might not love every moment, but you must embrace it as the only way to get through pain or achieve your goals. Even if those last fifteen minutes on the treadmill feel like hell, you can be motivated by the fact that difficulty means you’re out of your comfort zone and moving ahead.
6. Create habits
Time passes whether you notice it or not, so if you do one small thing every day, in a month or a year from now, you can improve by leaps and bounds without feeling like you’ve put in much effort. Small steps over time add up and propel you ahead without you noticing.
You’d think that instant transformation is impossible, but it can actually happen to you. There’s no magic that makes it materialize, of course, but consistency can make you feel like you’re not the same person you were yesterday.
Consistency – showing up regularly – is how you create habits. When going to the gym becomes part of your routine, you’ll keep going even if you forget why you joined originally. The process becomes what matters, not some future end goal.
As you keep working on your goals, they can change. You learn and evolve along the way, and as your perspective changes, so do your goals. Even if what you planned to achieve when you started never comes true, you’ll be much happier than when you started.
You have a choice to make a difference every single day or let time fly by without moving ahead with it. If you choose to take small steps and live in the moment, your life will change for the better.
‘One Day At A Time’ Inspirational Quotes
“A lot of things have been thrown at me in life, and I’ve got through it all without a rule book, taking it one day at a time.” – Yoko Ono
“Live one day at a time, and never be afraid.” – Tammy Faye Bakker
“No matter how difficult your situation is, you can get through it if you don’t look too far into the future, and focus on the present moment. You can get through anything one day at a time.” – Bob Parsons
“Now I’m starting, relatively, to think straight again. I live one day at a time, one hour at a time.” – Paula Yates
“My motivation is tomorrow, just one day at a time, right?” – Rafael Nadal
“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.” – Abraham Lincoln
“If people just took it a day at a time, they’d be a lot happier.” – Richard Bachman
“Big achievements come one small advantage at a time, one step at a time, one day at a time.” – Jim Rohn
“All we can do is try, do our best. Give as much time as we have to give, one day at a time. One breath at a time.” – Jasinda Wilder
“Life’s so full that you just take it one day at a time.” – Sheryl Crow
Enjoy The Process
Living one day at a time isn’t one of those things that’s easier said than done. On the contrary, it makes difficult experiences easier and impossible goals achievable. All you have to do is make it through one day, take one step, do one thing – it’s enough for now.
Small goals you can easily achieve add up over time, and before you know it, you’ve accomplished something big. Making the best of your time means living in every moment instead of regretting the past and waiting for the future.
Being detached from the present saps all joy from living. Mindfulness makes it easy to recognize your own needs and fulfill them. Seeing progress every day is incredibly motivating. When you complete what you set out to do on a daily basis, it pushes you to keep going and build the best life you can.