It was a cold winter morning, and the stars were making their final plea to be seen. Dawn soon would come and the sun would chase away the brilliance of the stars. In that moment, I felt inspired. These lights will shine until the sunlight spreads the expanse of the sky, and in that, there is a beautiful lesson to be learned: We must shine as bright as we can until light begins to take over.
In a previous post, I wrote about the first words we speak each day; and the impact those words can have on the trajectory of our thought process, as well as the thought processes of those we speak to. The comparison was made to the sun rising each day with a continual promise of hope. In this post, I would like to take that same look into the last words we speak in a day.
We can enter the day well, yet find ourselves feeling worse by the night. Likewise, we can greet the day with discontent, yet find our minds moved toward contentment by the day’s end. The same goes for the words we speak. The last words will remain after we have left or moved on. They will ruminate, be evaluated, and after they have settled in; we may not be available for a response.
I would like to share what I’ve been learning about this idea of last words from my experiences at home, in texting, and in the workplace.
At home. I think about the words I speak to my wife and kids before we go to sleep; I wish them a good night sleep or sweet dreams, and these words serve as a final send off as they drift away into dreamland. The hope is that in saying these words, they will somehow sleep easier and feel a sense of peace. Sometimes, these words are spoken to bring peace to myself, because I may have not brought my best self to my family that day, but I hope that those last words can still redeem.
I drop my daughter off at the bus stop every morning before I head to work. Sometimes there are not many words spoken because it is very early and we are still settling into the day. Most of the time, those last words before she closes the door are “I love you”, “I’m proud of you”, or “have a good day”. But once in a while, whether it is exhaustion or just plain old grumpiness, those last words may be less encouraging or less inspiring; and in those times, in takes only but a second for my heart to break as I watch her get on that bus. Thankfully, due to the age with live in, I can try to change the trajectory that has just been set by engaging in a text conversation with her. We can usually make things right again in just a few texts with a little bit of humbleness and forgiveness.
This brings me to my next learning.
In texting. The words we choose to type hold so much weight. When you text someone, there is not any voice inflection or body language to assist the words; the words are alone, and they can be read in many different ways. It is in these times that the words we choose must be thoughtful and intentional. In this media of communication, we must be careful to write clear and succinct; because every text is left hanging. We cannot read the other persons facial reactions, we are not even sure if the message has been read. I have had many talks with my daughter about the responsibility that comes along with texting. To utilize this tool of communication properly, you must be patient, straight forward, non-passive, and it must not replace a phone call or face to face conversations.
Because of the nature of this style of communication, I would strongly urge anyone to begin viewing texting as an opportunity to encourage the recipient instead of trying to make a case for ourselves. I do believe that in an existing healthy relationship where there is already an established groundwork of effective communication skills that texting can be used for deeper discussions that require a lot of back and forth.
From my experience as 1. Being someone who uses texts, 2. Experiencing people who don’t always utilize best practices when texting, and 3. Seeing the effects of passive aggressive or self-seeking texts; I believe that this is a topic that deserves an entire book. Being that this is only a blog, I would just encourage all of us to be extremely mindful and intentional of the words we choose, and realize that each text left hanging on that screen could be the last words of that conversation.
In the workplace. I have many conversations throughout the day. Some are simple greetings and catching up on what the past days have brought us, yet most are focused on goals and tasks that need to be completed. In these conversations, it is important that the last words leave direction and gratefulness. No matter how many tangents we end up talking about, it is important to bring it back to the common goal. I feel the most confident and energized if at the end of the chat I am left with a clear expectation and an endearing statement of gratefulness. Clear goals and gratitude.
At the core of making beneficial decisions in life, it is essential that we put in the work to establish the core of who we are. It’s easy to lose our way from time to time on the path towards mindfulness and intentionality; Whether it’s stress, anxiety, fatigue, or just an off day. This will happen because being intentional and mindful takes hard work and commitment. Here are two learnings on intentionality before we wrap this up.
Meditation. I’m pretty sure if you are reading this, then you have read some of the same research or listened to some of the same Ted Talks that I have. We know what we need to do, but getting started is the hardest part. For example: we know that meditation is key to a more balanced mind and greater self-control, but the kick is that making yourself do a 5 – 10 minute meditation is harder to commit to than you’d think. There are immediate benefits once a meditation has ended, such as a sense of calm; but the sustaining benefits like self control, patience, and the like are achieved by the continual practice of meditation.
Exercise. Exercise is another arena of life that has immediate payoff mentally, as there is a surge of endorphins that we get from a workout. If we want to lose weight though, get stronger, run farther, look different; then we must stay committed to consistent exercise. Both of these are examples of ways to improve our state of mental well-being. Now, let’s see if there is a way to bring all of this back to the stars.
When it comes to starlight, did you know that the light we are seeing is from the past? Besides the sun, the closest start to us is Alpha Centauri; and the light from that star takes approximately four years to reach us. That means that the light of stars breaking through the blanket of midnight to reach us is an ancient light, and those stars will someday die; but the light will continue to reach us.
This speaks to the longer lasting impact of our actions, our words, our love, and our intentions. We are writing a story each day. The words we leave with others, and leave with ourselves, are setting the course of that story. As the light of the stars last long after they are gone, so our words will outlast us. Together, may we write stories that leave a lasting impact for goodness and inspiration.
Cover photo credit: Daniel Grayum (find him on instagram @dan_grayum)