On being in the moment—with a little help from The Three Stooges.

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The Three Stooges, via Wikimedia Commons

Larry: “I can’t see! I can’t see!”
Moe: “What’s the matter?”
Larry: “I got my eyes closed!”
~The Three Stooges

Funny how inspiration can come to you from the strangest places. When I watched a few minutes of the Three Stooges and heard the dialog above, it got me thinking: How often do we go about our own daily lives with blinders on, oblivious to the small but important things that are happening all around us?

Unlike Larry, our eyes are open—but due to the frenetic pace of our lives, we sometimes fail to be totally in the moment. We look at our surroundings, but don’t take in the full picture. We hear someone speak, but don’t listen to all they have to say. We have the chance to compliment or thank someone, but don’t take the initiative to act.

But the truth is, we intuitively know that when we go through our daily lives alert and aware to each moment, our world becomes a better place. We begin to appreciate the small wonders and pleasures that life has to offer—the taste of that first cup of coffee, the sound of bird chirping to greet a new day, the smile of a child or a passing stranger. And we can do more than just be a better observer of life. We can also become a more active participant.

I named this column Wake Up Call with the intent of waking people up from the stupor we can sometimes fall into—myself included. So I’m always looking for fresh ways we can more consistently engage and connect with those around us. It’s what’s what life is all about. (By example, see this story on the merry prankster Bill Murray, who engages with others not just for their benefit, but his own as well.)

With this in mind, I just read some down-to-earth life advice that really resonated. It came from the blog of a young expat American named Ali who writes about her overseas adventures in Amsterdam & Beyond. For the most part, it’s a travelogue on her frequent trips around Europe, but now and then she chronicles her personal life and offers indispensable advice.

She just put out a piece called “Twenty-Eight Tidbits of Wisdom” to mark her 28th birthday—and I think it’s pretty brilliant. Some of the advice is specific to single woman in their 20s or 30s, but she also shares what I would call universal wisdom about living in the moment. Here are my favorite bits, very lightly edited:

  • Stop looking at those dates marked far off in your calendar. Stop counting down to warm weather or the next big celebration. Heck, forget what you’re doing tomorrow. Life comes and goes at an alarming velocity. Savor every second, and focus on moments, not time.
  • Spend less time wondering about who exactly you are and just do what makes you happy. You don’t need a label. Follow the colors you love, the melody ringing in your head. Eat the food you like and be with the people you love. This is who you are. Live it.
  • Ask more questions. And genuinely listen to the answers.
  • Stop consuming and start creating. Paint a birdhouse. Start a collection. Write. Take photographs. Bake cookies. Volunteer. Stop staring at a screen and do something tangible with your time.
  • Live with intention. Find meaning in everything you do.
  • Every day, make time to stop running, breathe, and be still. Life will be still too. Enjoy this moment of quiet and take a mental picture. It will keep you sane.
  • Be curious, wander, and explore without a destination in mind. I guarantee you will find the most magical things.
  • If you need more love, give more love. Bake a friend cookies. Pay for a stranger’s latte. Send a postcard home. The same goes for money, time, friendship, and trust. If there’s something lacking in your life, give it. It will be returned to you tenfold.
  • Live as much as possible. Wake up at 6am to explore a new city. Watch the sunrise. Stay out way too late. Life only happens once.

Thanks, Ali! (And thank you Larry and the Stooges for getting the ball rolling.)

This post originally appeared on my Wake Up Call column at Patheos, November 12, 2015.

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