Second Key Today is Our Best Day

Second Key: Today is Our Best Day

11 MinutesIn Change, Self Management

However we feel, however it is, it’s our best day today. Live it.

Our First Key is about setting our intentions; it is not about creating expectations. Our Second Key is reminding us that while we may have little control over what happens today, we do have control over how we feel about it

Start where you are. That is what our Second Key is all about. We may tell ourself we should feel differently to how we feel, but the fact is, we feel how we feel today. It is what it is and it is ok. I spoke in our First Key about how when we look ahead, we envision Peak Us: the high energy, committed, ideal version of ourselves. And that, by definition, we are mostly Average Us – which isn’t to say that we aren’t brilliant, but that we aren’t Peak Us 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If we wake up and feel Average Us, this is ok. A friend of mine who runs slimming classes talks about how if there is one dead flower in the vase, you don’t throw the whole vase out – you get rid of the dead flower. So it is with our time and our day: if we aren’t ‘feeling’ it, we are still Average Us, which is pretty decent: we can still do some version of what we planned, even if it’s not the whole nine yards.

Maybe we had plans for the day that we feel have now all gone out the window because of something that happened last night or this morning. First, check we aren’t falling for the “all or nothing” trap: have all your plans really gone out the window? Is there a way to find 15 or 30 minutes to squeeze some thing in? (the answers are often ‘no’ and ‘yes’ if we choose them to be). But if today really has been overtaken by events, you face what you face, it is the day that lies before you. Start where you are.

This day will never be repeated. It is unique. It cannot be lived again. It is precious because of that. And it is also your best day: I write this on 14th August, 2018 and it is the best 14th August, 2018 that I am ever going to have.

One of the ways we can sabotage our personal happiness and professional success is by creating idealised versions in our minds of what we believe our life should be like. And also telling ourselves a story that at some point in the future it will be better. The fact is, today is as good as it’s going to be, and the story will be true three months from now.

Managers and leaders can unintentionally suck energy from their teams with this approach too: ‘when we’ve got through this deal/implementation/reoganisation/process, we will have time/be less stressed/be able to do the longer term thinking/work out how we got into this mess in the first place’.

Often, this nirvana of less stress/fewer meetings etc doesn’t materialise: because “in real life” some other thing comes along to take over from the current Big Issue. This is how teams and people burn out: if I am holding on, to get through something to a point when it will be better, defined as a quieter period with space to think and plan, and that doesn’t happen, I feel more exhausted. I feel this is never going to end, because the Big Issue has been set up as something to endure and get through the other side: but, very often, the Big Issue is the price of our job. Our job is a whole bundle of Big Issues. The best help we can give our team is how to deal and cope, how to thrive or accept Big Issues as the regular occurrences that they are. Who doesn’t love working with people who are able to take the rough with the smooth?…..

Our Second Key is about reminding ourselves that each day is the best we are going to have. There are no guarantees that the future will be ‘better’. Let’s work with what we’ve got. This means experimenting with the idea that there is nothing wrong in the middle of a deal of taking 30 minutes and saying to one another “If we had the time over, what would we have done differently – and what does this mean about what we will do in the next week?”; “If we could do one thing differently tomorrow, what would it be and how can we do it?”. Don’t wait for some time in the Idyllic Future, spend 15 -30 minutes in the Real Present. Because the truth is that today is as good a day as any to do some reflection, and the quieter, idyllic, idealistic time and place to do this may never materialise.

Working with ourselves and others to make progress even when it is not the Idyllic Future, will nurture resilience in ourselves and our teams. It helps to highlight that we do not need perfect environments to be intentional nor do we need to “feel” like doing something to achieve them. I am perfectly capable of making business development calls whether I feel like doing it or not. We can help ourselves and others grow this belief.

“You will have bad times. But they will always wake you up to the stuff you weren’t paying attention to” ~ Robin Williams. When my late husband died, I was almost completely surrounded by people who gave me and the boys more love than I thought it was possible to receive. Every once in a while, people would say things that hurt me – my issue not theirs. One of these was ‘every thing happens for a reason’. My belief is that we say this to make ourselves feel better, to try and post rationalise a situation. Why I was so hurt when people said this to me about Jonathan was because he was completely wonderful and I had never taken him for granted: what good reason could there be for him being taken from us so early in his life?

But I do believe that although everything for me doesn’t happen for a reason, we can give every thing meaning. I have worked, and still work hard, to honour all Jonathan did as a father to the boys, as a husband and my best friend, who I had known since I was 12. Our lives have changed completely and it is hard for me to believe that this life is as good as the one with him in our lives would have been, but, it is the life we have. I can give this life meaning, this life we have got.

I say this now, but as someone who was suddenly widowed, I will be honest that it has taken me years to get to the point of recognising how helpful our Second Key is. I have read a lot of Marcus Aurelius and Ryan Holiday’s Daily Stoic meditations. Openness to this concept may help make your days lighter, your team more motivated. If we have set our intentions with our First Key, our Second Key is about sustaining ourself on this long, fruitful, unpredictable road that is life.

Steps to take

  1. 1. Remind ourselves that today, this day, is the best of this day we are ever going to have.
  2. 2. Whether we “feel” good about this day or not, let’s start where we are, with what we have got.
  3. 2. Don’t delude ourselves or our team that some far off point in the future will be peaceful and perfect. It is likely to be just as it has been over the past few months – though possibly worse if wehave set expectations that it would be different. How can we work with that and what is the art of the possible – even if it feels like a very small step, how can we progress in some way even though we are working in chaos or high stress. This creates stronger resilience.
  4. 3. We can give most things meaning, even if we cannot fathom the reason they happened.


I run team building workshops that explore the Five Keys for personal happiness and professional success. Let me know if you would like to know more.

If you would like to receive these generally bi-monthly Thrive in Five newsletters, sign up here.