And in the end, it’s not the years in your
life that count. It’s the life in your years
-Abraham Lincoln,
16th president of the United States

It’s quite comfortable to be wrapped in our little cocoon of routines that give us a sense of being in control of our lives. It seems uncomplicated to stay stuck in our set patterns of behavior – doing things the way we have always done them, walking the same worn path and saying “no” to anything that pushes us outside the emotional box of our comfort zone and then rationalizing our choices. It’s undemanding to dream of doing something daring and different, learning something new and traveling to far away lands. Unfortunately, many individuals are unable to summon the courage and commitment to learn what they need to learn and do what needs to be done to make their dreams happen. And then there is the often unspoken truth – a great many of us postpone turning our dreams into action because we feel that we have all the time in the world. The problem is – we don’t.
An acquaintance of mine is fond of saying, “Drink while the tavern’s open” – and he doesn’t even drink! But, I’m sure you get the point. What he’s really saying is live life while there is a life to be lived, take advantage of opportunities when they are presented to you and get out there and make things happen. Sometimes that requires being a little uncomfortable. Let me give you a personal example.
A long-time friend called me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would like to go fly-fishing, something I’ve wanted to do for years but have always found some excuse not to. “It sounds like a possibility,” I replied. “When and where are we going to go?” “Well,” he answered, “I’ve found a guide that could take us on the Housatonic River. It’s about a two-hour drive. “What time do we have to leave?” I asked suspiciously. “I’ll pick you up at 6:00 AM.”
I have to pause here and say that I loathe getting up early. Not only do I hate it, I am bleary-eyed and not in the best of moods. I get up around 9:00 AM and – I really do not like to be awakened. I am no different than I was as a child: I need my quiet time late at night and I need eight hours sleep. So, my knee-jerk response was to say “no”.
Then I took a breath and realized that – during our thirty-six year friendship – we have never done anything like this together. I also realized that if I said “no”, I would close the door of possibility for us having this kind of adventure – ever. So, in spite of my reluctance, I said, “Let’s do it.” Quite frankly, I think he was amazed at my willingness. At 6:00 AM sharp I stumbled out to his SUV where I was greeted with hot coffee and a muffin. We met our guide and were fishing by 8:30 AM. I caught my first trout on my first cast on my first fly-fishing adventure. We had a fabulous time and, most importantly, we reconnected on a deep level – all because I was willing to get out of my comfort zone, say “yes.” That night I remembered a quote by the Pulitzer Prize-winning American writer Annie Dillard: “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” I felt good.
Over the course of my speaking career, I’ve witnessed many businesses that have become mired in fear, refusing to do things differently than they have done in the past. Most of them have now ceased to exist. I’ve also seen business leaders willing to shake things up, take risks and push their people out of the comfort zone of familiarity. Most of these are thriving. In my private coaching experience, I’ve been fortunate to watch people reinvent their lives by changing their behavior, breaking through fear, taking new actions and living their dreams.
Before I give you a few strategies for living an exceptional life, here are a couple of facts about your mind. Firstly, it’s easy to allow your brain to get lazy and when your brain gets lazy, it stops growing and ceases making new neural connections. That is just plain unhealthy for your mind and your body.
Secondly, your most vivid and powerful memories exist because they were glued into place by your emotions, both positive and negative. When you have new experiences, meet new people and take in new information, you create and store away an abundance of unique, interesting and exciting memories.
Neurons fire, synapses connect and – Bam! – you make those much desired “brain” connections. You suddenly become more alert. You “see” with new eyes. Unique opportunities present themselves seemingly without effort. The quality of your life miraculously rises. You really want that to happen.

Here are 5 steps to help you have new experiences and live an exceptional life:
1) Sit down, right now, and make a short list of the things you have said that you wanted to do but have kept putting off.
2) Choose one activity or goal from your list.
3) Write down one action step that you could take within the next twenty-four hours to make it happen.
4) Visualize yourself taking the first step. Live it in your mind, using all your senses.
5) Take action. Do it now and if you have a problem with that, ask yourself, “If not now – when?”
So by all means, drink while the tavern’s open and, as the satirist and essayist Jonathan Swift wrote, “May you live all the days of your life.”