On-demand TV wasn’t a thing when I was a kid, and there were some movies that were only shown once a year, like The Wizard of Oz, that I used to watch with my mom. When I got older, my then-boyfriend’s favorite time of year was March Madness, so watching the NCAA basketball tournament became my new annual TV tradition.
One year I caught a replay of the late North Carolina State University coach Jimmy Valvano’s heart-wrenching speech at the ESPY Awards from 1993, and it’s stuck with me ever since. While “Jimmy V Week” is officially in December, I always think of him when it’s almost spring—when we’ve settled into the new year, having either solidified or abandoned our big resolutions, and are setting the tone for how we want the rest of the year to go.
Jimmy V is famous for saying, “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!”, but what I took to heart from his speech are the three things he said we should do every day to have a full life. He said we should laugh every day, think every day, and have our emotions bring us to (hopefully happy) tears. It sounds so simple, but are we even noticing when or whether we laugh, think, and cry every day?
Everyone says how powerful having a gratitude practice is, but so much happens in a day that it’s actually really hard to sit down at night and write out what we’re grateful for, for the same reason we can’t just ask our customers and clients what they want: it’s too broad a question for us to get to a specific answer. We must focus on the most important thing in that moment if we want to get anywhere.
So tonight, when you sit to write down what you’re grateful for, ask yourself these questions, and try to recreate the feelings they gave you in your present moment:
- What or who made you laugh today, and how did that feel?
- What ideas were sparked in you today, by whom…and what can you be grateful for in advance if you took action on those inspired ideas?
- What moved you to tears today, good or bad, and where can you find the beauty in that?
To me, these are much richer questions than “What am I grateful for today?”, and once we start paying attention to these things, we will indeed have the very full life that Jimmy V wished for us in his last precious days.
Here’s his full, beautiful speech that I watch at this time every year.