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Live Each Day Like It Is Your First

By Linda Ward May 03, 2024 Mindset

At age 21, Suleika Jaouad was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer, with doctors giving her a 35% chance of surviving. As a writer, and having survived her odds, she then went on to write her inspiring memoir, Between Two Kingdoms. Suleika is also a New York Times wellbeing columnist.

At age 31, her cancer resurfaced. American Symphony is a documentary about her most recent struggle with cancer and her new marriage to the famous musician Jon Batiste. It recounts the day Suleika’s doctor told her she would require chemotherapy for the rest of her life. After enduring her painful hospitalization and finally being able to be discharged, this was completely devastating news.

Her doctor’s advice when delivering this news was to live each day like it was her last. Her cancer reoccurrence, hospitalization, and prognosis happened while her husband, Jon, was at the height of his career being nominated 20 times for Grammy awards for his music. American Symphony depicts the contrast of highs and lows that life can bring.

Could Her Doctor’s Advice Be Wrong?

After she took some time to process her doctor’s advice, Suleika concludes that it was wrong. This philosophy, to live each day as if it is your last, puts pressure on you to pack in as much as you can in a day. She has chosen instead to live each day like it’s her first.

Give This a Try

What does it look like to live each day as if it’s your first? I’ve been trying this out. When my eyes first open in the morning, rather than my brain surging into overdrive, I pause and notice what’s around me. I feel the warmth of being under the covers. I allow my eyes to take in my room, filled with the daylight streaming through the window. And from there, the day unfolds with appreciation and acknowledgement of experiences the day brings.

When it’s your first, it’s like you are appreciating common everyday things for the first time. My first cup of coffee or the comfort of my chair, are especially welcoming. In contrast, if I thought this day was my last, pausing at all would bring anxiety. I would pause or linger over the simple things in life but would want each moment to have intense meaning. The immense push to make this happen would be squarely on my shoulders. Switching from moments that are my last to moments that are my first, feels strong and empowering.

Birthday Dread

Soon to turn 70 years old, I’m entering a new decade of my life. Thinking of my approaching birthday, I have felt feelings of dread, anxiety, and stress. You and I both know so much can go wrong in that decade between 70 and 80.

My mind races to negative possibilities of health breaking down, losing friends, loved ones, or other events completely out of my control. Since giving Suleika’s philosophy a try, the stress is curbed, and I’m consciously deciding to replace it with excitement for life.

Intentional Attention

Mindfulness is another word for what Suleika is promoting. Psychology Today calls it intentional attention on the present. I’ve found there are several ways to do this. I like to keep things simple, so I’m starting with simply drawing my attention to the moment at different times throughout the day. This is the art of noticing what’s going right, anywhere and anytime.

It feels especially nurturing to give myself reasons to enjoy the day. If you decide to do this, don’t make it too hard. Start by catching yourself in worry, stress, or unnecessarily ruminating over events. Catch yourself when you’re sad, crabby, or dreading something. Then remind yourself to pause and think about what you love or appreciate in that very moment. Keep it simple and easy.

Here is a quote from the article The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment:

“Life unfolds in the present. But so often, we let the present slip away, allowing time to rush past unobserved and unseized, squandering the precious seconds of our lives as we worry about the future and ruminate about what’s past.”

Healthy Body and Healthy Emotional Benefits

The benefits to mindfulness or living each day like it’s the first, appear to be bountiful. Mayo Clinic states that mindfulness has been documented in clinical studies to improve sleep, help people manage stress and anxiety, relieve some symptoms of pain and depression, and help reduce high blood pressure.

What would living this way do for you? Let’s decide to savor our moments. This could be while eating breakfast, taking a shower, or listening to music. Let’s stop looking in the rearview mirror, or looking ahead into the unknown, but focus on living like the day is our first.

Optional YouTube on the Topic

Here’s a YouTube video called, “Living in the Moment.” It’s a bit long but worth listening to as a reminder to lighten your mood.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

What struggle are you facing? When you open your eyes in the morning, is your thinking filled with dread? Do you have to spring into action to fulfill the schedule of your day? Are you pushing to make the day productive and meaningful? Have you tried being mindful?

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Great advice very positive


The YouTube video and music were very uplifting. Recommend watching.

Stella Fosse

Great saying. I’d buy the T shirt.

Lisa N.

I agree that this is great advice. I’ve never liked “live each day as if it were your last” because it focuses on the end. And because it (probably) won’t be your last day. The advice in this article is more positive. Thank you.


I love live each day as if your first. Thank you for this article


The Author

Linda Ward is a Writer and Life Coach living in Minnesota. She specializes in helping mature women find everyday happiness and a satisfying life. She zeroes in on life after divorce, retirement transitions, and finding courage no matter what the circumstances. Her inspiring new eBook is called, Crazy Simple Steps to Feeling Happier. Linda’s Professional background is Social Work and Counseling.

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