In fact, I made it 301 for good measure and because I’m an unabashed overachiever. All the rest of my 2020 goals had to adjust or were utterly dashed based on our new reality in March, but that was the one and only goal I didn’t have to adjust. It was a safe harbor in a stormy sea of change, if you will. In fact, the more I think about it, the SOS acronym is metaphorically appropriate shorthand for Sunrises Or Sunsets, as SOS has been the well-known acronym for distress for over a century, and the reason I started chasing SOS in the first place was a matter of personal survival in a very difficult year after dying (yes, you read that right, but that’s another story). And with dedication and intention, I made it that year as well—with 301!
During my first experience with this in 2014, I learned through long nights and hard experience that the sunrise is about hope. The sunrise is the exact right moment to decide what that day is going to be and remind yourself that the day hasn’t happened yet. You’re in control. No matter how dark or difficult the night was, you can decide how that day will go. Every. Single. Day. Understanding this has been a big part of setting my life’s journey with daily intention. That's why the sunrise is about hope.
I also learned from that experience that the sunset is about reflection. Reflection on the day you’ve just had. For me, this means giving myself 5 minutes to feel the good, the bad and the ugly of the experiences of my day. I let myself feel the experiences of the day and then I can let it go. Not every good or bad moment in life requires your undivided attention, and many times our daily lives don’t permit us to have the experience we need in the moment—which means it’s okay to revisit it later to keep from accumulating emotional dust bunnies. It’s important to feel joy or pain or anger or relief about a moment that you couldn’t fully experience during the day. Most people will just “move on” because time has—but I find most people don’t actually “move on”. They’ve just filed it away in the “unresolved” cabinet of their subconscious in the file folder “things I don’t have time to deal with.” The sunset provides the perfect opportunity to feel these moments, for glory or horror, and everything in between. Then we can move on, so our past doesn’t impact our present.
What I learned from that first experience in 2014 changed my life, and I’ve been casually applying those lessons to life for the past six years. However, because of the commitment required, I hadn’t set a goal to watch 300 again—until this year. For some seemingly serendipitous reason, I decided 2020 would be a good time to recommit, stretch myself, and chase 300 more to see what I could learn.
I understand these three lessons may be obscenely obvious or even esoteric for you, but I’ll share them with you as each one is an important part of reframing your journey in life, which is valuable and insanely relevant given our recent year.
First lesson from this year is time is not linear in the same way we treat it. Yes, it moves forward, but the speed with which that happens is largely under our control as long as we’re intentional and aware. You know how I know this? Just consider this pandemic and how long time has taken. Do you even remember January of last year? Well the converse point to that is think about how much time you actually have. It’s a framing issue. And when you’re hanging with family or friends (if you can remember that), think about how fast time moves. This means that time is a framing issue and that means that our perception of situations creates a lot of control for how we operate and deal with them. Time is tricky that way, short-changing us through indifference and the mistaken belief that time is linear because numbers are and that’s how we measure time.
Next, spending time with yourself is important. So is the way you spend that time. Whether you want to or not, chances are you spent more time with yourself during this last year than you may have ever. The question is how you used that time with yourself. Was it to nurture yourself and your health? Was it to better yourself or make yourself sharper? Or was it just passing the time and lamenting the “normal life” you lost? Straight up: it’s not selfish to take care of yourself first. You have to. That’s why they tell you to put on your oxygen mask first before helping those next to you, so please never think that taking care of yourself first is wrong. It’s necessary.
Last, the unknown is not good or bad. It is just unknown. And people aren’t good with that. In fact, people suck at dealing with the unknown. In my experience, people operate from a fear-based perspective and not an opportunity-based perspective. But not all the unknown is bad. Much of it is what we make of it. We have no idea what the sunrise or sunset will look like every day, or whether there will even be one, but it makes it all the more special because we don’t know. If it was filled with certainty, it wouldn’t be enriching, it would be perfunctory.
The truth is, life is a collection of experiences and our ability to give ourselves over to those experiences is what makes a life worth living, in a person worth knowing.
And even if you aren’t struggling, or none of this resonates with you as a reason to seek out the sunrises and sunsets, at the end of the day, this is quite simply some of the most beautiful and inspirational time you will ever spend on this planet. It’s free. It’s wildly unknown. It’s empowering. And everyone's invited to join.