Simple Reminders to Focus on What Matters in Life

“Before someone’s tomorrow has been taken away, cherish those you love, appreciate them today.” ~Michelle C. Ustaszeski

As tough as it sometimes feels, change and loss are woven into life. We cannot live a full life without them.

Although both can be painful, they push us into a greater understanding of what matters in life, and they can help us become clearer about who we are since they provide a platform for substantial growth.

Over the past couple of years I’ve experienced many changes as I’ve transitioned from one chapter to the next. The one constant through all of that change has been my right hand man, my best friend: my dog Tucker.

My 80-pound golden retriever buddy came to me at the darkest period of my life. I adopted him when I was suffocating in a deep depression, and he became my earth angel that helped pull me out.

He has been by my side through all the failed romantic relationships, horrible bosses, and seemingly wrong turns in life. Through all the chaos he’s calmed me down and kept me grounded.

After a series of layoffs, a break up, and overcoming drug and food addictions, I thought everything would be fine because Tucker and I had made it through the darkness—until a couple weeks ago, when a veterinarian found a tumor in his nose attached to his brain. The likelihood of it being cancerous was extremely high.

Although Tucker is sick, we still have time together. Through this experience, I’ve learned a lot about what matters in life.

Here are some of the top lessons I’ve learned from Tucker:

Make Your Time Count

I spent so much time trying to be somewhere else—in another job, another relationship, another place. In my effortless pursuit to get to the greener grass, I was missing life. It wasn’t until my best friend was diagnosed with a life threatening disease that I saw the grass I’m standing on just needs a little water.

I realize now that I have been sleepwalking through life. I was awake but always looking ahead to feel fulfillment. I couldn’t be happy with where I was, whether it was with boyfriends, my job, or where I choose to live.

But now, I see things more clearly. Where we are standing right now is what matters. And my personal attention to the moment is what was lacking. Now that I live here, in the present, I feel more abundant, successful, and fulfilled then ever before.

What we do with each hour is up to us. We always say, “I don’t have enough time.” But every moment could be a lifetime. I don’t know how much time I have left with my dog—an hour, a day, weeks, months—but I know I have this moment.

Choose Happiness Now

I believe that we always have enough time, money, and energy for what is most important to us. Disease, divorce, or the death of a loved one are all jarring reminders about what really matters most.

Life happens and forever rushes forward. But the present moment is what we have, so choose to be happy and love right now. Don’t wait until the future to be happy, because it’s not a destination. Happy starts right now by appreciating this moment and fully embracing it.

Love More Deeply

This is our opportunity to choose happiness and love. It will never come to us when we search for it out there.

Yes, my best friend is sick—but he’s still here. I can still hold his paw and cuddle with him. It’s these moments that really matter. Our loving human connections make a difference.

Over the past few months, I connected with everyone I knew and asked for his or her love and support. When we are going through a difficult time in life—layoff, disease, bankruptcy, or whatever—know that you are not alone.

There is power in a collective consciousness uniting together to support and love one another.

The people we show up for, the energy we spend serving and helping others, can make the grass green where you’re standing.

We don’t know how much time we have with our best friends and family. We only know we have this chance, right now, to choose love.

Believe in Miracles

Last week the Vet called me in to his office to go over my dog’s diagnosis. He looked me in the eye and said, “In my 30 years of medical procedures, I have never seen this, but your dog does not have cancer.” It felt like a miracle!

Still, I know he won’t be here forever. This experience has helped me see that all relationships are gifts—and the gift is in what each relationship can teach us. My furry friend has taught me how to love more deeply and be present.

And we can remember that, as my friend Derrick Heine said, “We are not here for a long time. We are here for a good time.”

Photo by S. Reachers

About Shannon Kaiser

Shannon Kaiser is founder of, a wonderland of adventure, fun, and fulfillment. A full-time travel writer, author, and adventure junkie, she inspires people to “love their life to the fullest” and make the most out of every moment.

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  • Renate Wuersig

    What a wonderful article, Shannon! It not only brightened my day, but once again affirmed the importance of the present moment in our lives. Also the way you were writing about losing your precious best friend- I was with you in your acceptance and courage, but also pleasantly surprised and overjoyed to read that your furry friend was found to be cancer free! May you both be well and happy! 🙂    

  • I’m so glad to hear your dog doesn’t have cancer! <3 My dogs are my best friends too, and it's such a blessing to know that they're healthy and happy. 

    I love what you said about sleepwalking through life. I often feel like I'm doing that too, and I try to be more aware. Thank you for always reminding me that where I am is more important than where I'm going. 

    ~ Madison  

  • Carrie

    Thank you for your post, Shannon. This really spoke to me, especially today. I am so glad to hear that your dog does not have cancer. As a “puppy mom” to a yellow lab and golden lab, I do not think there are more loyal or caring creatures in this world. Through the ups and downs of life, they are always there and always love us. We are blessed to have these special pets, friends and family in our lives who truly matter. They are what life is all about. Thanks again for your post.

  • Pamela_rose_c

    well said! So true, thank you!

  • Shannon

    Thank you Carrie. Give your Golden love joy a big hug. Dogs sure are great. – Shannon

  • Shannon

    Thank you Renate for sharing. I appreciate your kind words. XO shannon

  • Shannon

    Madison, thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts. Give your dogs big hugs and kisses. They are such wonderful gifts. And cheers to the present moment. XO shannon

  • St Clair370

    thank you shannon… that was so inspiring…

  • Kisha Lynn

    I love the way you articulated this. I’ve had that sleepwalking feeling and it so easy to fall into that ‘if only …’ mindset. Where you think you’ll finally be happy ‘if only the bills were paid, you had a better house, that project was finished, or you had a more attentive mate.

    Maybe it’s a culture that seems to thrive only in the notion that this is not enough,

  • mbn357

    just had to share my story – when my golden retriever was 5 years old she was diagnosed with a tumor in her nose which they said was cancerous…..we approached it very gently…she took a low dose antibiotic daily, an anti-inflammatory prescription (low dose) daily, and i used prayer and Reiki to help her to heal.  she went into remission and lived happily and healthily to be 11 years old!  i wish you and your best buddy Tucker the best!

  • Elaine

    Goldens are my favourite dogs, they always look so content and are just adorable. I’m so happy to know Tucker is cancer free. This was a true wake up call for I’m looking for a job and have been for sometime and am beyond frustrated and keep saying when I find a job I’ll be happy, the same thing for my apartment I want to move and have said when I find a new place I’ll be happy. Thank you for letting me know I can be happy now! I did however realize that being off of work and getting fired and dealing with major depression has allowed me to take a step back and at times cherish the time I have to spend with my son and taking good care of myself.

  • Lv2terp

    This is fantastic! Many wonderful points, so concise and clear. Thank you for sharing this post/story and tips! 🙂

  • Yuzu

    Thank you Shannon. Two days ago my guinea pig died. She´s been with me for 9 years much like your dog was there for you she outlived my boyfriends and so on. I did cuddle a lot with her throughout her last days and tried to spend more time- buying foods she liked taking her out even if the weather wasn’t that great. It made me realize how much time i could have used more wisely. I´m glad your dog is fine now and i hope he will be at your side for a few more years. Take care!

  • Shannon

    I’m sorry to hear about your guinea pig Yuzu. But you made her time very special. Thank you for your comments. 

  • Shannon

    Thanks Elaine for sharing your story and comments. And I’m happy that you choose happy now. 

  • shannon

    Wow, thanks for sharing amazing how similar our stories are. Thank you for commenting. Shannon

  • Shannon

    Thank you Kisha for your kind words. I am glad you found value in this story. – 

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  • April Hunt

    Very nice:)

  • ChiropracticCoaches

    We should always have a simple reminder what really matters in life. Some of us gets blinded by material things. Thank you. What could be a perfect example for us to be always reminded of the things that are important?

  • Jean

    I, too had a golden named Tucker…unfortunately, Tucker lived only till 4 1/2, but what joy he brought to our family.  Our stories are like mirror images…my husband became very depressed after heart surgery and Tucker stayed by his side and pulled him through a very rough time.  My daughter emailed me this link and I want to thank her for that – she has a huge heart and a loving and wonderful personality and I am so proud of her.  I needed to hear the reminder to slow down and enjoy every minute!  Thanks to you for the reminder and to my daughter, Katie!

  • Really like how well this blog has been set
    out, it has even given me some ideas for my blog. Good job.


  • Ding How Joe

    Thank you, Thank you, thank you…..:)

  • Gabriel

    Something to have gratitude for and I am glad for you for enjoying those precious moments with your dog, been mindful is a great thing same as gratitude for each moment in our lives.

  • Mary Ann Servat

    Thank you Shannon ,beautiful post!!