How To Live Like You Were Dying

โ€œSomebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.โ€ – Pope Paul VI

…only so many tomorrows… hmmmmm….

It’s tough to think about, but death is the only constant theme in life. As the rest of life can be unpredictable, death will surely come. It has been written and discussed in every era, every generation, every creed, every culture, every nation. In a strange sense, death is the one fact of life that binds us all together as human beings…

My last surviving grandparent passed away last year and it really rocked me. It got me really reading a lot on the subject from Plato to Tuesdays With Morrie.

And of course it has got me thinking about how I am living my life now.

And all this thinking of living in the moment has got me doing some things I wouldn’t otherwise do. It has changed my mindset and I think it has lead to me living a better life. Here I give you just a few of my thoughts on how to live like you were dying.

Do It Now! – There is no better time than the present moment. What are some things you have been thinking of doing? Take a few moments to get them in your head………

For me, I decided that I needed to spend some more time with my family. I live on the other side of the country from my family and I am lucky if I see them twice a year. So when the opportunity presented itself I took the chance to take a 6 week working vacation to visit my family and be near them. I tell you what, there really isn’t a better time then now.

Seize the Opportunity – Opportunities are those things that may present themselves once in a lifetime and in a very small window of time. One thing that those close to death readily admit is that they wish they would have taken more risks in their life. They wish they would have taken the opportunity when it presented itself instead of sticking with their “safe” lifestyle to that point.

For me, I was presented with the opportunity to be a camp counselor years ago. It was something I’ve always wanted to do, but I was hesitating to take it. Why? I was hoping to advance in my job and career and taking a summer off didn’t seem like the right thing to do. Conflicting goals indeed! Well guess what, I took the opportunity and loved it!

It’s one of the life choices I made that I am most happy about. And, it only helped advance my career. I put it on my resume and I believe that it really helped me to get noticed by a company that I enjoyed working for. This one job and company did more to help me advance my business skills and career than any other to this day. Nearly everything in my career has been built on that one choice to be a camp counselor for a summer. And it has made all the difference!

Never Give Up! – One of my favorite quotes is still Winston Churchill’s quote about never giving up. But I just found another really good one about the subject…

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” – Thomas Edison

Now that guy knows how to succeed by never giving up. He finally created a useful light bulb after thousands of failed tries. Thank God he never gave up because you wouldn’t even be reading this on your computer screen if it wasn’t for him.

I tend to give up easy on things and this is certainly an area for me to work on. The first thing that pops into my mind about never giving up was running on my track team in high school. Despite being a shorter guy I decided to run hurdles because it was an area of weakness for our team. It gave me a chance to compete.

My freshman and sophomore years were spent getting good at the hurdles. By my junior year I was starting to get really good and I was winning a few medals. I even watched my coach put one of the sprinters on hurdles with us. Although he was slightly faster then me he had a very high rate of crashing. Sure enough he crashed at a crucial meet and never ran the hurdles again.

I came back my senior year determined to win and I did. I came up big for my team by winning a few first place medals. My fellow running mates were amazed by me and I finally had the girls cheering for me in the stands. It felt really good.

I proved to myself that, despite being shorter, I could still run competitively in the hurdles by having perfect form, by getting off the blocks faster than anyone, and just by never giving up!

Gain a Long Term Perspective – I can’t say I absolutely knew I would be a great hurdler if I just tried hard enough, but I did it because I loved it, and because I knew I could. I figured if I did it for 4 years I would get good and I did. It’s the same with anything. Try taking the long term perspective and you will see what I mean.

I think that it is safe to say that most of us have a short term perspective. I do include myself in the bunch. After talking about “doing things now” and “seizing opportunities” I think it is healthy to balance that by saying we need to have a long term perspective.


Because of the guaranteed challenges and disappointments we will face in life.

We can try to do it now and we can try to seize opportunities, but sometimes they flat out won’t work. Or if they will work we realize that it is going to be a long run before we achieve anything of significance. At this point we give up. Hence why I said a crucial element to living like you were dying is to never give up…

You could die tomorrow or you could live another 50 years. You just don’t know. Therefore, you have to live accordingly. You have to live for both perspectives. Live like you could die tomorrow, but also live like you will be on this Earth a long time. It may seem like a thin line to walk, but it is more of a healthy balance.

Having a long term perspective means we will invest our time wisely, our money wisely, and our resources wisely. We will want to protect and preserve the Earth rather than just use it up. Hopefully it makes us think more about the next generation than ourselves.

Approaching 30 has given me more of this perspective. It has helped me think more about how I am going to have a home paid for before I retire, and how I am going to spend the most time with my family and friends before they are gone. And how I am going to do the things I have always wanted to do as soon as possible. Remember that life affords us a small window of time for many things.

Know Thyself – In the end, to live life like you were dying, you must know yourself through and through. So much of our early life is spent on self discovery that it is ridiculous. And to a certain degree there are plenty of adults who don’t really know themselves.

After all this time of pursuing my own self discovery I have “discovered” that it is more about being comfortable with who you are rather than actually discovering who you are.

In coming to know yourself you will eventually, if you haven’t already, run right into the problem of accepting yourself as you are and being comfortable with it. In other words, accepting your place in life.

There is nothing wrong with striving for an ideal in life, but it needs to be your ideal and not society’s ideal. In coming to know ourselves we often decide that who we are is who society says we are, or who our culture says we are. While this may be true, it can also easily be untrue.

I truly believe that your sub-conscious has a way of telling you whether or not you are being true to yourself. Of telling you whether you are living your life on purpose or just by accident. “To each their own” I say, but hopefully it is their own and not someone else’s.

At the very end of the day life is what we make it. We come into this world with a number of connections… Our genetics, place of birth, social economic status, personality, family, etc. …But we leave with our legacy. And who knows how far reaching that may be.

You never know the full impact you will have on this Earth. But it is healthy to think about it. And so I think and feel, that the best way to live…. is to live like you were dying…

27 thoughts on “How To Live Like You Were Dying”

  1. The subject of this post has been covered in many ways, as it should, and I always am drawn to it.

    As a financial planner, I incorporate “life planning” into my process. Part of life planning, as with conventional planning, is to begin at the end.

    How do you want to be remembered (by God, your peers, your family, your children)? What will they say at your funeral?

    If you knew you were dying tomorrow, what did you not get to do?

    If 100 people were chosen at random, how many of those people do you think would be leading a more satisfying life than yours?

    For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

    Do you have any specific long-term goals? What is one and how do you plan on reaching it?

    How much do you try to live now as you think you will one day wish you had lived?

    If you were given five years to live, and be in good health during those years, what would you do? Why aren’t you doing those things now?

    “Ultimately man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked.” ~ Viktor Frankl

    “We say that the hour of death cannot be forecast, but when we say this we imagine that hour as placed in an obscure and distant future. It never occurs to us that it has any connection with the day already begun or that death could arrive this same afternoon, this afternoon which is so certain and which has every hour filled in advance.” ~ Marcel Proust
    .-= Kent @ The Financial Philosopher´s last blog ..Procuring Freedom With a ‘Razor’ =-.

  2. Great post. Very interesting perspective on how to live your life. I’ve been going through my own set of challenges with this because of having just finished grad school so I really appreciate your advice.
    .-= Srinivas Rao´s last blog ..The Power of Your S.M.I.L.E =-.

    1. @ Kay – Thanks! Your words are much appreciated!

      @ Srinivas – Thanks! I am glad this was helpful. If you ever want to talk about grad school, or your career or anything let me know.

      @ Kent – Always full of wisdom to share. Im going to write down these questions and answer them for myself later. I might also post my answers on here. Or I might make this a totally separate post and ask everyone to answer them. What do you think?


  3. Thanks, Jeremy! Your idea about having the readers answer questions is excellent! It seems too many bloggers simply provide answers or gimmicky lists. When questions are asked, the readers are instead provoked to think for themselves and to provide their own answers.

    Since you asked, here are a few blog posts for your reference, should you decide to post a list of questions for readers:

    A post on “life planning” and how to begin the formation of your own life plan, including links to other resources, such as “mission statement builders”:

    A post filled with questions that really makes the reader think about who they are and where they want to go:

    I hope that helps!


    .-= Kent @ The Financial Philosopher´s last blog ..Procuring Freedom With a ‘Razor’ =-.

  4. The thoughts You shared with everyone are nice philosophically accurate ideas. I think You are close with british philosopers such as Jeremy Bentham or John Stuart Mill. But I would warn You about Plato… His ideas are very radicall and not without a reason he is known to be the father of every totalitarism. I would reccomend Aristotle of Stageira. He is much more open-minded and actual.

  5. @ Bajki – Thanks for visiting and leaving all those awesome comments! I think you are probably right. I have read nearly all the philosophers and have gleaned a lot from them. This of course is my take from both my readings and my personal experience.

    @ Miss Dieting – I do plan to write more. The summer has been much busier than expected and with fall and winter approaching I imagine I will be spending more time indoors writing.


  6. ultimately ,all is vanity .to quote the old time phylosofers and writers ,but from my perspective as a person who has worked in aged care for the last 12 years .id like to say that when you are close to death its painfull .maybe some people will look back on their life and wish they did things different,most just wish it was the end we are the sum of all the things we experienced .you can make long term plans for your financial security but who is to say what will happen in50 years can choose to live life full tilt and leave a well preserved corpse at the end ,but who can say wheather you will end up as a vegetable lying in bed for most of your life. as john lennon said is what happens to you while you are making other plans.I think self discovery is the beggining of your journey,but in the end life is to be tasted its there for us ,because the little bit of time we have alloted to us goes very quickly .bechir

  7. It’s strange how Death can hit us all in different ways. And the news of finding out that you will be dying soon, can have different effects on people. Some people upon hearing that they will be dying soon, will just totally fall apart, and give up at life, and while someone upon hearing this news, will try live like a king in the rest of the days they have on earth. If I were to hear this news, I would certainly try my best to live life like a King.

    Now, as far as having the mindset of living your life like it were the last day or that you were dying soon, I do agree with you that we should try to live life the fullest!

    I did enjoy reading about your track experiences, I used to be a long distance runner on the track team, and I can relate to your experience, about never giving up =D

    Till then,


  8. I remember those lyrics, Live Like You Were Dying from the album Live Like You Were Dying of Tim McGraw

    “like tomorrow was a gift
    and you got eternity
    to think about
    what to do with it
    what could you do with it
    what can I do with it
    and what would I do with it”

    Great post, thanks for taking the time to write this article.
    .-= Furniture´s last blog ..Laredo Living Room Leather Chair =-.

  9. Jeremy,

    having recently lost my own Father and fast approaching 40, I too have been gaining a sense of my own mortality. But as you point out, it’s not over till it’s over.

    As Tim Robbins’ character in the Shawshank Redemption said you either “get busy living or get busy dying…” Not much of a choice really, I’ll take living every time.

    All the best

    .-= Will´s last blog ..Holy Bongo Playing Greek Philosophers! =-.

  10. Keep up the good work! Look forward to reading more from you in the future. I think it will be also nice if you add “send to email” tool so people can forward the articles to their friends easily.

    1. @ LinZi – The “share/save” tool at the bottom of the article does it all! The 2nd tab has an email option and in that tab the bottom button allows you to use any email. Hope that helps.


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    1. Hi Tyson,

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