“Somebody 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.” – 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…