Are there things you want to do in life? Fears you want to overcome?
Would it change your approach knowing you only had a year to live?
We may not ever know our exact expiration date, but we all have one. And for some of us, it’s closer than we think. This isn’t a pessimistic way of looking at things, it’s a fact. But it’s something we often choose to ignore until it’s too late.
If you truly intend to live life to the fullest , I think it’s vitally important to remind yourself every once in a while — if not daily — that you’re dying.
It may not be the sort of thing you generally find yourself wanting to think about, but by refusing to face this fact, we run the risk of wasting enormous amounts of time getting caught up in things that ultimately provide us with very little value or substance in our lives.
There are more things to do and places to see in the world than any single person could possibly do in a lifetime. So already, our lives and what we choose to experience is a compromise.
A typical lifetime may seem like a lot of time, but time passes faster than one thinks. Adding to this is the fact that we are only teenagers briefly. We will only be in our 20’s once. Our 30’s once. Our 40’s and so on, ONCE.
To think you have time to put everything off to see and do and appreciate until later in life is an illusion.
And then there’s the fact that we only get one body. And it has to last a lifetime. If that’s not an incentive to stay healthy and treat your body well, I don’t know what is. But hey, if you’re not fit or healthy, it’s not too late to try to be.
We get a brain, which we can fill with any number of amazing facts and memories of real-life experiences and not just what we watched on TV. But the brain is like a muscle, the less we use it, the less efficient it becomes.
The fact is, every single day that passes is a day of our life we are trading for it. And we’ll never get it back. You can never get more time, you can only manage it more effectively by living with intention.
This is not to suggest that anyone should act irresponsibly, spend money they don’t have, or live with reckless abandon.
Reminding yourself that every day has value and every day that passes is another day closer to your expiration date can provide the perspective & motivation necessary to help you prioritize your life in a way that reflects the kind of person you truly want to be.
“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” — Steve Jobs
Don’t fill in the blanks for things you don’t know the true answers to with negative things that you convince yourself are the truth.
When we don’t get feedback from an event, we often fill in the missing information in a way that becomes our own version of the truth.
We then refer to this “filler” as if it is the reality of the situation, when it could be far from it.
So beware of filling in the blanks.
Either find out the truth or let it go. Because believing something negative that isn’t true, can not only have a significant impact on how you respond to a given situation, it can also have an adverse affect on your work, your relationships, and your sense of self-worth.
And while rushing from one thing to another — to “save time” — may seem like a sensible solution, rushing through our lives — as if it’s only the “highlights” that matter — is to sacrifice the vast majority of the moments that our lives are made up of.
“One day at a time, this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past, for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has yet to come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.” — Ida Scott Taylor
Rather than be present in the here and now, aware of our thoughts, our bodies, and our surroundings, we zone out and go through the motions — waiting for the moments that “matter”, not realizing how valuable every one that passes actually is.
Because the truth is, every moment matters when the future is guaranteed to no one.
When we live our lives as if the best things in life are always scheduled at some distant time that we are rushing to get to, we fail to truly experience the here and now.
And as it turns out, staying in the moment tends to yield greater happiness and greater appreciation and gratitude for the individual moments in life than constantly reaching for things that are forever beyond our grasp.
In his Ted Talk, Want to be happier? Stay in the moment (video), Matt Killingsworth says:
“Our ability to focus on something other than the present is an amazing ability it allows us to learn and reason and plan in ways that no other species can.” However, … “People are substantially less happy when their minds wander than when they are not” … “when our minds wander we often think about things which are unpleasant … our worries, our anxieties our regrets.”
Just something to consider the next time you find yourself rushing from one thing to the next without being mindful of the moments already passing.
“No valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.” — Alan Watts
“They were asking for it.”
“I really want to make my ex jealous.”
“I’m going to teach that person a lesson.”
“I’m going to show that person how much they hurt me.”
“I’m going to make that person regret the day…”
This line of thinking only feeds a never-ending cycle of negativity. An eye for an eye only makes the whole world blind.
Don’t do to someone else anything that you don’t want someone to do to you.
A better solution? Work it out. Resolve conflicts. Make peace.
“But they won’t let me!”
Then let it go. Because you are better than that.
You can’t control other people, but you can control yourself. You can act in a way that you would be proud of. You can act in a way that doesn’t escalate a situation or perpetuate a cycle.
You are responsible for what you do, regardless of your motivation or how you feel.
Just because someone hurt you or offended you doesn’t give you a free pass to act violently, aggressively, use hate speech, or commit offensive acts.
Find a support group that doesn’t encourage these types of behavior.
Learn to communicate and express yourself effectively. Tell people how you feel without the need to lash out or intentionally inflict pain. Learn to forgive and let go.
Channel your energy into something positive. Set the example you’d like see more of. Do what you know in your heart is right, regardless of the circumstances.
Don’t let what others do be an excuse to behave badly.
You may be hurting. And feeling powerless. And feeling tired. You may be surrounded by people and still feeling alone in the world.
But you will get through this. And you will be stronger because of it.
There are kind people in the world that you don’t even know, who would do anything in their power to help lift you up, if they could. But in order for it to really make a difference, you’re the one who has to do it.
You have something inside of you that is stronger than anything holding you down.
You have to find the strength to focus on what really matters to you. Your loves. Your joys. The things that make you laugh, and smile, and make you want to share it with the world.
You may not always feel like it, but you make a bigger difference in the world than you can possibly imagine. Your smile alone can change someone’s day for the better. And that single day can lead to unimaginable good things in the future.
The ripple effect of a single act of kindness can change an entire life.
You may sometimes feel like the whole world is against you, but it just isn’t true. There are countless people who don’t even know you, but care greatly about you and your well-being. If you’ve ever been smiled at by a complete stranger, then you experienced just a tiny glimpse of this. It may sometimes feel like no one cares, but they do. I promise you — they do.
Life is hard. And it isn’t fair. And it really hurts like hell sometimes. But if you focus on what is within your power to change for the better, you can. And you will.
So please, find a way. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But keep trying.