A common way to clarify what you want in life is by imagining yourself on your death bed. Similarly, Dr. Stephen Covey invites readers of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to imagine their own 80th birthday party.
What kind of legacy would you like to leave behind is the idea.
Although imagining your life with the end in mind is helpful, and indeed motivating, I’ve recently found a better mental exercise.
However, before I go any further, I challenge you to stop for a minute. Don’t just quickly consume this article.
Take 4 seconds to clear your mind. Take a few deep breathes. This won’t take long. But I challenge you, as much as you can, to actually feel this experience out. Truly put yourself in this situation, and experience it as fully as you can.
While reading this article you feel a pain in your chest. You go to the doctor are informed you have terminal cancer. There’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it. You have 30 days left to live.
One month from today, you won’t be with us anymore.
Here’s the kicker, you can’t tell anyone.
How would you spend those 30 days?
Don’t read any further.
Honestly think about this for 30 seconds. Close your eyes. Feel it. You’re going to die in 30 days. What would that actually feel like?
What must happen in those 30 days?
If you’re like most people, the first thing that will come to your mind is the most important people in your life. You’ll want to serve them beautifully, spend quality time with them, and express your love and appreciation for them.
Who would you reach out to?
What would you do for your loved ones?
What would you say to them?
How would you relate with them?
They have no clue you’re going to die. You can’t tell them. The only thing you can do is live for the next 30 days. How will you live your next 30 days?
Scenario number 2: You go to the doctor today and are informed you have terminal cancer. There’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it. You have 365 days left to live.
One year from now, you’re dead.
How would you spend that year?
This beautiful planet, all the amazing people, each priceless second.
You only have 365 more days left in this incredible and breathtaking experience we call life.
What needs to happen during those 365 days?
What would you do first?
How would your daily behaviors change?
What things have you been procrastinating that can no longer be procrastinated?
Similar to the last scenario, you can’t tell anyone this is happening. You can only live 365 days like they are your last, because, in all reality, they are your last.
What would that year look like?
Last scenario: You go to the doctor today and are informed you have terminal cancer. There’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it. You have 5 years left to live.
In 5 years, you’re dead.
5 whole years.
That’s both a lot of time and no time at all. However, if that time is well-spent, you could do almost anything you’ve ever wanted to do.
If you absolutely knew you were going to die in 5 years, what would you do with that time?
How would your relationships change?
What about your life right now would you stop doing?
What would you accomplish?
What would you do today?
What would your relationships look like?
Again, you can’t tell anyone. But without question, you are going to die in 5 years from now. There’s nothing you can do about it.
Where will you be in 5 years?
One of the greatest things that comes from doing this 5 year exercise is honing in immediately on balancing your life. Most people’s lives are incredibly out of balance. Also, most people spend absurd amounts of time on things they don’t really value.
Every moment is just as priceless and important as any other moment. Even this very moment right now, while you read the words on this blog post. This moment is priceless. Can you feel it? You’re alive right now. On this beautiful planet.
How would you do things differently if you only had 5 years?
How would you work differently?
Where would you put your time and energy?
Becoming OK With Death
You’re not really going to die. Well, who is to say?
But I don’t know when you’re going to die, and neither do you.
The question is: How close are you really living compared to what you were just thinking about?
Confronting the reality of death is one of the best wake-up calls for beginning to truly live.
Life can become a game to you. Or if you’re Elon Musk, a simulation.
I’m not saying be reckless. But I kind of am.
Everything you want in life is on the opposite side of fear. But you don’t need to be chained down by your fears anymore. When you die, all of your fears will die with you. So why have them choke out your life right now?
What do you really want to do with you life?
What’s holding you back?
You have no clue how long you have left on this planet. Can you really afford being complacent? How much time do you really have to waste?
There’s nothing to lose. Just be who you want to be, today. Right now.
Live today with intention. Be who you want to be.
The biggest difference between those who succeed and those who don’t? Those who succeed chose it. One day they decided, I’m going to live the life I want.
That decision is all it takes.
Then they started looking at people who inspired them and asked themselves, “Why can’t that be me? How could I get there?”
Conversely, most people think, “That could never be me.”
What would your life look like in 5 years if you lived purposefully and powerfully every single day from now until then?