We try to discover and create meaning in our lives (or not) and then we die. Immortality is not an option yet (although there are some very interesting and as of yet unconfirmed attempts at extending our longevity indefinitely) so we’re all going to face death at one time or another. Whether we think about everything we would regret on our deathbed after a long life or what is valuable to us in light of the possibility of dying tomorrow, death brings our dearest priorities into startling focus.
Common regrets of the dying include having worked too hard, not spending enough time with loved ones, and not being true to oneself. Imagining yourself on your death bed- what do you want to have accomplished? What will you be proud of having done with your time?
Likewise consider that we are fragile creatures, and life can come to a close abruptly. If you had one year left to live, what would you do? If you had one month, or one day, how would you choose to spend your time? These are likely elements of your life that bring you joy and purpose. What stops you from pursuing them?
I’ve been asked similar questions to these several times, and while I know the answers, it is still a challenge to put some of these discoveries into process. An argument I see cropping up amongst folks who may feel they are in a rut is that living like you’re about to die is impractical and unsustainable. Where does this assumption arise from? If your answer to the question is that you only want to eat donuts and ride roller coasters with your best friend all the time, then yes, this is unsustainable. If we explore the desire behind those activities, however, we can see that aesthetic pleasure, play, and connection are important needs in that story. There are sustainable ways to meet these needs that don’t involve binging. These questions are designed to help us ascertain what is most important to us in our lives in order to inform the decisions we make about how we want to live. I’m not implying that you ought to do acid and swim with dolphins every day because you might die tomorrow. Hopefully you will not die tomorrow, and therefore we must incorporate the consequences of our decisions into the lifestyle we choose to embrace. The idea is to inspect what comes up for us and how to integrate the core needs related to these dreams.
Imagine yourself on your deathbed, what do you hope to have accomplished in your life?
What kind of regrets do you never want to have?
If you had limited time left to live, what would you do with the remaining time? Say you’ve got one year, one month, or one day?