On Tuesday, a friend of mine died. She was 25 years old and she’d been struggling with a rare form a cancer found primarily in old men.
It wasn’t a surprise. She’s had the cancer for the last three years and few people survive the beast. Everyone saw it coming. And yet… thinking about her death before it happened and after it happened is a whole lot different.
Before, it was something sad to think about. Now, it’s a painful reminder of life’s fragility.
It takes me back to when another close friend shot himself in the head in June after consuming too many drugs and getting in a fight with his mom or when another friend drove off a cliff in April of 2016, starting me on a path that would ultimately destroy my faith, shove me out of ministry, and make me who I am today.
So why am I talking to you about death?
Because sometimes getting off your ass to build that business or write that book or give that speech is a serious challenge. Death has a way of moving us forward.
What if this was your last year to live?
Just ask yourself that question. If it was, what would you do? Would you finally churn out that book you’ve been wanting to write, learn to surf, or hike in the himilayan mountains? Would you spend more time with your family, fix the relationship with your spouse, or stop spending so much time on video games? Would you break off unhealthy relationships, buy a puppy, and travel to Europe?
When we consider death, it invokes a certain perspective that we don’t usually see the world through.
Normally, we see our life like a serious of routines and habits that we’re mostly okay with. We go to work at the same time everyday, we eat similar things every week, we vacation in the same spots, and we talk about doing the same stuff that we’ve never actually done.
But when the thought of our own death enters the scene, something beautiful happens. We actually consider what it would take to do those things we’ve never gotten around to. We consider what it would take to travel the world, eat different food, or build our dream business.
Because, we realize, we don’t have much time.
And as cliché as that sounds, it’s the truth.
Let me prove it to you. All of the billions and billions of people who lived before you and I, they died.
It’s one thing for death to make us consider, it’s another thing for death to make us act.
Here’s what I recommend.
Take an hour, a day, a week, as long as you need, to figure out what really matters to you. Go climb a mountain, sit in your room, or hide in the closet. Then, close your eyes, imagine your funeral was today and answer these questions.
- What’s one thing you wish you would have finished before you died?
- What’s the thing you most regret spending your time and energy doing?
- Who do you wish you had spent more time with?
Then, make mental or physical notes of your answers.
What’s one thing you wish you would have finished before you died?
Finish it. Commit to it. Make no allowances. You’re not getting any younger and the world isn’t moving any slower. If it’s something you’ll wish you would have spent more time doing when you’re on your deathbed, then nothing is more important than this. Pursue it relentlessly.
What’s the thing you most regret spending your time and energy doing?
Cut it out. Don’t let it creep back into your life. Again, be ruthless. Get counseling, go to meetings, sell your TV… do what you need to do to stop spending time on activities that you’re going to regret on your deathbed. There’s nothing worse than regret at the end of your life and there’s nothing more wasteful now.
Who do you wish you had spent more time with?
In the end, none of your life matters without the people you love. Your spouse, your kids, your dogs, your neighbor, your friend, your social connections. Be bold with your love and don’t be afraid to love people when they’re being an asshole in return. Spend more time with the people who matter and stop avoiding talking to them because it might be momentarily uncomfortable or awkward.
Obviously, this is a bit more serious than most of the stuff I write. But then, I guess death does that to us sometimes. We get in a thoughtful, meditative sort of mood, thinking about our own lives and what we should do differently.
But I figure, it’s best to leverage that opportunity for change rather than squander it. After all, the only difference between someone who lives a meaningful life and someone who dies wanting is taking enough time to examine who you are, what you want, and then, how you’re going to get it.