Live Your Eulogy. I saw that on a t-shirt recently. Smarter words have never been written. We’ve designed our lives around ignoring the inevitability of death so I want you to just take a brief moment (don’t’ worry, I can wait) and just let it sink in; you are going to die someday. There is no way around this one. To add insult to injury, we have no idea when we will take our last breath…our final bow. You can say that I’m being morbid and maybe I am, but I choose to think of it as being realistic. Our impending death doesn’t have to be a source of depression. It doesn’t have to be stuffed in a dusty, damp, dark corner of our minds just so we can enjoy our lives. I’ve heard some people use the phrase “walk in the truth.” I choose to take that literally by walking in the truth and living in the acknowledgment of my impending, inescapable death. Walking in this truth every day gives our life importance. Without death our lives would have no purpose. That’s why I’m such a restless wanderer. I want to see it all and do it all before my soul scampers off and my chubby human outfit is left behind to succumb to nature’s decay. The end is always present, breathing down my neck, reminding me that it’s waiting around every corner so I better live fully while I still have the chance.
My militant microbiology teacher used to call it the Fickle Finger of Fate. Although that kind of talk is a little harsh for touching the fine adjustment nob on the microscope, it applies perfectly to this situation. Life and death are both fickle. You never know when one is going to outmaneuver the other. In most cases that tug of war is completely out of our hands. I could visit my mailbox tomorrow and get run over or I could live to the ripe age of 100. No matter what the case, our time in finite. Instead of ignoring this harsh fact, we have to embrace it each and every day–from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep and every second between. Make every second count or face a deathbed of regret.
A personal note on Time and the Fickle Finger of Fate:
When I was in my early teens I lost my sister to lymphoma and not long after I lost my best friend to a bullet. My sister was only 24-years old at the time of her death and she suffered for many years before her body gave up. My best friend was only 13-years old at the time of his death and his life was over in an instant. There is no ideal way to die. In my sister’s case, she was given the gift of time–time to say goodbye to loved ones–but she suffered for it in return. In my friend’s case, he was given the gift of a painless, instant death, but he never had the chance to say goodbye to those he loved. Time can be a blessing and a curse. Time can give us suffering and it can give us peace. We have to use our time wisely; it should never be wasted.
On a practical note:
I choose to run my life like a business. I know that sounds impersonal but follow me here. Today you are going to start the business of YOU. Would you allow your employees to waste your time? Would you be investing in things that are a waste of your time? Would you be wasting your own time? I think not! Your business would quickly go bankrupt. Your life isn’t any different. In business, your goal is to get paid and the same should be true for your life. You should be receiving some sort of benefit or compensation for your time because your time has value. It’s the most precious, finite resource you have. Just like in business, in life you have to weigh the costs and benefits of every action to make sure you’re investing your most precious resource wisely. Do a little exercise for me. Write down everything you do in typical day and weigh the costs and benefits of each and every thing. Also include the things that you know you should be doing as well. Is watching four hours of reality TV a night really worth missing a hike with a good friend? Perhaps it is but maybe not.
Here are some pointers from my experience:
1. Clean house! Rid yourself of all the psychic vampires and the drama seekers (I’m convinced they reside along the same continuum) in your life. I’ve had some very sweet, well intentioned friends over the years that call me up on a regular basis with some sort of drama that they want to unload on me. I’ve spent hours giving them my time and my best advice and they do exactly what I’ve spent hours telling them not to do. They never listened to a word I said. Don’t take it personally, these folks wouldn’t even listen to Buddha’s sage wisdom if given the opportunity; they just want attention. Sound familiar? Pull out of these relationships immediately. They won’t change and they will tap you dry.
2. Cut the crap. Don’t say that you’re too old to do anything. That’s just plain-old fear talking and is such a tired excuse. If you’re afraid then just say you’re afraid and deal with that emotion but stop saying that you’re too old. Time is ticking so do something that will make YOU proud. Your life is your business so run it impeccably. If you are 100 years old and you want to go back to school than do it. Even if you don’t finish, someone will certainly find inspiration in your actions.
3. Stop the people pleasing. Don’t for the love of @!#$ be a people pleaser. If you are doing things that you don’t want to do or saying yes to things just because you don’t want to disappoint someone please get over it already. This is your life and your time. Guard it. Invest it wisely. When you people please, you are announcing to the world that your time has no value and that’s free for everyone to use frivolously. If someone doesn’t value your time, please see rule #1 (this person is probably not worth your time).
4. Strive for efficiency. There are always going to be things in life that you don’t want to do. Chores and exercising are good examples. There are ways to do these things more efficiently; it just takes some research and thought. Don’t dilly-dally. Instead tackle these things head-on. Don’t do a crappy job that you’ll just have to redo later. Strive for impeccability and efficiency. The result will be more time to enjoy the finer things.
5. Don’t put things off. If you’re waiting for an engraved invitation to start enjoying life, you’re going to be disappointed. The only engraved invitation you’re guaranteed in life is your headstone. Listen closely…tick tock…tick tock. The hands of time aren’t going to stop just so you can do something tomorrow instead of today. Your life is speeding by. If your job is uninspiring and sucking the life out of you then you must work towards changing it today. Don’t surrender your life to the stagnant 9 to 5 humdrum. Sadly, most of us do it–myself included. We are little worker bees that survive by putting our dreams either on the back burner or in the trash. (Then when we get around to addressing these dreams we use excuses such as “I’m too old.”) We were all born with unique talents to share. It’s not fair to ourselves or the world if we belittle these gifts. What if I told you that you only had a week to live? Would you feel okay about the way things are? If you said no, realize that this scenario could actually happen. Live like it will happen. It’s not a bad thing. Tell people how you feel about them today. Appreciate how life sounds, smells and tastes today. Do what makes you happy today. If happy isn’t going to happen overnight at least work towards happy today–even if it’s a small baby step.