Sunday, August 30, 2009

What would you do if you knew you had 5 years to live?

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If you knew you had exactly five years to live, would you do anything differently?

This is a question that cuts to the quick regarding what really matters and what we truly value. Step back for a moment from the hustle and bustle of making a living and observe your efforts in creating a life. What defines you? Is it the car you drive? The acres of tiling or marble that envelopes your house? The manicured lawns? The awe and esteem of your subordinates? The fear of your enemies? Does your sense of well being relate to your sense of status within your peer group?

Perhaps the bigger question is whether this sense of life purpose and relative self importance is merely an exercise in futile self delusion. A recurring question this scribbler posits is thus. In the absence of context can anything have meaning. Hence the question; would you live your life any differently if you knew its exact expiry date? Would you smell the roses more frequently. Would your perspective alter with regard to what really matters? Would the smile of a child mean more than the compliment of your boss?

We could wax lyrical with any number of metaphoric images to convey the essence of living. The point however is this. If you would make any significant changes to your life in the knowledge of its use by date, then what on earth is holding you back? Are you going to wait until you reach the ripe old age of 95 before you start focusing on what really matters? Procrastination is the default for so many sad souls. Waiting until the time is right before living life. Building houses, instead of homes. Delaying enjoyment today for delayed gratification tomorrow.

For what it's worth, here's a little paradigm shift of context to mess with your grey matter. Reframe your goals in the context of a finite 5 year time line. Notice what adjustments you would make. Notice what your true values really are. If you don't rate the 40 plus hours per week you spend at work as at least an 8 out of 10 in terms of relative enjoyment, then perhaps something needs to change. In the next 5 years you will no doubt use up 9600 hours, engaging in this activity. That equates to 400 twenty four hour days.

If you had only 5 years to live, would you want to spend 40% of your waking hours in the pursuit of an activity that rates so low on the enjoyment scale? Of course we can defer fun and pleasure today, the French call it joie de vivre in order to indulge in our sunset years. Problem is of course, if we are already in our sunset years and haven't realised it, then that really would be disappointing! Life matters is obviously a play on words.

Sometimes it pays to step off the treadmill of life and ask, what is it that really matters? And act accordingly.

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