I’ve often heard the question “What would you do if you had one more day left to live?” I find that, for me, this question isn’t as life changing as it might appear.
If I had only one day left, clearly I wouldn’t be spending it at work. It’s only 24 hours, so I would likely go to the beach or forest with my family and spend the day just in their company. I’d try to soak up all their laughter and joy and remember how they smell, how they laugh, and hug them all day long. I’d tell them how much I love them and how much they mean to me. I’d also take a bunch of time to send each friend a little note to thank them for who they are.
All of which is great but it’s not exactly correlated to how I might change my life in general. The fact is, I will (hopefully) not die tomorrow. If I only had one day to live, some of the longer term goals are unachievable. I cannot save more money for my kids’ future. Or do a longer term project that might be important to me. So comparing how I live my last day to how I might then change my current life isn’t realistic to me. (Sure they might be some takeaways but not as much as I’d like.)
I think a more interesting question is “What would you do if you knew you had five years left to live?” Five years is a long enough time that I would likely not quit working altogether. I have time to complete some of the longer-term goals. I wouldn’t just drop or uproot my life.
But I might still make some big changes.
Five years is long enough to make some lasting changes, long enough to think things through. But it’s short enough to not want to waste a minute of it. It’s short enough to envision the end and work backwards and put more value on each minute, on each day. On each week.
I think knowing I had only five years left would significantly change the way I live my life. I feel like I would get more choosy with how I spend my days. Who I hang out with. How much energy I spend worrying about different aspects of my life. I think thinking about five years allows me a more balanced perspective.
To be fair, there are some exceptions even in the “five year” scenario. For example, I might not worry about my weight or nutrition or exercise. At least not as diligently as now. One of the reasons I do a bunch of these health-initiatives is for long-term health. Which is sort of moot in the the “five year” scenario.
But despite those loopholes, I still think the “How would you change your life if you knew you only had five more years to live” gives you more food for thought. More ways to look at your life realistically and see what changes you could implement right now. There’s no reason you can’t live a more fulfilled life right now. One that aligns with your values and hopes and wishes.
So that’s my challenge for you today. Think about how you would live your life if you only had five more years. What would you change? What would stay the same? What would you never do again? What would you do more often?