I am going to die on Saturday, December 19th, 2052.
I have less than 38 years to live; 1,190,073,423 seconds according to my Deathclock.
So why do I feel immortal? Why do I feel like somehow I’m special? Like I have plenty of time to accomplish everything I’m here to do?
The truth is that I don’t have as much time as I want. None of us do.
Life is a limited time offer and the expiration date is ticking closer.
I’ve had moments of clarity, mostly at funerals, moments where I understood that I don’t have forever to get my ass in gear and go live life. In those moments, I tell myself that I’ve got to focus only on the most important things. No more wasting time. No more regrets.
Then, I leave the cemetery, go back home and forget. Forget about the books I am here to write, about the adventures I’m here to live, about the relationships I’m here to love and be loved in. I forget about my purpose.
I forget. Until the next funeral.
I think that humans are made to forget. In fact, it serves us. Imagine if the pain and anxiety of losing a loved one never faded. We would live in anguish.
It’s the same with physical pain.
As a high school and college wrestler, I got kicked, hit, kneed or elbowed in the balls dozens … maybe hundreds of times.
Oh the agony!
Dropping to the mat, curling up and groaning. The pain; deep and aching. Nothing exists except the pain. No thoughts about what I’m going to do after practice. No regrets about that argument with my girlfriend. I am completely present.
Then, a couple minutes later, just when I think permanent damage has been done and I am doomed to a lifetime in the fetal position, it begins to lift. I can think again. I become aware of my surroundings. Ten minutes later, only a slight ache remains. I walk back on the mat, shake hands and go after the next takedown …
The problem with forgetting the pain of regret and loss is that years can go by without us being any closer to our life purpose. Worse yet, we might wake up on our deathbed regretting our life without time to fix it.
Don’t leave your life to chance. Be more intentional about the person you are and the life you’re living.
Here are four things I’ve done to stay focused on living a more purposeful life:
1. I’ve written out my personal vision statement. This short statement clearly defines what I want my life to be about.. It communicates what I stand for and why I’m here. This is an aspirational statement. It’s big and difficult to achieve. Just like a worthy purpose should be.
Mine is “To show people that fear doesn’t have to hold them back from the life they want.”
2. I’ve created physical reminders. I know that unless I am constantly reminded, I will get distracted and forget my purpose until the next crisis brings it back into focus.
- I wear a wristband that says “act the opposite”
- I have a Steven Pressfield quote on my office wall that reads “On the field of the Self stand a knight and a dragon. You are the knight, Resistance is the dragon.”
- I have a big fishhook in my car that reminds me to not let myself and others off the hook,
- I have an antique key on my keyring that reminds me the key to leadership is courage
- I could continue…I’ve got a lot of reminders because I need them.
3. I set annual goals and review them monthly.
In January, my wife and I set goals for that year. Then, we have a monthly check-in meeting where we see how we are progressing towards those goals.
4. I ask for accountability. I have people who know about my purpose and goals and have permission to ask me how I am doing. Their job isn’t to nag me. They just know to ask me how I am doing on my goals. They know not to let me off the hook if I’m not making progress. They know to call me out on it.
While they are no guarantee of success, these four actions have made a huge difference. They can help you too.
My biggest fear is living a life that I regret. That fear has motivated me to get a plan around living an intentional life. The truth is, despite what Deathclock says, I don’t know how long I have left.
The next funeral I attend could be mine.