Early one morning 10,000 feet in the air, I was on my way to a day of sales meetings.
During those quiet morning flights, I like to think, write, and reflect. This particular morning, I got a little choked as I was reflecting on several powerful questions.
Now with tears streaming down my face, I wrote down my answer to these questions.
I struck a chord in my heart and it shined a light on what’s most meaningful for me. I hope these questions do the same for you.
Most people don’t really think much about the shortness of life. We may talk about it, but I’m not convinced many of us take it to heart—especially when we are in our twenties and thirties.
But what if you knew you had exactly 20 years left to live—how would you choose to live your life?
There’s still a lot of life to live at 20 years, but not enough time to fritter it away doing meaningless work and lose track of what’s most important.
If I knew I had only 20 years left, I would take more aggressive action toward what I want most. I’d risk a little bit more and engage in living life to its fullest.
Within those 20 years, I’d pack as much in as I possibly could. I’d go after my dreams.
The time I spent with the kids would be much more intentional. I might even write them a book highlighting life lessons they could take with them into their own lives.
I would savor the time with my wife and closest relationships. I’d drink it all in.
There’d still be plenty of time to live a full life, but I’d be focused on what matters most.
What about you?
If 20 years feels like plenty of time, 10 years begins to feel much shorter. What if you only had 10 years to live—what would you do?
The moment I asked this question, my career and profession no longer felt as important. I started thinking about the simple things in life I cherish and how I could experience them with those I loved.
I’d spend even more time with my kids, I’d take them to school, pick them up, and look forward to helping them with homework.
I’d share my passions with them, read to them and teach them to create the life they desire.
Knowing I only had 10 years, I would probably write the book of life lessons, and I might start on it immediately.
My wife is starting an interior design business. I would pour my time and energy into helping her create a sustainable business model. (I would have a lot of fun doing it too!)
I’d share my experience with others through writing and speaking. My message would be this:
Create your purpose because you don’t have time to wait around for it to create itself.
If I only had 5 years left, then what?
My focus would be on my family. At this point, my career and my personal success would have no meaning at all.
I would be extremely intentional with how I showed up for my wife, kids, and closest family and friends. My desire would be for them to be equipped for a full and meaningful life.
I would definitely start writing the book of life lessons for my girls—notice how what’s important also become urgent as the timeframe narrows.
I’d read less and write a lot more. I would make sure I’m the best dad and husband I could possibly be.
Ok, at this point maybe I’m getting a little too morbid.
But I don’t think so.
These are uncomfortable questions but the cost of ignoring them is high. What could life be like if we got clearer on what mattered most and engaged with it more fully?
So, how would I spend my time if I only had one year left?
At this point, my life would be about my family. I wouldn’t work and would find a way to cut out all the non-essentials in my life.
I would create as many experiences with my wife and kids as I possibly could.
Well, that’s simple. I’d hug my kids for a really long time and hold my wife close. We’d probably go out for ice cream, play UNO, eat pizza, and have a movie night.
I’d be strong and encourage them to live a meaningful life full of hope.
“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift which is why we call it the present.”Bill Keane
These questions can be extremely uncomfortable. As I wrote this, by the time I reached the last question, I had tears streaming down my face—again.
It felt good. The tears streaming down my face are tears of deep love, joy, and gratitude.
The tears bring focus to living life on purpose.
In a matter of 10 minutes, you too can bring your life into sharp focus.
Let yourself feel the emotion and whatever arises. If its regret, accept it and choose what you’d change about the future.
If it’s to follow that dream you have, go after it. Stop ignoring it and making excuses for not pursuing it.
Like me, you might feel intense gratitude. Do something with it to give back to those you care about and toward what matters most.
Do it now, you don’t have a lot of time. And if you’re like me, after reflecting on the last question, you’ll realize you already have all that you need to have a meaningful life.
It’s your choice to engage with it.
Originally published at zacharend.com on February 27, 2019.
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