This post was originally an answer posted on Quora.
Imagine you’re in the waning hours of your life. Maybe you’re old and the biological clock is tired of ticking. Maybe you have a terminal illness and you know the end is near.
You have your family members with you trying to support you as best they can. You’re reflecting on the live you’ve lived. You’ve been alive long enough to be considered to have had enough time on this earth — maybe 80 years old.
Yet, for some reason, you feel like the time was wasted. You wish you could have done more…been more.
When you reflect on the life you’ve lived, here are the things you’re NOT going to care about.
- How safe and practical you were — You’re not going to look back and say “You know what, my pragmatism was unparalleled. I could have done something more exciting with my life — like starting a business I love, traveling the world, or opening a non-profit organization — but I’m truly proud of the sound judgement I used in deciding to become an accountant with a steady salary. I paid my loans back in an adequate time frame. My 401k developed steadily and yielded a seven percent return year-over-year. Other options would have posed more risk and I am glad I chose the most predictable and certain route, albeit devoid of passion or even an above average level of personal interest.
- How much embarrassment you avoided — Again, you’re not going to look back and think “Gee, the comfort of knowing I never risked being laughed at for having an out-of-the-box idea clearly outweighs how great it would have felt to give the idea a shot.” Sure, my time on earth is finite, buuuuut at least I didn’t have to feel butterflies in my stomach briefly.
- How much you kept up with the Jones’s — At the end of your life, you’re not going to care much about the opinions of people you didn’t even like in the first place. You won’t be elated that you too bought a Lexus, which you earned by your thrilling job as a “B2B sales analyst” or whatever, and showed Jim across the street that not only do you have an equivalent car, but an even more impressive LinkedIn profile than he does.
Yet these are often the things we care about while life is happening. Many (not all of us) spend a great deal of our lives focusing on things that will never matter to us when it’s all said and done.
My remedy for this? I think about dying all the time. Like, what if today was my last day on earth and I spent it complaining about the weather as I woke, went to a job I hated as the day went along, and came home to “Netflix n’ chill”? Is that how I want to go out?
Nobody can escape the vortex of uselessness that life can be at times, but I remind myself of my mortality as much as possible so that I can do things that will matter to me when it’s all said and done.
- Do things I enjoy & be creative — I love to write. It’s the only thing I do where I feel like I shouldn’t be doing anything else. I don’t need a million dollars to do what I love. I can do it right now and take satisfaction in it.
- Make an Impact and Leave a Legacy — I plan to leave my legacy through writing. I’ve published two books, and I’ll keep writing them until my biological clock runs out. Even if I died today, my great great grandchildren will be able to see a glimpse of my life through my work. I think that’s really cool.
- Be a good person — I just want to leave a positive vibe around everyone I come across. My goal is to be a great husband, father, son, friend, leader, ect. This actually should be #1 because worldly success with a rotten hardened heart means you’ve failed — a wall street banker who’s paranoid and miserable has failed, even if he’s worth $100 million, because it cost him his soul.
I do the things I’d be proud of if I was forced to look back on my life and question how I lived it.
I’m not perfect, but I’m aware, and that’s the first step.
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Ayodeji is the author of You 2.0 — Stop Feeling Stuck, Reinvent Yourself, and Become a Brand New You.
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Originally published at byrslf.co