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This question can save your life

‘One’s real life is often the life that one does not lead.’  Oscar Wilde

Creating legacy and mortality

In the bestselling ‘The Book Thief’, author Markus Zusak uses death as a narrator, and begins with these two sentences: ‘Here is a small fact. You are going to die.’

Personally, I think this is the one small fact that we are trying all our life to forget. And in order to forget it, many of us postpone doing the things that we desperately want to do before we die, because doing them implies that time might might be running out.

So we leave the trip to Argentina, writing that novel, or launching that acting career for later, for when we are financially secure enough to have earned the right to live. In the meantime, we distract ourselves with chasing that promotion at that job we told ourselves we’re only taking to pay the bills, but to which we are sacrificing our every waking moment; impressing the boss we don’t really like just because he’s there to be impressed; and competing with our friends for who gets the biggest pay rise and making the biggest impression on our boss.

Up against the clock

The thing is, time is running out. Even though life expectancy in my neck of the woods is something like 79.4 on average, none of us knows when our time is up.

There are so many stories of people who were suddenly told they have a terminal illness. Quite often, their response is to use up their remaining time to do all the things they had always wanted to do, but had always postponed. And in the last months of their lives, these people suddenly discover what it is like to live, not to go through the motions pretending to be alive but to actually live.  

The question

So here is the question I promised you in the title: If you found yourself on your deathbed, what would you most regret not having done during your life?

We don’t usually talk about this question. It’s not polite to mention death in conversation. And we often even prevent ourselves from thinking about it as well.

But I think by avoiding the question of our own mortality, we are preventing ourselves from seeing the wood from the trees, from sorting out the things that are really important to us from the things that other people persuaded us are important.

The life that asking yourself this question can save is not the boring, routine life most of us are leading; it’s the life we want to lead but don’t have the courage to.

Ask this question of yourself today. Now. And whatever it is you think you will regret not having done if the moment of death was near, do it now. Don’t wait.

Don’t avoid thinking of your own mortality

In your daily life, stop avoiding questions about death. The certainty that death will should act as an impetus to make the most of the life we have. 

My guess is that once you start thinking of your own mortality, you will soon think about a way to leave a trace on this earth by creating legacy. But creating legacy takes time, and if you don’t start creating legacy soon it may be too late.

Death is bound to come for you, sooner or later, like it will for us all. The question is, when it comes: will you be happy with the way in which you have used your precious time on this planet?

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