What if today is your last day on Earth? Or, what if you're told today that you have one month left to live?
Many have the snap answer to this "last day" or "set of days" question, with the desire to squeeze all of their bucket list items into a profound last day. (And why do so many people want to go sky-diving during this time?)
I struggle with the commonality of putting today's opportunities on tomorrow's to-do list when we don't know if tomorrow will be here.
Bookstores are filled with authors opining on their own demise and ruminating on what matters most to them if given a time-certain to live. This approach ignores the hard but very common realities of life and inexplicable tragedies that take life on short or no notice.
Suppose, on the other hand, that we all get the gift to live to be 100 years old. On the morning of what will be the start our last week on earth, we are given the critical piece of information that the particular week is our last.
Do our actions during the last week hold greater weight than the days preceding it? Do our goodbyes mean more than they do when we kiss our loved ones on any other day? Do our activities that day hold greater weight in defining our lives? Is this last week somehow the cherry on top?
Of course not.
Rather, we should look more holistically at life and ask: Are we living each day so that if it were our last, we would be proud of our life and the day we led? Proud of our legacy?
In looking backward, instead of forward, it then becomes glaring that each day is a gift and an opportunity to make the impact you would want should tomorrow not exist.
I ask these questions of myself at the beginning and end of every day. They are part of what I call my gratitude list and daily routine, which I wake up to and fall asleep thinking about. These questions are the catalysts to ensure that the day in front of me is a day that I will be proud of living. A day full of meaningful conversations and relationships, meaningful work, and meaningful time with my family.
By asking these questions, I'm pushed to put dreams and hopes into my daily routine, and I'm motivated to make sure that passivity is non-existent to anything I'm doing today.
There are a few rules that I follow to ensure that this daily practice is executed as best as possible:
1. Surround Myself With Winners:
This concept deserves its own book, but it's imperative in life to surround oneself with winners. By doing this simple thing, your chances of success and happiness inherently increase dramatically. Winners help you chase your dreams. Winners help you be a better person. Winners force you to step up your game every day. It's easy to get stuck in a rut of spending time with people who bring us down or don't add value to our lives. I'm a believer in keeping my relationships high and tight and surrounding myself with the best people possible, thereby maximizing my own happiness and success both personally and professionally.
2. Spend Time with Family:
There is nothing more special and important in my life than family, and there is nothing that brings me greater happiness. The lessons learned that are woven in my writing all come back to the one core value that building a legacy through a happy family is the truest success I can imagine. Which means: No matter how busy I am, carving out time to be with family, talk to family, and focus on what I can do to better my family every single day is the most important thing that I do.
3. Focus on Gratitude Over Attitude:
There is no greater emotion for me than gratitude. Gratitude for my wife who makes me believe that angels exist, gratitude for my son who is the greatest blessing in my world, and gratitude for a roof over my head and the health and happiness of my family. Gratitude for the special friends in my life that I'm lucky to call family. I wake up in the morning and make a list in my head of the things that I am grateful for, and I go to sleep at night going through that very same list. It's the healthiest thing that I do. Negativity is poison, eliminate it from your daily practice of life.
4. Be Honest:
I've made mistakes in life. We all have. Some intentional, some accidental, and some simply through miscommunication. Regardless, it is necessary to keep my side of the street as clean as possible, and as quickly as I can make amends where my actions caused bad feelings toward someone else. Maybe I'm crazy, but I don't want to die and have anyone say, "Good riddance, that guy was a jerk because..." Whether or not someone accepts an apology is not part of the equation -- that's their side of the street and up to them what they want to do with it. But the act of keeping a clean slate in my personal and professional life gives me piece of mind every day.
This certainly is not to suggest throwing your job and life into the wind to spend every day as if it's your last, but rather, to spend every day with the goal of being proud of that day. Proud of the legacy we have built that day. Proud of the impact we have made that day. Proud of our relationships that day. Should this occur, we are able to link together full and meaningful days into full and meaningful lives.