photo by brightroyalty
I was saddened and alarmed a few years ago to hear a good friend of mine announce cheerfully she was making a practice of thinking “Today might be my last day—I might die tomorrow.” This helped her to “make the most of the day”, she said.
Since I started doing this blog, I have been clicking on the web searches that appear in my StatCounter statistics, and so have been coming across questions like “would you want to live forever if you could?” on things like forums and Yahoo Answers. Many of the responses are along the lines of “knowing you are going to die helps you make the most of life”.
I even came across a blog recently that was entirely devoted to trying to make the most of life by imagining you had only a certain number of days left to live. It’s called XX days, where XX is the number. The blog seems to have, from what I can see, an intelligent, connected and loving community around it. I don’t think it’s for me to say they shouldn’t be thinking like this, as who knows what each person’s path is? But I’d like to suggest to them and all the others who do this that there is better way.
one more thing…
As well, I was surprised by a speech I found recently on the web, made by a well-known Californian technology entrepreneur a few years ago, to university students. I am rather keen on this person’s products. He started by talking about the value of following intuition and doing what you love, which I thought was terrific stuff, and moved on to saying the best way to make the most of life is to imagine that today might be your last day. Here’s part of the speech:
When I was 17 I read a quote that went something like “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “no” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important thing I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
What’s wrong with this thinking?
The main problem if we think like this is that it takes us away from being in the present moment, and we need to be alert in the present moment to be aware of our intuitive impulses. And following our intuition is what brings the goodies of life… joy, satisfaction and health, for example.
Eckhart Tolle’s book The Power of Now is very popular—it has been a best seller, and every second personal growth blog seems to have it, or another one of his books, for sale in the sidebar. Steve Pavlina has written a post about it which I really like, called The Power of Now. That it is important to live in the present moment seems to be an idea fairly widely subscribed to.
If we change what we choose to do today because we may not be alive tomorrow (or in XX days), we are acting from consideration of some future restriction—this is NOT being in the present moment. It’s being motivated because something might be running out rather than being motivated by the joy of doing something. It’s also coming from the intellect, which is not intuition.
Young children live in the present moment—they do and say exactly what they want to, when they want to. If they want to go outside and play in the sandpit, they just do it. Do they decide they will play outside this morning because they are concerned it may rain this afternoon?
Being in the present moment means doing what we want to do today because WE WANT TO DO IT. If we want to go bicycling, we want to go bicycling—why complicate it? If we want to curl up in front of the fire, we want to curl up in front of the fire—why question it? If anyone needs to imagine some future possible restriction in order to decide what to do today, they are in real trouble, because they could only be like this if they are REALLY out of touch with their own inner guidance, and that leads to all sorts of emotional and health problems, including, dare I say it, life-threatening ones.
And getting back to the entrepreneur’s speech, I think he is suggesting that using his technique is a way of not allowing ourselves to be run by our ego. My response to this thinking is that consistently living in the present moment and acting on our intuitive impulses are what give us the kind of true confidence and self-awareness that prevents us from being puffed up with pride, fearful and having any of the other ego issues going on.
Be careful what you think
Another reason for not imagining today may be our last is that thoughts are powerful. Thoughts are things, and we can will scenarios to come true by thinking about them. I am not surprised when I hear about people who advocate the “today might be my last” method of motivation/clarity becoming seriously ill.
My wonderful readers
…[it] made me think of the expression “Live like you are going to die tomorrow” and I think that really puts a negative spin on things. I “live like I am going to live tomorrow”. That way, everything I do Today, I am accountable to Tomorrow for. Not as a burden, but as a joy.
Good one, U.P!
I think many of you would not really pay too much attention to these sorts of techniques, just like Urban Panther. My guess is you’d hear about it, be somehow not very interested, and move on. I would like to suggest though, that the principles I’ve discussed apply also to the whole of life. If we believe we are going to live to be about 100 (and even if we don’t think about it, it’s there in the sub-conscious), we are going to find it really hard as we get older to always make our decisions in the present moment, rather than with regard to how old we are. It would work much better to see ourselves as immortal, I’d suggest.
What I’d say now
These days, if someone were to say to me they are living each day like it might be their last, to help them make the most of their life, I’d try to gently suggest to them that doing this takes them away from following their intuition, and it is through following their intuitive impulses they will discover the fullness of life.
If anyone is interested in reading more about how to follow intuition, I go into more detail about it in my post How to be a Man and a Woman Both At The Same Time.
Marelisa has also just put up a really good post about intuition called Creating Your Dream Life: Practical Intuition.
What do you think? Any comments about all of this are most welcome.