If today were the last day of your life, would you be doing what you’re doing?
If today were the last day of your life, would you want to be doing what you’re doing?
I woke up this morning and toyed with the above thought.
What happens when what you are doing intersects with the above experiment? What happens if you actually follow through?
My brother went travelling, he’s spending a year in the East going from Thailand to Australia, supplementing his living with work while enjoying himself at every opportunity he can. He’s surfing and meeting new people while experiencing a completely different culture. By every measure he is doing something he has always wanted to do, you would think he could answer the above question with an affirmative yes.
Is he the embodiment of that initial question, having had the wherewithal to follow through and undertake a trip he had always dreamt of, or am I, if I am doing what I have always wanted to do every day without having to travel to the other side of the world to find it?
We are either doing the things that we want to be doing, or we realise what we are doing now is enabling us to do the things we want to do at some undetermined point in the future, therefore both interpretations could be considered as the correct answer to the question.
The reason is change, or the ambivalence needed to make changes if your life if it is not going how you envisioned it would.
Everything is about doing; it’s about that next thing. It’s about experiences and finding out whether you like something or love something.
We identify a trip we wish to undertake and then work towards that goal through work and sacrifice to make it happen.
The truth is that answering that initial question every morning is incredibly hard. It was popularised by Steve Jobs as the question he asked himself every morning in the mirror but for mere mortals is it helpful? It is ever achievable? I have my doubts.
For those significantly altering the trajectory of technology maybe it is achievable. If you’re truly altering the paradigm, expanding humanities knowledge, or have a true vocation maybe it is achievable as well. But for the rest of us, limping from job to job, living below the standard of life afforded to our parents, with real earnings either dropping or being supressed, is it?
In effect it is something we all strive for but most of us rarely achieve.
Instead it comes down to the value you perceive your daily achievements have. In the end we can only spend parts of each day being that person who is doing the thing they would be doing if it was our last day.
It’s about exploiting the opportunity to do the things you love most in the moment of freedom you have each day. Obviously we must invest a large proportion of our waking hours to subsidence but what if, in our desire for safety and security, we have gone too far. What if we could sacrifice salary for a more Spartan existence and more happiness? I know from experience the challenge or working every day to keep a roof over my head, to afford the nourishment to enable my health to let me work, to pay for the fuel to run my car to get to work.
Do you spot the theme?
How much of what we do is driven by our determination to afford things we don’t need?
Family and dependence alters that question irreversibly. You think you know what you want until you have to worry about what someone else needs. Try taking the path less travelled when you have two young kids who outgrow their clothes every few months.
Which highlights lifes; life is about sacrifice.other truism
Sacrifice in the sense of attaining the happiness that can be obtained from other people. We can all do the thing we would do if it was the last days of our life, but if we experience love that is far less likely to be an individually derived activity.
And that is life’s most nefarious game.
Can we have love and happiness while doing what we would do on the last day of our live every day?
The thing people miss with the unimaginably successful is the sacrifices they make. They see Steve Jobs changing the world and miss the difficult relationship with his daughter. They see Nike shoes on the feet of half the world’s population and miss the heart break Phil Knight experiences with his eldest son.
Would you trade the chance to do what you would do if today were the last day of your life if it meant increasing the chances of detrimental relationships or health of the people you love most?
An incendiary question that has no right answer but allows you to appreciate that some sacrifices are worth making.