Live like you’re dying

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 (and find time for the things that matter)


‘Live like you’re dying.’

It sounds great in theory. Imagine if we became so aware of our own mortality that we let go of our egos, our fears and our everyday worries, and focused on what really mattersfriends, family and being true to ourselves.

The problem is it’s not sustainable to live everyday like we might die tomorrow. There’s a reason we ignore our own mortality most of the time—it’s uncomfortable and unproductive to focus on it constantly.

Daily life is full of tedium and minutiae that seem silly in the context of death. But that doesn’t mean they’re not necessary. We need to go to work and pay our bills and write to-do lists and tie our shoelaces and buy groceries. We need to spend time in the tedium of everyday life.

The danger of accepting our need for routine and familiarity is that we can become too comfortable. Getting outside of our comfort zones can help us learn, lead us to personal growth and improve our memories. And the more risks, novelty, and uncomfortable experiences we expose ourselves to the more our comfort zone grows.

Living like we’re dying isn’t something we can sustain all the time, but there are ways to work it into our daily lives. With effort, we can find a balance between the necessities of day-to-day life and reminders that we’re mortal and need to focus on the things that matter, and trying new experiences (before it’s too late).

Break it down

Author Chris Guillebeau shared a story on 99u of a man whose wife died from cancer before completing her bucket list. The husband, Adam, took over the list and decided to complete each item himself, in memory of his wife Meghan.

Each project, goal or experience on the list (it ranges from learning to knit to travelling) is a way for Adam to remember Meghan and to live with a reminder of his own mortality. An ongoing goal he works towards becomes his embodiment of living like he’s dying without taking away the necessary normalcy of everyday life.

Whether you start with a bucket list full of goals to complete or just choose one at a time as it grabs you, working towards something that’s important to you can help you find that balance.

Do it in bursts

Another option is to switch back and forth between high-intensity living and everyday life. For instance, lettering artist Sean McCabe suggests a small-scale sabbatical plan that works like this:

  • Take 1 day off every 7 days
  • Take 1 week off every 7 weeks
  • Take 1 month off every 7 months


If you can manage it, you might even go so far as to take one year off every seven years!

Having these sabbaticals away from work and everyday life gives you a small period in which you can focus on your ‘bucket list’ goals. Learning new skills, making art that you normally don’t have time for, or travelling and taking in new experiences all get put off when we’re busy living our normal lives. Even spending as much time as we’d like to with our friends and family doesn’t always take the priority we’d like it to (which is one of the biggest regrets of the dying).

This could even be the approach you take to build up your business or your portfolio in a new pursuit. Joel Gascoigne, CEO of Buffer, worked in waves to build Buffer. He would spend time working for clients to save up the income he needed, then spend time focusing solely on Buffer. These waves let him take the leap into building a startup that he was passionate about, without ignoring the realities of paying the bills.

Carving out regular pockets of time to focus on the things we care about but don’t have time for can give us a chance to ‘live like we’re dying’ in bursts.

Pick a single focus

An overall mission, mantra or lifelong goal can help to put more emphasis on living like you’re dying each day. Just like a company might choose values to live and work by in everything they do, you can choose something that’s important to you to color your everyday actions.

It might be to make a mark on the world somehow. Or to be remembered after you’re gone.

It might be to help people—perhaps a particular set of people you empathize with.

For hacker and designer Stef Lewandowski, it’s to create something every day.

Stef went through a brush with death that convinced him to take on this rule for living:

My reaction was creativity. I recovered swifty, with amazingly no lasting effects, and I made a decision to do one thing in response – to create something every day.

We can’t escape the tedium of everyday life. Bills have to be paid, money has to be made, chores have to be done.

But there are ways we can balance the not-so-fun parts of life and still find ways to live like we’re dying, even if it’s just in bursts.

Brought to you by Aplus Plastic Box Co supplying all your #plastic storage solutions, Plastic Storage Containers, Plastic Boxes, Plastic Bins, Plastic Storage Boxes, First Aid Cabinets, Air Tools, Tools, Wheels and Castors.


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