Live like you have one life. So simple. So obvious. But we often forget that our time here is limited.
We Are All Started…
We Only Have Control Over The Middle…
We Are All Ended…
We All Have ONLY One Middle…And It Is Brief.
We face reminders throughout life, mostly when we lose someone close to us or a popular celebrity passes away. But aside from this we tend to keep our mortality in the back of our minds, just out of reach. Sure, it’s probably not a great idea to worry about death on a constant basis and that is not what I am suggesting you do.
So why live like you have one life? First, and most important, so you live only your life and not the life others want for you. As I pointed out in my make success personal post, many people are under pressure to make the life decisions that family, peers, and society want us to. We are told what our place should be based on a variety of factors that often do not include what we truly want. The second reason is that it will keep you motivated to achieve what you believe will ultimately make you happy. And finally so you do not become trapped by societal views into thinking there is only one way to attain what you want in life. I love the story below. I don’t know who created it, but, it is perfect.
There was once an American businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Mexican village. As he looked out across the ocean, he saw a Mexican fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore. He noticed that the fisherman had caught quite a number of big fish known to be a delicacy. The American was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch so much fish?”
The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”
“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and you could catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.
The fisherman says matter-of-factly, “This is enough to feed my whole family,.”
The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day then?”
The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then I would go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I will take a nap with my wife. When evening comes, I will join my buddies in the village for a drink, we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night. My days are ever so complete and carefree.”
The businessman did not agree with this way of life and offered a suggestion to the fisherman.
“I am a MBA graduated from Harvard University, specializing in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you have to spend more time at sea and try to catch as much fish as possible. And when you have saved enough money, you will buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. As you go on, you will be able to afford to buy more boats, recruit more fishermen and lead a team of your own. Soon you will be able to set up your own company, your very own production plant for canned food and sell directly to your distributors. At that time, you will have moved out of this village and to Mexico City, and then expand your operation to LA, and finally to New York City, where you can set up your Worldwide Headquarters to manage all your other branches.”
The fisherman asks, “So, how long would that take?”
The businessman reply, “About 15 to 20 years.”
The fisherman continues, “And after that?”
The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you will manages your enormous business, and when the time is right, you can go public on the Stock Exchange, by then you will be rich, you will be worth hundreds of millions, perhaps even billions dollars!”
The fisherman asks, “And after that?”
The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by a fishing village, wake up early in the morning and catch a few fish, then return home to play with the kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”
The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”
Sometimes the life we want to live is right in front of us.
And yet, how do we stay aware of our limited time without becoming obsessed or depressed? We can do this by accepting our impermanence and not treating it as foreign or a burden. People do accomplish this to a certain extent when they set up wills and trusts. They know they are preparing for the inevitable. But often once these legal documents are set in place, people go back to living their lives with their sense of mortality tucked away safely only to be brought out by a close call at a cross walk or some other unexpected scare. But if we can see our mortality as just a part of the life process, and we can connect to it without judgment then we can use it to help us live our lives with a different outlook.
When I was in graduate school I had a teacher and friend who grappled with his mortality as a result of terminal skin cancer. He surprised me one day by informing me that knowing his death was near was freeing and rather than feeling like a heavy burden it actually made him feel lighter. I asked how that could possibly be. He explained that ever since he had come to be at peace with his impending death he could focus on the most important things in his life. I was still puzzled. So he said , “With the knowledge that I won’t be here right in front of me, I can see more clearly what is important to me. So, for instance, I care more for things that will be here when I am gone. I can make decisions and prioritize without the pressure of my ego. I am more alive than I have ever been.”
I like Tim McGraw’s song, “Live Like You Were Dying”. It captures the message in this Jar The Ground tenet. Accept and be aware of your mortality and things will actually get clearer. Know that none of us has nearly as much time as we think. Live like you have one life and use your time wisely.
There is much more to the concept that you should live like you have one life. If you would like to learn more contact me here. If you would like to schedule a Jar The Ground talk for your organization feel free to contact me via the “Book a Speaking Engagement” menu bar link above.