If 2018 was your last year on this planet, how would that change your perspective of life?
No one in their right mind likes to think about that question and even worse, none of us would like to live daringly enough to answer it. But it’s somewhat invigorating to consider the implications of what it would feel like to live our life as if it were true, right? Personally, I believe we should change this question and think of it in a more short-term sense. What if this were your last week on Earth?
Now you’re petrified!
The family we haven’t seen in years. The relationships we’ve let fade away. The goals we’ve yet to achieve. I bet you could probably add hundreds of things to this list. We don’t like to think about what we’d be leaving behind when we take our final breath. (Don’t worry, I’m not going to make this a morbid post!)
But dare to consider, “WHY?” Why are we plagued with a lack of motivation in our lives simply because we don’t know when that fateful day will come, that we become content with “I’ll get around to those things eventually,…” This makes me think of my amazing mother-in-law, who went to her forever home in Heaven on February 12, 2016 (just a few days shy of two years ago). I remember that devastating night very vividly and here’s the thing: I had known her for almost eight years the day she passed away and our relationship, much like the relationships I have with the rest of my in-laws, had grown by leaps and bounds over those eight years. I walked into my mother-in-law’s house ahead of my wife, who was almost 8 months pregnant with our first child, and her mom’s first grandchild, and we said our “hello’s” and all. Everyone was happy, content with the day and filled with anticipation for the weekend ahead.
My wife, her sister, and her mom were gearing up to leave for dinner and a girl’s weekend, where they would be shopping and eating and having fun while staying at our house, and I was going to be hanging out for the weekend with my father-in-law and his boys at their house. My wife and sister-in-law got in the car while I was in the kitchen and their mom came around the corner with a smile and we exchanged our goodbyes. This haunts me to this day, but I wished them a fun-filled time together and said my goodbye. Normally, I would’ve given her a hug as she walked past, but I didn’t this time. Before I could turn to go in the living room, she was pulling the door closed behind her and I watched them buckle up and pull away.
A few hours later, after being unable to get her dad to answer his phone, mine rang and, again, without thinking much of it, I assumed she was calling to remind me to do something. I remember answering the call and hearing her frantically telling me what was happening, but my body felt frozen. Except for jumping up out of my seat because I thought that would help me better wrap my mind around what I was being told, I was wide-eyed and still. As quickly as the call came, it ended and I was panic-stricken, stuttering almost incoherently to the rest of the guys in the room, “it’s Mom! They’re taking her to the hospital, something happened…” “It’s Mom, it’s Mom!”
Hannah and I had been married for 4 1/2 years at this point and I had never really called her “mom” but it didn’t feel out of place in this moment. The only thing was that my father-in-law and brothers-in-law were confused because they thought I was talking about my mom. After I collected myself, I was able to clearly express what I was trying to say and, before I could blink almost, we were all piled into my car and flying up the rocky gravel hill of a driveway and heading to the hospital, which was a good twenty-five minute drive away. Thank God there were no cops on the freeway, because I don’t believe my speedometer dropped below 85 mph between the house and hospital.
After the annoyingly long process of letting the reception nurse know who we were and where we were trying to go, they informed us that everyone was in a private family waiting room, a red flag that I didn’t catch in the moment. After we reunited in that room with my wife and her sister, (Hannah’s oldest brother was out of the country and her middle brother was more than an hour away with his girlfriend), a doctor came in and gave us the fateful news that they worked for over thirty minutes and could not revive her, that we had lost her.
I relive that story from time to time in my head and I hate doing so, but I always come back to this one thought: I’m in no way minimizing the loss of my mother-in-law, but there was always so much she wanted to accomplish and, even now, I’m learning that, not just with her, but all of us, we are missing great and wonderful opportunities to live life to the fullest and it’s all because of things like fear of failure, fear of what other’s will think. Pride. Worry that if we do this, we’ll miss out on that.
You know I’m a fan of Steve Jobs quotes and this one is my all-time favorite:
“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… If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do today?”
You can find the full quote and its context at the end of this post, but what a powerful thought, right? What if we woke up each day and made the firm commitment that we are going to take a step outside of our beloved “comfort zone” and do something that scares us. Like Jobs said, “you are already naked,…” so why not? Hannah and I had a meager start to our relationship as it relates to finances. Between the beginning of our relationship and our wedding day, we had found great financial teaching from Dave Ramsey and his program, Financial Peace University, and made it to a place where we had a lot of money in savings, enough to pay our bills and take small trips every few weekends, and so on.
On the flip side, we have also seen the ebb and flow of life and we have also spent plenty of time in fear of getting our lights shut off or not having enough money to put gas in the car, etc. Pride told me in those moments that we were all alone in those situations and that we were failures. But it’s because of those ups and downs, the trials and triumphs of life that reminds me that I’m already naked. I’m already vulnerable and I know that we could be back in that pit of despair and hopelessness at any moment. What I also know is that, if that were to happen (and believe me, we are much better prepared emotionally, spiritually, and financially), it will be so much easier to see the other side of that hard time and know that we’re going to come out of it better than when we came in.
My heart just bursts with fervor to encourage you, as you’ve read this, to look in the mirror and to let the reality sink in that you are naked and that life (or the devil) has no power over you. The only thing that stands in the way of you reaching out and taking the things you want in this life is you. If what you want out of life is God-honoring and you want to do things that make a difference and bring good things to yourself and others, then you can have it. STOP worrying about what others think. I used to think “they will remember when I tried to do _____________ and failed” and but in reality, when I tried ___________ and ___________ and ___________ and ___________ and ___________ and failed at all of those things, I found myself talking about those failures and hearing people say, “I completely forget you did that way back when…” and that’s it. They didn’t say, “I completely forgot you tried that way back when and MAN, you bombed big time! 🤣 ” … The only person that dwells on your mistakes enough to remember them is you. Please, please understand that each and every one of us are trying new things, big and small, all the time and very rarely do we succeed at everything we try. That’s okay. It’s like the old sales mindset, “It takes 99 ‘no’s’ to get to a yes, so just know that, for every ‘no’ you get, for every closed door or failed attempt at something, you are one ‘no’ closer to a ‘YES!'”
We all fail and we fail often. Take a step outside of your comfort zone and make a small change (like I did with getting my wardrobe under control) or other small changes you can make to gain momentum, and watch as you begin to get more comfortable with living your best life.
We will never know what day will be our last, only God knows, but you have to wake up each day and ask yourself if what you plan to do that day is worth doing if you knew that it would be your last day alive. Fix that awkward relationships. Apologize to that friend you haven’t talked to in years. Sign up for that degree program. Apply for that job. Go. Do it now.
Here is the segment from the speech from Steve Jobs:
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like, “If you live each day as if it were 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’m 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 tool 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.”
—– Later in his speech —–<
No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to Heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet, death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because death is very likely the single best invention of life. It’s life’s change agent. it clears out the old to make way for the new.
Right now, the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it’s quite true. Your time is limited; so don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”