A chalkboard on a sidewalk in London with the prompt, "Before I die"

Photo: Martin Brady

Rebecca Ryan, APF
Rebecca Ryan, APF

Growing up I had a persistent feeling that I would die young.

It wasn't a scary feeling, but it did create a sense of urgency, like "whatever-I-do-has-to-make-a-difference."

I've outlived the "young" part of life, but I enjoy the persistent urgency to live like it matters. I write my own obituary, track and invest more in my "first ring" relationships, keep a time confetti list, and do other stuff that would make strangers slowly walk backwards.

You will die

Pat Perry, host of the Success Wave podcast asks all of the guests:

"If you had a billboard that everyone in the world could see at exactly the same time, what would you put on that billboard?"

My response: "You will die."

Confronting our mortality is powerful and clarifying. You will die. So how can you live like it matters? Of all the techniques I've tried over the years, spending time answering these 5 questions helps me most:

The 5 Questions

  1. If I only had one week to live, how would I spend my time?
  2. If I only had one month to live, how would I spend my time?
  3. If I only had one year to live, how would I spend my time?
  4. If I only had five years to live, how would I spend my time?
  5. If I only had one lifetime to live, how would I spend my time?

I double-dog dare you to invest the time to answer these questions, and would love to hear what you learn.

In my experience:

  • Answers to questions 1-3 bring clarity to how I spend my days and weeks. I've cut out a lot of bullshit, resigned from Boards, stopped arguing with my wife over petty crap, and dramatically shifted how much time I spend outdoors.
  • Question 4 gives direction to the arc of my life. I'm writing more. Sharing more. Editing myself less. Spending less time doing email and more time traveling for pleasure and doing deep work.
  • The 5th question is a wink. We don't know how long "one lifetime" is, do we?

Livin' like I'm dyin',

~ Rebecca

Black and white photo from a mountain with Mary Oliver poem about one wild and precious life.

Image: dahenneman.com


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Rebecca Ryan, APF
Rebecca Ryan, APF

Rebecca Ryan captains the ship. Trained as a futurist and an economist, Rebecca helps clients see what's coming - as a keynote speaker, a Futures Lab facilitator, an author of books, blogs and articles, a client advisor, and the founder of Futurist Camp. Check out her blog or contact Lisa Loniello for more information.

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