To Live Like You Were Dying

A few months ago, my mom gave me a box of items from my childhood bedroom.  Among the items was a small, lockable 5-year diary.  The date was at the top of each page and below were 5 lined sections each beginning with 19__ .  Upon review of said diary, it was apparent that I had used it mostly during my 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade years of school.  I didn’t write in it every day, but every single post- Every. Single. Post.- began with the same sentence scrawled in my elementary handwriting in pencil: “Today was so much fun.”

That was followed by statements about going out to eat, playing with my cousins, going to a friend’s house, visiting my grandparents, etc.  This made me happy and sad all at once.  (I also felt affirmed in my natural affinity for Positive Psychology) I had kept a “What Went Right” journal as a child!  Yay! But why wasn’t I still doing that now? Boo!  It became glaringly obvious to me that I have lost touch (as so many of us do as we begin to adult on a daily basis) with that excited enthusiasm about daily life. So, I began to wonder how to retrieve it.

My mind then shot forward from elementary school to approximately 8 years ago when I was managing a clinical team at a residential treatment facility.  The team was overworked, underpaid, and functioning in an environment of continuously dealing with kids who were behaviorally acting out from terrible trauma.  It was emotionally and physically draining.  We had a weekly clinical meeting on Monday morning that lasted up to two hours and it was incredibly painful to get through.  So, I implemented an opening ritual of going around the table and having everyone complete the following sentence- “Isn’t it great that…”  Of course some would struggle at first, but this really began to change the attitude of the meeting over time just by starting with a more positive perspective.

We are reminded DAILY of all of the bad in the world.  We are also shown that we are not guaranteed another year, month, day, or even moment.  In talking with the adult patients at work this week, one patient stated that “Some day” she planned to do what she loved.  On some level, we have all experienced this put-it-off-til-later thought, expecting that ‘some day’ will come.  When she said this, I simply told her that we are all going to die.  (Of course, I then had to take a moment to calm the patients suffering with panic attacks…)

Typically everyone gets all worked up when I say this, but let’s be honest, it’s the truth.  We are all going to die.  I absolutely love Dan Millman’s take on this from his book Way of the Peaceful Warrior: 

“Wake up! If you knew for certain you had a terminal illness–if you had little time left to live–you would waste precious little of it! Well, I’m telling you…you do have a terminal illness: It’s called birth. You don’t have more than a few years left. No one does! So be happy now, without reason–or you will never be at all.”

What are we waiting for??  ‘Some day’ may never come.  If we are always putting off the things we love and the things that make us happy for ‘some day’ or for when we have time or enough money or enough of anything, we may never do those things that truly make us feel alive.  And that simply won’t do.  What tense are you living in?  Are you living in the future-tense of ‘some day’ land?  I, for one, most certainly do not want to look back as I am lying on my deathbed and wish that I had done more of what I love.  Are you feeling my sense of urgency here?!


There is no time to waste.  We were not created to slog through each day dreading how we spend our time.  We are here to feel love and joy and happiness and connection.  We are here to live– not just exist.  

So, I have an assignment for you.  This week, every morning upon starting your day, complete this sentence:

Isn’t it great that…

And every night when you go to bed, complete this sentence:

Today was so much fun because…

You have the power and even bigger, the responsibility to shift your focus and live the life you want.  Start your day with a positive perspective and find some fun in every day.  In some way.  You can do it.  And you know I will be practicing with you.  Isn’t it great that we are in this together?!  Today was so much fun because I got to share from my heart with you.  Thanks for that.

Talk again soon.


One thought on “To Live Like You Were Dying

  1. What a great column! So going to add both of these statements to my daily journaling. It’s it great that you are so awesome!!

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