"No one gets out of here alive."
It's 2007 and I'm visiting my family in Fargo, North Dakota over Labor Day weekend. We are all going to a lake near Detroit Lakes, Minnesota. It's a great day; I spent time with family, enjoy the water, the sun, and some drinks. I ride with my brother and his girlfriend so when it was time to go home he drives my car; he doesn't drink.
So we start our trek back to Fargo. It's very dark and we don't know the roads very well. There's a curve in the road up ahead, and all of a sudden a car whips around the corner very quickly and is heading right towards us...in our lane!
My brother has somewhat of a "deer in the headlights" reaction going on, and since he's not familiar with my car he can't find my horn or lights fast enough. We just stop. We are literally sitting in my car waiting to get smashed into at 55 miles per hour.
The car eventually swerves and missed us; we survive. But, we very easily could have died*. That was 12 years ago. Up until that point I lived my life the way many people do. I floated around from circumstance to circumstance, reacting to whatever life threw my way. I didn't take any time to figure out what I wanted out of life, I just reacted to the things (good and bad) that happened to me.
I could be living on borrowed time right now. I've experienced 12 years that perhaps I shouldn't have. Or a bigger tragedy might be that I could have died without ever living my life on purpose.
We're Not Here Long
We are all going to die. The fact that we know we will die someday gives many a great deal of stress and angst. I propose that it need not be that way. The reality is that you are going to die; and every one you love is going to die. I hope it's not for a long time, but it could be tomorrow. Living with, and accepting this knowledge should change how you feel about your time on Earth.
We only get a few dozen trips around the sun, if we're lucky. That makes it more important to enjoy our time here. In recent times there has been an increasing fascination with this fact, and the movement goes by YOLO, or You Only Live Once. I fully support this movement because it celebrates the fact that we are lucky to be able to enjoy a few decades of life. It's about filling up our remaining time with activities that bring joy to us and those we love.
Unfortunately, I've started seeing pictures where people post themselves wasting money somehow, along with a caption that reads, "I'm stuck between paying my bills and YOLO." These do not need to be mutually exclusive. The key is to use our money to live the best life we can for both present us and future us.
I used to spend my time reacting to whatever life threw my way. I sometimes found new jobs, but only if I had to. I never really planned anything, and certainly nothing long term. In college, professors Doug Greenley and Oscar Flores were the first two to ask what I want to do. I didn't know. I was a classic reactor. By reacting to life, you never take steps to live the life that you want because you never take the time to figure out exactly what it is you want. We stay at jobs we don't like. We never try new things. We sometimes keep bad relationships. We do these things because this is the situation we find ourselves in and we react to it.
Reacting to life is a lot like being chained to life. You have to follow it around and have so say in the matter. You are in the place where you are because you've unconsciously floated around from one moment to the next.
Living proactively, with more mindfulness, means you take some time to figure out what it is you want out of life. Our time here is short and so few people have actually put an ounce of thought into what kind of life they want. Some people are afraid that if they put anything down or make a plan they are stuck to that plan. It doesn't have to be that way, so I give you permission to revisit your plan every so often to make sure it is still in line with your views of life. And don't worry if you don't get everything right in the first try. It's a process, not an event.
In an ideal world, you have control of your life, instead of the other way around. It's kind of like having a conversation with life, telling life what you want and why, and letting life deliver.
You're a Tourist
Have you ever visited a new city, or a city that you've see before but really love going to? Do you try new restaurants, see the sights, and learn about the history of the place?
I do, too.
Do you do the same thing in your home town?
Tourists, knowing that they aren't going to be in a particular city forever know that they have to spend their time getting to know and exploring the city. They didn't visit the city to stay in the hotel and watch Netflix. So they explore, go on adventures, and have fun.
If knowing that we aren't going to be in a particular city forever leads us to explore and have fun in that city, what if we take the view that we are a tourist on Earth. We aren't going to be here forever so we should seek to enjoy our time here. That will mean something different to everyone, of course; just like some people who visit New York City love to see museums, some check out restaurants and clubs, and other want to go to a Yankees game. They do what they can given their interests and their budget.
Similarly, we should plan our time on Earth in a similar way to planning a vacation. Author Mitch Anthony has a saying that you should strive for the best life you can get with the money that you have.