❝Life is a gym membership with a really complicated cancellation policy.❞ -Rudy Francisco
My friend and I can't stop laughing. It's 1990, and we're watching a movie that we've seen a dozen times, Little Monsters. Little Monsters is a movie where Howie Mandel plays a monster that lives under Fred Savage's bed. I'm at my friend's place, and I have instructions that as soon as the movie is over, I have to go home. In other words, what's the movie is done, the fun's over.
Despite the fact that the end of the movie meant the end of fun, we still enjoy the movie. Knowing that there would be an end to the movie did not ruin the movie for us.
Looking back, I can imagine a scenario in which I was so worried about the movie ending that I didn't enjoy the movie at all. My worry could have ruined the experience altogether.
The movie might be a simple example, but if we slide the intensity all the way up, we'll find that the same applies to life. Many people are so worried about death that they ignore life altogether and, in doing so, look back on their life from their deathbed full of regrets.
Just because the end will come does not mean we can't enjoy the experience.
LIFE IS SHORT
It's easy to forget the fact that life is short. What happens after we die is both unknown and unknowable. The only thing we know for sure is that we are lucky enough to experience this life. We owe it to ourselves to not take this life for granted.
It's common for people who have near-death experiences or lose someone close to them to start to re-evaluate their lives. It's only when they run face-to-face with the reaper that they start to get their priorities straight.
Practicing gratitude is the antidote to taking our lives for granted. Practicing gratitude helps combat what psychologists call hedonic adaptation, or the idea that we get used to our surroundings very quickly.
Remembering the shortness of life is a springboard into a life of gratitude.
PRESENT AND FUTURE SELVES
Remembering that life is finite has the potential to make people think that they ought to "live like they are dying." This idea is so popular it has a popular abbreviation, YOLO, which stands for you only live once. The idea behind YOLO is that you should not put off having fun if you can do it today because, well, you only live once.
This idea is absolutely correct; we do only live once, we should not put off living our life, and we are well-served by remembering that this is our one life. What it gets wrong, however, is that life is longer than one day. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, of course, but it's reasonable to assume that you will be around in the future.
There will be future versions of you, and those future versions of you deserve to get taken care of just as much as you right now deserve to get taken care of.
When we live in a reactionary way, we live in a way where we forget that there will be future versions of us. In the popular television program How I Met Your Mother, main characters Ted and Marshall don't want to deal with their problems. They actually articulate to each other, "this sounds like a problem for future Ted in Marshall." The problem is that Ted and Marshall, in the present, are always upset at past Ted and Marshall.
Keeping the future in mind will help keep you from robbing your future selves. It helps you live more intentionally.
REGRETS FROM THE PAST
Believe it or not, regret can be good for us. Regret gives us information about something that we may have done wrong. Regret lets you know that there's something you can do better in the future. In fact, we can be grateful for feeling regret. Regret can help us recognize our shortcomings or missteps so that we can do something different next time.
We can't change the past. Hoping that we can is not the point of regret. Regret takes information from the past, informs us in the present so that we can make better decisions in the future.
With regret, there are learning opportunities. Something that we regret doing or not doing doesn't need to be labeled a failure. It's only a failure if we are unable to learn the lesson.
Further, feeling regret is kind of like eating dirt. Kids get exposed to all kinds of germs, and those germs make them sick, at least in the short run. However, over the long run, it builds up their immune system. Similarly, regret can feel like being sick in the short run. However, it builds resiliency. It helps us cope with challenges in the future. It helps build our so-called psychological immune system.
Regret is only bad when we dwell on the past and replay the situation over and over in our heads.