You are in control of a good part of your life and your destiny. Most of us have a retirement lifestyle that would be unimaginable to the vast majority of the world’s citizens. We can make choices every day that allow us to be satisfied. But, do we? How often do we make the easy choice instead of the right choice?
Let’s assume you currently live comfortably. You have possessions that make your life pleasant, your finances are in order, and things are pretty much running well. Like me, you probably have a car or two, own at least one computer, a flat screen TV or two, some nice clothes, and a home or apartment to store all your stuff. You don’t worry too much about what you buy each week at the grocery store. You have a safe and predictable existence. You are living a satisfying retirement.
But, is that all there is? After all, why are we here? Is it to acquire stuff, or maybe to make our families as comfortable as possible? Regardless of your faith or your belief in what happens after death one thing is clear: we can’t take any of that stuff with us. Our comfortable lifestyle has no power to endure. The statistics are pretty clear: your chance of dying is 100%.
So, what have we chosen? A lifestyle that is safe and predictable but with little real substance to stimulate us. Those who achieve some of the external trappings of success without internal fulfillment are only living on the surface. In many cases that life avoids facing the real fear — that maybe all this stuff isn’t really worth anything compared to what’s being lost… that maybe I should be living more boldly and not be so concerned about what happens to all my stuff. I want my life to have more value. I may die rich, or I may die broke but I won’t die with my music still in me.
What have I got to lose? What am I truly risking if I seriously go after my dreams? If my current lifestyle is unfulfilled, then I’m starting broke, no matter how much money is in the bank. Money and material assets are just resources to use while you’re here. You’re only a temporary steward of the money and possessions that pass through your life. So when you risk money, you don’t risk anything of any enduring value. Earn money, lose money, invest money. But don’t make material objects more important than your own fulfillment and happiness. Life is just too precious to waste. If you are spending your days doing things that just fill the time but aren't deeply fulfilling, what is the value?
What does it mean to really live? Deep down, you already have a sense of the direction where this answer lies for you. Ultimately, it’s a choice. You’re free to live the kind of life you want. There may be real costs, in terms of comfort, or even relationships. Not everyone will be willing to board your ship before it sails.
Here’s a question: if you knew you only had 18 months left to live, how would you spend your time? What would you immediately stop doing? How would you fill the time you have left?
If you could you would probably live for what is real to you. Live for what truly matters to you. What matters to me — what is real to me — is inspiring and helping people, loving my wife and family, deepening my faith, simplifying my life, and leaving a mark of some kind.
Directly or indirectly what my precious time is spent on should somehow relate to those desires. The fulfillment I get from doing these things should trump all the external stuff. It shoudn’t matter what the state of my finances are. It shouldn’t matter if people reject my ideas or poke fun at what I enjoy doing.
What would I put on a "bucket list?" Taking an RV trip around America for a few months and going back to England and Ireland would be there. A cruise to Alaska, definitely. I'd continue my volunteer work with just-released prisoners. It is satisfying and meaningful. I'd get good enough to play my guitar in public. I would continue to work on deepening my faith walk. I would take every opportunity to make my wife, daughters, son-in-law, and grandkids happy.
What would not be on the list? Worrying about weeds in the lawn. Having a 30 item to-do list every morning. Weekend chores. A messy house. Worrying about things I can't control, which is virtually everything except my attitude.
How about you? Would your list include composing a new piece of music, writing something inspiring, giving your spouse a massage? How about playing with your grandkids, cleaning out some clutter? Would you audition for a local play, start your own business, volunteer for a charity or two?
Whatever it is for you and me. all of us need to do something that leaves us feeling at the end of the day that we really contributed the best of ourselves. We need to strive that we not die with our music still in us.
Thanks to blogger Steve Pavlina for a post he wrote several years ago that inspired this article.