(Disclaimer: I am in perfect health. I was asked this question by a friend when we were talking about anxiety and how we always make plans for the future, but not always ‘live’ in the present. )
What if today was your last day on Earth?
Are you happy with the way you led your life up to now?
Were you a good person? Did you value what was important? Did you make good decisions with what you had available?
Did you put off “being good” to the future, for when you had more time, money, or experience?
What did you leave behind? Destruction and contempt – or love and growth?
How will people remember you? As someone who complained, chased down their dreams at the expense of others, never had time to think about “love” or “Earth” or what is “good” – or someone that always had a helping hand and heart, and built something that helps people on their own path, or made the world a little better place?
Will you have made the world a better place when you leave the world? Most of us would answer yes, right?
But would that answer change if you were leaving the world today?
I’m still a student, so most of my daydreams feature myself getting my dream job, my dream house, kids, and a sense of having a purpose in life. I can’t wait to gradaute and “start living life”. Little did I know how much I was putting off “living life” until someone asked me: Yeah, but what if you died today? What then?
My answer scared me. I’m so busy wishing and wanting things for the future – that I’m not too concerned about what I’m doing now.
A lot of us – maybe most of us – put important things off to the future. I’m not talking about buying stuff or having things – I’m talking about having the chance to be a better person, a world citizen, and someone who’s interested in saving the Earth. Who never thought “Yeah, eating less meat sounds great, but I’ll do it in the future when I have more time or money” or “I can’t deal with being a more active citizen now, I have work to do!”. We don’t live each day as if it were an opportunity to do our very best. We don’t use all the time we could to be useful citizens and construct meaningful, lasting relationships. We’re mostly worried with material matters – and that’s mostly ok, because we need material things – but we leave the most important out of our minds because we’re so busy worrying.
I’m a student, so I’m working and studying most of my time. I don’t have that many resources or time, which are usually the two things one needs to do “something big”. But maybe I don’t need to do “something big” to make my existence worthwhile, and I don’t need to wait until I have my dream job, house, or family to do it, either. If I used every opportunity of every single day to be good, whether it was at school, at my temporary job, or with my friends and family, I’d be making a whole lot of difference that I’d like to see. On top of that, if I spent all the extra time and resources I had, even something small like ten minutes a day or a dollar a week on doing something for the Earth – I think I would feel very accomplished and satisfied with the way I was leading my life.
When it comes to action, we need to focus more on the present. It’s not your future actions that count – it’s what you do now, with what you already have. Are you spending too much time worrying about things that don’t really matter? How can you focus more on living your life today?
One strategy is to draw a picture of your brain and make bubbles in it that represent what you usually think about. The bigger the bubble, the more you think about it.
Then, draw another picture of your brain and draw the bubbles with the sizes you would like to have in them.
Next, make that second picture a reality – start thinking more about the bubbles you would like to be bigger, and pay less attention to the bubbles you want to be smaller. Changing the way you think is the first step to changing the way you act.
I made Earth-saving one of the bigger bubbles in my brain drawing. How about you?
“A man is what a man thinks about all day long.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson