What Would You Do Differently?


There’s an old saying I think about quite a bit. It goes like this:

“The trouble is, you think you have time.”

The thought is one that routinely spurs me to action and helps me prioritize my life. Because it’s true. Our priorities often get misplaced specifically because we think we have more time than we actually do.

It’s easy to forget the value of every day—especially in a world of constant distraction.

What if we approached life each day fully committed to the reality that time is short? That nothing lasts forever? And tomorrow is promised to no one?

For example, if you knew this was your last year to live, how would you live differently?

I don’t ask this question as a downer, but as a clarifying lens to focus on what truly matters. Take some time to legitimately answer the question.

In our daily routine, it’s easy to get lost in the details and forget the larger picture. When we do, we spend time on and chase after things that, in the grand scheme of things, hold little significance.

That is why the question above can be so powerfully reframing and why our hearts and minds resonate with the question every time we hear it. It reshapes and refines our perspective almost immediately.

So I think it would be helpful for each of us to ask ourselves the question again today.

If this were your last year to live, would you concern yourself with material possessions, or would you focus on legacy, relationships, and meaningful experiences with the ones you love?

This is important because the reality is that life does fly by. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. Milestones come and go. Children grow up. People move. Jobs and careers end. Our bodies slow down. And before we know it, we’re all left wondering, “Have I lived well?”

My life will probably not end this year. It might, but it probably won’t. But you know what will end? One of the greatest and most important seasons of my life. In two months, our youngest daughter will graduate high school. In six months, both of my children will no longer live at home. And while I will always be their dad and Kim will always be their mom, parenting will look very different from here on.

Even if I don’t die this year, a season of my life will.

“The days are long, but the years are short,” as they like to say. And I’m left with only the question, “Did I live it well?”

The question above, “If you knew this was your last year to live, how would you live differently?” is a powerfully important one that we ought to ask ourselves frequently. Because it might be truer than you think. And it always helps us refine our pursuits and passions.

If This Were Your Last Year, Would You…

Redo Your Countertops?

Sure, keeping up with all the changing trends can be fun and redoing the kitchen might raise the resale value of your home, but if you had only one year to live, would the visual appeal of your home to a potential future buyer really be the thing you wanted to spend your time and money on?

Buy a Brand New Car?

Maybe you really would need a more reliable car to get you through your last year. But in making that choice, my guess is that you’d find great truth in Harvey Mackay’s words, “If you can afford a fancy car, you can make more of an impact driving an ordinary one.”

Binge Watch Another Series on Netflix?

Time spent playing mobile games or binge-watching shows would quickly become recognized as wasted time. You’d try to replace those hours with healthy conversation.

Spend More Time at the Office?

Hard work is commendable, but when it robs us of our health or time with family, it’s worth reassessing our priorities.

Chase After the Latest Gadgets?

In a world where technology is constantly evolving, it’s tempting to chase after the latest device or tech development. But if you had just one year left to live, I wonder how much we’d pursue human connection and interaction instead.

Obsess Over Social Media Status?

Social media can consume vast amounts of our time. And it is true that I’ve seen lots of people post on social media updating the final weeks of a loved one’s life, but I don’t recall any examples of people spending their final days on social media. Something tells me there are more important matters on the top of mind.

Engage in Unnecessary Arguments?

Disagreements and conflicts are part of life, but how many of them truly matter? If we had just one year to live, how many of those conflicts would be viewed as foolish or petty? Especially compared to unity, harmony, love, and understanding.

Put Off Apologies or Reconciliations?

Knowing our time is limited would underscore the importance of mending fences. Holding onto pride or resentment often seems pointless when faced with the finite nature of life.

Certainly, it is wise to consider the long-term. Saving for retirement, investing in career and personal growth, taking care of our health, strategizing long-term are all good and worthwhile endeavors. I’m certainly not trying to argue against wise decisions.

But the important reminder that life is short should encourage us to live each day with intention. The unpredictable nature of life is not a cause for fear—it is a call to action.

So how do we respond? Well, it starts with small, intentional choices. Removing our lives of distractions—whether they be physical possessions, trivial entertainment, unnecessary commitments, or the unquenchable pursuit of money—frees up space and energy to engage in the things that truly enrich our lives.

If this were your last year, you would likely prioritize relationships, pursue your passions, dedicate yourself to activity that brings meaning, and give generously by sharing your time, resources, and talents with those you desire to bless.

And those are all things we can do every day—regardless of how many days remain in our lives.

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