Following the launch of RISE, the #1 question I get asked the most is ‘Which chapter is my favourite?’. And without a shadow of doubt my reply is always chapter 8, mortality motivation.
Now, a chapter on mortality – death – may feel like a conversation stopper not starter, but honestly, it’s the chapter that still stops me in my tracks 18 months after I initially drafted it. Whilst I’m not predicting my death any time soon, I am intensely aware of the value of time.
Time is a fleeting commodity that is irreplaceable and that will pass no matter what I, or you, do with it. Maybe it’s because I’m now older, or a parent thinking about the legacy I wish to leave for my children, or maybe because I’ve seen first-hand how life, without warning, can send you reminders of who’s the boss and that in an instant your world, your priorities and your focus can change.
So whilst each chapter in RISE is jam packed full of strategies, tools and ideas for you to start living the life you were meant to lead, chapter 8 – mortality motivation – makes you realise you’ve actually got only one shot at life, and it’s down to you to make it a good one!
Mortality Motivation #1 The length of our lives is out of our hands. But its breadth and depth is not.
For the period 2010–15 the United Nations World Population Prospects: 2015 Revision reported that the average life expectancy at birth, worldwide, was 71.5 years (68 years and 4 months for males and 72 years and 8 months for females).
The 2016 World Factbook reported something similar: 67 years for males and 71.1 years for females, for an average of 69 years. These life expectancy figures are averages and we all know that other factors come into play; lifestyle, diet, weight, genetic make-up, wealth, plus a variety of other things, including luck!
The message to take away is this: your chronological age is what it is, but you can manage all the other things around it. You have no control over the length of your life, but you do have control over its breadth and depth.
Mortality Motivation #2 What you do today is important because you’re trading a day of your life for it.
This talks to the idea that we should make the most of our time on this earth and get the most out of each of our days ahead.
But how many days do you have exactly?
And what does it matter if you squander some and only make the most of a few?
How many days do you have left?
I’ve come up with this simple exercise to get you to start thinking with the end in mind.
Based on the average life expectancy where you live, how many days do you have left? (To find the specific life expectancy for where you live, simply type into your search engine and then do the simple calculation.)
Then, with that number, ask yourself the following:
How good is the trade of time you’re making each and every day?
Are you happy with the trade?
If the answer to the second question is yes, then keep doing what you’re doing. But if it’s no, what do you need to do differently or how do you need to change the way you’re thinking about things in your life right now?
Make sure every day is a good trade
Now imagine a standard tape measure (or use a real one if you have one to hand). You’ll want one that is at least as long as your average life expectancy in centimetres, where one centimetre represents one year.
Open the tape measure at the point where you discovered the life expectancy for a person of your gender, in the country where you live.
So using me to illustrate the point, I am a male in the UK, so my life expectancy is 79. I’ll open and set my tape measure at 79 centimetres. Since I am now 45, the statistics say I’ve got 34 years left. The next step is to wind the tape measure back in so that there are only 34 centimetres showing, representing the years I have ahead of me to pursue my personal and professional goals.
What is it for you?
Wind back the difference so you are only showing the years left ahead of you.
Now, since we need to sleep for roughly eight hours per day, or one-third of each 24-hour cycle, we must also ‘delete’ that time from the years we have left. In my case, that’s 11.3 years of sleep, so let’s wind the tape measure in once again. I am now left with 22.6 years, roughly one half of which I will spend at work pursuing my professional goals and the other half pursuing my personal ones.
That’s 11.3 years for each.
That’s the time I have left to work with.
How much is it for you?
It’s an indication of the time each of us has left to achieve our goals, pursue our dreams and live the life we want to live. That’s the time we have left to ensure our obituary is the one we want people to read.
Even the most strident optimist can see that time is precious and using it deliberately and consciously is critical if you are to achieve your greatest ambitions. That’s the important benefit of developing your mortality motivation.
Mortality Motivation #3 Don’t bank everything up, thinking you’ll do it later in life
As you get older, it’s not just important to recognise that your finite number of days is decreasing all the time, but that each of those days left is increasingly precious.
You see, life is back to front.
When you’re young you have your health, boundless levels of energy, a positive innocence and naivety and a hunger to make your dent on the world. But you are spinning the plates; forging a professional career, building a family, managing the tensions of work–life balance and paying all the bills. And then when you’re older you probably have the financial resources and more time, but do you necessarily have your health?
Don’t fall into the trap of banking everything up, thinking you’ll do it later in life.
Some day may never come. Find the balance between living your dreams right now and living in the chapter of your life you’re in.
In the end the big important things are usually the small, seemingly unimportant things that you put off while you get on with your life or don’t pay attention to because you’re too ‘busy’. Simple things such as cuddling your little girl or boy, playing with your dog in the garden, going for a walk and enjoying the sunshine.
I hope it’s now clear to you why mortality motivation is my favourite chapter. It isn’t depressing or bleak; it’s a rallying cry for you to get out there and do something remarkable with your life, and it’s a warning that you ought to start doing that right now.