What if you knew you had a day to live? How would you spend it?
Now that’s not a question you haven’t heard before. Come to think of it, what could you possibly do in 24 hours? I think I’d be too depressed to try anything new, enterprising or adventurous. Probably end up crawling under my blanket and hope to wake up from the damned nightmare. Eat my favourite meals. Watch a re-run of my favourite Friends’ episodes. Ask someone to make me laugh..
Sleep through it?
But let’s prolong the time a little. And let’s not make it terminal-let’s assume a less tragic end to this timeframe. Let’s tweak the question a little.
How many years do you think you have left to be physically able? How many years do you have left to be absolutely and unashamedly selfish? How many years do you have left before you find yourself responsible for more lives than just yours?
How many years do you have left of uninhibited youth?
I recently attended a talk by a sports scientist about achieving high performance. His viewpoint was simple- high performance is not just dependent on your physical well-being. It needs to be complemented by the right mental setup and emotional balance. And very importantly, it needs a goal. A specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely i.e SMART Goal. The problem with us is that we think we have indefinite life spans. Without us realising it, we carry a much exaggerated notion of time. When you’re in your 20s, the 30s seem decades away. I remember telling my friends, I intend to get married in my laaaate 20s-oh, you know, aaages from now. I’m 22 now, turning 23 this year and it sure doesn’t feel ages away anymore.
Thanks to this miscalculation, what we end up doing with our wishes and aspirations is we put them away for later. For a time when we’ll be less occupied, more financially stable, more emotionally available. We’re chasing after this almost super-human version of ourselves that we’re sure will materialise soon enough and when it does, it will be the right time to truly start living our lives the way we always wanted to.
Until then, let’s just exist yeah?
So this sports scientist fellow said something that really stuck. What we need to do is start living our lives backward. Confused? Let me elaborate.
I’m going to be 23 this year. If I ask myself how many truly, physically able years I have ahead of me to live out those of my dreams that involve physical ability, my answer would be 12 or so years. Not to say that I’ll be disease ridden at the age of 40- I won’t, I truly believe I’ll be fit and active. But if you want to develop a certain physical ability, become an athlete, swimmer, triathlon runner, you need to start early. Sure, you can do it later too, it’ll just be harder. And you’ll be bound to ask yourself, why the heck didn’t you start sooner just so that you could have enjoyed your passion much longer?
I want to be a dancer. Dance is my thing. If I could, I would open a park where people wouldn’t be allowed to walk, they’d have to dance their way through it. My dream is to be a contemporary dancer. Pirouette, aerial, fouette – I want to be able to it all. And that takes rigorous hard work and time. If I tell myself I have 4 years within which I can achieve this because after that, there’s a possibility that other things might just slip past dance on my priority list, I won’t procrastinate. In fact, I intend to start this fall (I’m learning Salsa at the moment; need to finish the current level I’m at before I move to Contemporary).
So the idea is simple. Instead of setting vague ambitions for yourself- I will travel the world someday-calculate the time you think you have left within which this ambition is distinctly possible and plan accordingly. When you define a timeframe for a goal, you set constraints around it and limit its probability of materialising. And by limiting it, you compel yourself to get off your behind and get started. Instead of saying I’ll be so and so when I’m 30ish, tell yourself it’ll take me 5 years to achieve the so and so and get yourself there.
When do you plan to travel to that place you always wanted to? Don’t say um, soon. Say, when I have accumulated the x amount of dollars I need to undertake it. When are you quitting the job that’s sucking every last morsel of peace and self worth from your life? Don’t say, yeah very soon. Say, by this fall I will have applied for x number of openings.
Morel of my rant- time is finite. It runs out. And while I’m not anti ‘you-can-do-what-you-want-when-you-want’, a little bit of planning will not only help you get what you want sooner but also when you are best poised to enjoy it.