Imagine you have one month to live. How will you spend the time?
It’s a question I pondered recently – as part of a reflection from the AccidentalMuslims Ramadaan Development Programme.
Of course, the question isn’t limited to Muslims alone. Regardless of a person’s faith (or lack thereof), the only certainty that every single human has is death.
The question is universal, but depending on where you are in life, what you believe, and your level of comfort in facing your own mortality, it may or may not be an exercise you want to embark on.
For me, answering the question brought up a whole host of actions I’d undertake. Many revolved around relationships with others, religious obligations and practices, travel, and – of course – writing.
But it also showed me what is truly important to me. It helped me step out of my current reality, filter out the day-to-day stresses and concerns, and see what matters most.
When you’re faced with the prospect of departing from this world, your priorities become far clearer. Activities that you once valued – believing they were important – no longer hold the same appeal, because you know that time is limited, and artificial fulfilment has no place in your soon-to-end life.
The next step in the exercise brings to the fore the reality that we don’t know when our time will come. It could be a day, a month, a year, or more – or less.
Life is never guaranteed. And, that being the case, we don’t know how much longer we have left.
What prevents you from starting on these actions immediately?
That question can be an uncomfortable follow-up, because it exposes the flimsiness of the excuses we make as to why we don’t do what we should…why our actions sometimes do not reflect our ideal core values.
But rather than leaving you to wallow in self-criticism, the next step pushes you to action:
How can you slowly break down the barriers to start making progress on these actions?
If we realise what’s important, and truly internalise the fact that we could die at any moment, we are (hopefully) motivated to take action. But rather than a gung ho explosion of activity, the exercise moves us to make gradual, realistic efforts to address what we need to work on.
It’s a pretty simple exercise, and one you’ve probably come across before in some form or another. But the value it holds – in giving us prompts for introspection and real positive change – is immense.
I’ve not yet completed the remaining steps of the exercise, but would like to challenge you to take it on for yourself – privately, of course.
So I ask you:
- Imagine you have one month to live. How will you spend the time?
- Given that death could come at any moment, what prevents you from starting on these actions immediately?
- How can you slowly break down the barriers to start making progress on these actions?
Take the challenge, and let me know how it goes for you. (Feel free to be vague in your reply. I’m interested in what you learned from the exercise, and whether it was meaningful to you – rather than your precise answers and actions.)