Would Knowing You Will Die in a Few Months Change the Way You Live?

Posted by Ross Nichols on Monday, February 23, 2015 Under: Life
It's said that there are only 2 certainties in life: death and taxes.  Most of us accept that we will eventually 'shuffle off this mortal coil' as Hamlet said, but probably prefer not to think about it too much.  But what if we suddenly found out we had only a short time left on this earth, would that change the way we live?  

This is the situation author and academic Oliver Sacks finds himself in: a month ago he was in rude good health at age 81 but found out he had a rare and incurable cancer that gives him only months to live.  This has had a profound yet positive impact on the way he chooses to live now:

'I feel a sudden clear focus and perspective.  There is no time for anything inessential.  I must focus on my myself, my work and my friends.....This is not indifference or detachment - I still care deeply about the Middle East, about global warming, about growing inequality, but these are no longer my business; they belong to the future.'

Acceptance of his situation, rather than railing against it, appears to have liberated Oliver Sacks from living anything other than intensely in the moment, and appreciating the joy and beauty of life and what it means to be alive.

'There will be no one like us when we are gone, but then there is no one like anyone else, ever.  When people die, they cannot be replaced.  They leave holes that cannot be filled, for it is the fate - the genetic and neural fate - of every human being to be a unique individual, to find his own path, to live his own life, to die his own death.  I cannot pretend I am without fear.  But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude.  I have loved and been loved; I have been give much and I have given something in return; I have read and travelled and thought and written.  I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.  Above all, I have been a sentient being, a thinking animal, on this beautiful planet, and that in itself has been an enormous privilege and adventure.'

This is to me a beautiful statement of what it means to live, to be alive.  Some of us can feel 'dead on the inside', and lack faith and trust in life, in the future, so that we exist rather than truly live.  In my coaching practice, I hope that in some small way I am able to help my clients reach a state of being where they can feel truly alive and experience some of the enormous privilege, adventure and wonder of being their unique selves on this journey we call life.

In : Life 

Tags: life living alive death dying "living in the moment"