How would you change your schedule if you had, say one week or one day left to live? If the answer is “not by much”, you are truly blessed. If the answer is “f@&!, totally” it’s probably time to take a hard look at your choices.
Okay, so this is how it came about. I was reading a book last night in which my enjoyment was starting to wane, despite the content being quite excellent. I found myself asking if I would still continue reading the book if I had just one day to live. And, immediately I stopped and picked-up another!
The trap I found myself falling into was reading to acquire knowledge, rather than for the sheer enjoyment of understanding. Because really, finding pleasure in the process is everything! Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi, who studied the Flow state, puts it very well when he says; “the mountaineer does not climb in order to reach the top of the mountain, but tries to reach the summit in order to climb”.
The reason I like this somewhat dramatic question is that it really forces us to ask what matters. It confronts us with the hidden, non-conscious belief behind much of modern life. The belief that joy and contentment are to be found in the future. On some mountain top that one reaches only after much arduous striving. And, this belief has a fractal quality — it appears time and time again within all manner of activities. Yet, its source is always the same.
Its source is the voice that lives within us that tells us that things are never enough, that WE are never enough. That there is something more to acquire — whether wealth, fame or knowledge — before you can be a complete person.
One day left to live
This thought experiment of having one week or one day left to live can actually be tried as a fun activity. What would it feel like to actually spend a day doing things that really mattered? That allowed you to immerse yourself in activities for their own sake, for the sheer splendour of doing them.
Perhaps, the experience will open you to possibilities that you never considered — possibilities for living better. Perhaps, it will show that there is no where to go and nothing to achieve, apart from the experience of experience itself!
Harsha is a 1:1 coach and independent thinker based in London. He empowers people to find more clarity, confidence and focus in their lives — to cut through the noise, in a world so full of it. Harsha’s new book, Machine Ego: Tragedy of the Modern Mind, is now available in paperback and Kindle through Amazon.