There is a final whistle!
There is a final whistle! - The Rule of Life
“I see my folks, they’re getting old,
And I watch their bodies change
I know they see the same in me
And it makes us both feel strange…”
Nick of Time – Bonnie Raitt
There are two inevitabilities in life: firstly, that we are born, and secondly, that we die.
The odds for getting out of this three-dimensional world alive are against us. Since the annals of time, not one person who has been born has gone on to live for ever, yet it is easy to live as if our life has no end.
I don’t doubt you already know this! However, too many of us ‘sleepwalk’ through life until, suddenly, something tragic happens – a death, a diagnosis, redundancy – that makes us wake up and look at our lives in reality. We’re ripped from our comfort zone and reminded of our fragility.
At this point, we might make a conscious effort to re-evaluate our own lives, to focus on the things that matter. But all too often, too many of us continue to put things off and ‘save things till tomorrow’, all because we assume we have the time to do so.
We live in denial, but we shouldn’t. It’s only when we accept life does come to an end, we can live in a fullness today.
So why do we brush death under the carpet, try to dismiss the sands of time, and put our lives on hold ‘until tomorrow’?
In part, I believe it’s because we live in a youth-driven society, where it’s a ‘done thing’ to dread the next milestone birthday – a society where we can ‘cheat’ age with hair dye and surgery. We can pretend it isn’t happening, but one day we have to admit, it IS happening!
Today, 1 in 4 of us will die aged 100, and that’s an amazing fact! The trouble is all of us think that we will be that 1 in 4. We seem to pay less attention to the stark fact that, using the same law of averages, 1 in 4 of us will die aged 51.
I don’t know about you, but I want to live a full life today. I’m getting to a stage in my late 50s where, if I don’t take care of my health now, I won’t maximise the energy I have left in my body.
When it comes to feeling ‘old’, we all have different barometers. I’ve never felt ‘old’ and still feel relatively young! But 60 is looming, and it feels like my very first significant birthday. Each year I’m getting a few more physical and mental reminders of it too! I’m not in old age, but I’m starting to feel my age.
So how do we know how much time we have left? The answer is, we don’t know for sure. But generating a possible timeframe of how long we do have before we shuffle off this mortal coil is an important step to live our lives fully.
By accepting the inevitability of death and embracing it as a backdrop of life, we can focus on what’s important - and start living.
Stephen Covey reminds us in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People to “begin with the end in mind.” He encourages you to see yourself at your own funeral, observe what they are saying about you, how you lived, what you did, and the effects you had. Are they saying what you want to hear? Are you proud of the accomplishments, experiences and legacies that you have left? If not, now is the time to ‘get jiggy’.
Let me introduce you to a tool I’ve developed to help you do this. It’s not intended to be depressing or maudlin. Instead, it helps you look at the reality of your life and celebrate the time you have on this earth!
It’s called the Rule of Life, and it will help you ‘get jiggy’ with life! Rather than measuring our lives in the time which has gone, it helps us to think about ‘time left. Remember, the past is reference, not residence.
As you can see, the Rule of Life is numbered 0-100, with each mark representing a year in your life. In order to work out what time you have left, you can look at the average life expectancy for the UK today (72.3 years for a man; 77.2 years for a woman), and as a starting point, mark the relevant age on the Rule of Life.
To make the process more specific for you, you might look at your parents’ lives to determine what might be coming down the road. Here’s my example: my father died at 78 from heart failure, and my mother had a stroke and died at 65. From this, I’d work out the average age, which is 72 years (which also coincides with the national average!), and make a mark at ‘72’.
The next step is to tear off the ruler at the mark you’ve made. Then, make a mark at your current age, before tearing the paper off there. And this strip of paper you have in your hand now? That represents your time left.
Of course, this isn’t set in stone! But it inspires us to crack on and do the things we want to do. If you are that frightened by what you see, it’s a warning that you know, deep down, that you haven’t yet lived. So get busy and live!
I understand the process of the Rule of Life could be saddening, but it’s meant to be inspiring. Stick your piece of paper up somewhere you’ll see it every day with a list of all the things you want to do – the holidays you want to make, the time you want to spend with your family. And instead of running away from the Rule of Life, make it inspire you to do the things you dream of.
At this point, you could turn to a Transitions Coach who could help you identify those goals and how you will achieve them. If we return to the Cycle of Renewal, this could throw you into the Doldrums before you let go of what’s holding you back and start living. Motivational Maps could help identify your key motivations for a fulfilled life, and Clarity4D will help you communicate with the people around you, getting the best out of those relationships. Remember, ‘The unexamined life is not worth living,’ so take this chance to examine your life.
And once you have, you can get busy living! As Andy Dufresne says in The Shawshank Redemption, “Get busy living, or get busy dying.” To me, the choice is pretty clear…