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Planning the rest of your life

Life begins at _____. Fill in the blank with your actual age. Because at this moment, regardless of your age, life really does begin now. This is the beginning of the rest of your life. Anything you ever wanted to do should be started now, and anything you started but never finished, assuming it is something you really want, should be finished now.

It’s great to think young; but don’t live in the past. You have already been there and done that. Live now for the future. If you think you have made mistakes in the past, forgive yourself and move on. Never feel sorry for yourself or envy others. Don’t make yourself a victim. Combine your teenage spirit with the wisdom of age, and you have a recipe for a successful future.

Bonnie Ware, a palliative care nurse, and author of a book describing the regrets of people who were dying, The top five regrets of the dying, lists the following as their most frequent regrets. If you have similar regrets, you still have a plenty of time to correct them – or at least make peace with yourself and others that you actually have them. Few of us are totally without regrets. But we did the best that we could with what we knew, felt or thought at the time.

Here are the most common regrets heard over and over again by Bonnie Ware. People wished that they:

Had lived a life true to themselves rather than the life others had expected of them.

Hadn’t worked so hard.

Had had the courage to express their feelings.

Had stayed in touch with their friends.

Had let themselves be happier.

You are still able to rectify such regrets; but don’t dwell on them. When you focus on what you could have done or been in the past, you reduce the odds of achieving what you are able to do or become in the future.

There’s a website that will calculate how many days have gone by since you were born. If you pick the day you got your first job instead, you could get the number of days you have had at your disposal since the day you got your full-time job. That might be shocker – especially if you can’t remember many really exciting activities or accomplishments since that time. It could be rather depressing. I can’t believe the number of days I must have wasted.

I find it more useful and motivating as you get older, however, to choose today’s date as your birth date, and estimate how many years you have left. For example, if you are 55 now and assume you will live another 30 years until 85, you have approximately 10,950 days at your disposal. You can accomplish a lot in that many days if you manage your time well.

A version of this has been used as an exercise in workshops to determine your priorities. The workshop facilitator would ask everyone to quickly jot down things they would do if they only had one day to live. People would invariably jot down administrative things such as revise their will, choose an executor, and decide who should receive your coin collection, return the overdue books to the library, and determine which hymns they wanted played at their funeral and so on.

Other things would include telling those nearest and dearest to them how much they loved and appreciated them, visit briefly with each grandchild, contact those they may have offended or failed to thank, buy that special gift for their spouse, ad infinitum.

The point is, we could never possibly do them all in one day. And besides, the exercise is only theoretical. You will probably continue to procrastinate on many of the important things anyway. After all, we’ve got more than one day to live – or so we think.

The older we get, the more conscious we are of our own mortality and using the latest statistics, could probably count the years we have left with a certain degree of accuracy. We might also have less tendency to put off what we really would like to do. Certainly by starting now we can do a lot more in years than we could in one day.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life regardless of your age. You have time, not only to look after those things mentioned above, but to make an impact on the people in your life – and leave the world just a little better than you found it.

There are countless ways you can do this. You don’t have to invent time travel in order to make an impact. You make an impact when you volunteer, make a donation to a needy family, counsel people, become active in your local church, spend time with a child, become active in an association, teach someone how to knit, play the piano or plant a flower garden and so on.

And you don’t need a website to determine how many days since you were born or graduated or retired or might have remaining; simply multiply 365 by the number of years and you’ll be close enough.

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