The One Year to Live Exercise


The author asks readers to consider what they might do differently if they knew that they only had one year to live.

A good friend showed me all the stuff he was involved in. He’s stretched in a hundred directions: family, multiple business things, church, a couple of charities…more requirements than he has hours to spend. What stimulated the conversation were two new requests—two additional roles. It would be an honor to serve in either one. But two more jobs to do?

We all have different capacities, and most of us don’t operate anywhere near full. But somehow we have to sort out what to take on and when to pass.

“What would you do if you just had one year to live?” I asked.

As soon as I uttered the words, they flew back and hit me in the face.

As I’ve pondered the question, here’s what I figured out…for me.

1. I want to spend more time with individuals and less with institutions. Institutions will sustain themselves, with or without me. That is, if they are supposed to be around years from now. But I have this precious little smidgeon of time to walk on this earth and be with specific individuals. I want to love and be loved. I want to serve those “whom God has given me” and meet their needs. When this life is over, they won’t have those needs.

2. I want to spend more time with the One who’s going to usher me from this life to the next. He’s familiar with where I’ll be going. He not only knows the way there, He built the place. And He is the point of it all. I want to know Him, appreciate everything about Him I can discern, emulate Him and just plain thank Him….over and over….for adopting me into His family and giving me this God-life, now and from now on.

3. Finally, I want to pursue “my art”. Seth Godin talks about doing what you’re good at…what you love. He points us toward our unique abilities and passions and says “That’s your art”. I want to figure out my “art” and pursue it. God has given me a passion for a few things. A few abilities. It’s up to me to “selectively neglect” things I do just to make money, or get affirmation, or feel important. If I don’t, I won’t have time or ‘bandwidth’ to fulfill the promise of my life or to let my “art” come out.

Henry David Thoreau wrote that “Men lead quiet lives of desperation” and “they go to the grave with the song still in them.” (Walden, 1854)

What’s your song? If you only had one year to live, what would you do?
What would you not do? What’s your art?
Will God get the glory as you sing the song He’s put in you?
Or will you be too busy?

Question: What tough decision would you go ahead and make if you had the urgency of “one year to live”?

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