How would you spend your time if you only had six months left?
This can be a VERY interesting question. In October of 2014, a young woman named Brittany Maynard brought this issue to the social media forefront. Yahoo Health reported on October 7th that Brittany, who was diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer, intended to end her life on November 1st so she could die on her own terms. As I began to read about Brittany’s journey, I came across an online post by Brett Harris where he contrasted Brittany’s journey with that of another young man who faced a similar situation named Clayton McDonald. Both of these stories are heart-breaking (You can view the videos from both Brittany and Clayton and hear it in their own words by clicking on their names above). Clayton made a statement in his video that really hit home with me though and that prompted what I now refer to as the “Six Months Left Exercise”. UPDATE 04/20/15: One month left in my “excercise”. I just came across another young woman who walked the same path as Brittany and Clayton. Here is Kara Tippetts’ story and her open letter to Brittany. Kara’s time on this earth came to an end on March 22, 2015. As I pray her family, I continue to pray that I will make the most of the days I have.
The Six Months Left Exercise
Clayton McDonald said in his video that “We all have a clock. A timeline of when we are going to kick the bucket. For me, I have the luxury of knowing about when I might go.” When I heard him say that I thought – Why does it take terminal brain cancer for someone to get a sense of urgency and live fully awake with a clear purpose? This thought churned around in my soul for a couple of weeks and on November 20, 2014, I made a decision to pretend I only had six months left to live. May 20, 2015 was going to be my last day and I was going to act like it. I know there may be some who read this and think… “This is just morbid.” Well that may very well be. The problem is that I cannot escape the nagging question that started all this. I also feel that this is such a serious issue to those who are actually facing this that I do not want to be disrespectful. So, I intend to let my emotions get as real as possible in order to relate as best I can. Thus far the emotions have been plenty real! Thinking this deeply is exhausting at times. It is also invigorating as I look back and see differences in my conversations.
Making the Time Count
Once I made the decision to do this exercise I started experiencing some deep emotions right away. 6 months. 26 weeks. 180 days. As I contemplated the reality of being gone in six months, everything started to get measured against May 20th, 2015. This is my last Thanksgiving. My last Christmas… Dang, six months will be gone in a flash! There is no time to start building something new – I am going to have to just bloom where I am planted. So, my first step was to define my life “arena” – the people I already interact with and the places that I go. As a husband / father / son / brother, I have 50+ years of experiences, emotions, advice and love to convey. This blog post itself is a part my offloading process.
My Places ( My Life Arena)
My life arena consists of the places I go each week and the people I know there. Beyond my immediate family, I spend a lot of hours each week through Keller Williams Realty because my team, The Bunch Real Estate Group, helps people buy and sell homes. So, as an example at my office there is the staff, fellow agents and clients. Here are some sample places that make of our life arena:
- Professional Associations
- Service Providers you use
- School (teachers, parents, students)
- Neighborhood / HOA
- Hometown friends
- College / Fraternity / Sorority friends
- Social Media Connections
Think through all of these places and those people who seem to most appreciate you and what you have to offer. Keep in mind, you only have 26 weeks left. So that begs the question – how many people can you focus on per week? How many can you write a letter/note to? How many can you meet with? Go ahead and start your list.
We all have people or causes we care about. Ask yourself this question: “What breaks my heart?” OR if you want to look into the future, “It would break my heart if ______ happened and I didn’t ….” In my case, these questions really helped me get clarity. As I begin writing down my concerns in Evernote, it was easy to focus and re-focus. I noticed that when the days are flying by and life takes over, it is easy to get distracted. To slip back in to some zone where it seems like there is “plenty of time”. As I reflected on the people and causes most important to me, it was so gratifying to invest my time on those things instead of letting it slip away to the tyranny of the urgent! Please don’t get hung up on Evernote though. It is not the be all – end all. It is simply tool that allowed me to have my priorities available on all my devices – which in turn brought clarity. It allowed me to be very purposeful with my conversations, my lunches and my commitments. Having this list gave me a concrete set of priorities so that I could say “no” when I really wanted to. That in turn allowed me the ability to say “yes” when I really wanted to. 180 Days and counting. Let these people know how much they mean to you. Call them. Write them. Encourage them. Pray for them.
My Prayers ( Getting REAL )
The reality is that there are some problems that winning the lottery will not solve. This whole exercise is based on the notion of some terminal disease that money can’t fix. I know people who are hurting and sick. People who have relationship problems. Other things that money can’t fix. If I have limited time, I want to cover as much ground as I can. So, for me, asking for God’s help seems very natural. Prayer can be very powerful and yet we seem to reserve it for “major” problems. Like we don’t want to bother other people with our struggles. Let’s face it – we are all struggling in some way and could use prayers and encouragement. This six month exercise for me means writing those prayers down and actually sharing the written specific prayers with the people I am praying for. That way they know for sure what it is I am asking for. Talk about tough! Some of these prayers flush some serious stuff to the surface that has to be dealt with. That’s ok. I believe that is exactly what love looks like. Real Life Wrestling. Honesty, transparency, boldness, compassion. I call it good-hard stuff.
Want to do this exercise yourself?
- Set a date six months from now and etch it in your mind.
- Watch both Brittany and Clayton’s videos.
- Describe your specific arena areas
- Make a list of the most important people to you in those areas
- Write out some thoughts and prayers for each of them
- Share the prayers with the people
- Watch the clock
- Take some breaks
- Keep a journal
I would love to hear how it goes for you!