Last week I issued the “Blank Canvas Challenge“. It’s a challenge to start this year/quarter/month/day with no goals — at least for a little while. You know, keep the canvas blank. Don’t muck it up just yet. Give yourself some space.

Funny what happens when you give yourself some space. Interesting things start presenting themselves, makin’ you think about weird stuff.

Like dying.

Today I heard Tim McGraw’s song, Live Like You Were Dying. It’s a halfway decent country song from a few years ago. And it’s a great reminder to live a superpowered life while you still can. Here are some of the lyrics:

Someday I hope you get the chance
To live like you were dying
Like tomorrow was a gift
And you’ve got eternity
To think about
What you’d do with it
What could you do with it
What did I do with it?
What would I do with it?

This week I have another challenge for you.

What would you do if you only had one year — this year — to live?

To keep it as light as possible, let’s assume you’ll stay in perfect, happy health for the entire year and at the end you’ll be whisked off to whatever version of paradise you picture in your head. Oh, and you still need to earn a living during the year, but you can do it in any realistic way you wish.

If you’re willing to play along I think you’ll find this challenge eye-opening and inspiring. You can do it on your own, but I invite you to answer the following 10 questions in the comment section below. Don’t worry, nobody is holding your feet to the fire here. I’d just love to hear your answers, and I bet others would, too.

Two more things: answer the questions below assuming you will maintain the same income you have now. This isn’t an unlimited-money-bucket-list kind of exercise. Also, answer them quickly using your gut, not your head.

Ready?

If you only had one year — this year — to live:

  1. What would you start doing right now?
  2. What would you immediately stop doing?
  3. What relationship(s) would you repair?
  4. What relationship(s) would you stop investing in?
  5. Would you keep your current job? If not, what would you do for income instead?
  6. Where would you travel?
  7. What would you want to learn?
  8. What would you do to take AMAZING care of yourself?
  9. Who would you say “I love you” to that you haven’t told yet (or told enough)?
  10. How would you leave the world better than you found it if you could?

Live with your answers for a week or two. Resist the urge to make them into action items. And for the love of all things holy, don’t you dare fill up your blank canvas with them.

When you’re ready, pick one and make it happen. Just one. If that goes well, do it again. And again. Hey, you’ve got a whole year, right? Thankfully, you probably have more than that.

But you never know, do you?

8 replies
  1. Mark
    Mark says:

    Here are my answers:

    What would you start doing right now?
    EXPLORING MORE OF THE WORLD.

    What would you immediately stop doing?
    WATCHING SO MUCH TV

    What relationship(s) would you repair?
    MY RELATIONSHIP WITH MY BROTHER

    What relationship(s) would you stop investing in?
    A FEW PEOPLE I MEET WITH JUST BECAUSE THEY ASK ME TO.

    Would you keep your current job? If not, what would you do for income instead?
    I’D DO WHAT I DO NOW, BUT I’D DO IT OUT IN NATURE MORE.

    Where would you travel?
    ITALY, HAWAII, HIKE PARTS OF THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL, MIAMI, THE TOWN WHERE I GREW UP

    What would you want to learn?
    SPANISH

    What would you do to take AMAZING care of yourself?
    WEEKLY MASSAGES

    Who would you say “I love you” to that you haven’t told yet (or told enough)?
    MOST OF MY GOOD FRIENDS, MY WIFE (I CAN NEVER TELL HER ENOUGH), MY PARENTS, MY BROTHER

    How would you leave the world better than you found it if you could?
    I’D LIVE OUT AND TEACH THE SERENITY PRAYER TO EVERYONE I MEET — “GOD GRANT ME THE SERENITY TO ACCEPT THE THINGS I CAN’T CHANGE, COURAGE TO CHANGE THE ONES I CAN, AND THE WISDOM TO KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.

    Reply
  2. Laura Staley
    Laura Staley says:

    Hi Mark: Here are my answers:
    1. Action I’d take right now: Write the next section of Broken Open, Breaking Free, A Memoir
    2. Stop doing-ruminating about the past or worrying about when my dad is going to die
    3. Repair Relationship-It isn’t broken, but I would call my brother and make time for him and his family. I would be brave and visit my dad, thank him, and tell him I’ve always loved him even if it means navigating my tortured soul mother.
    4. Stop investing in–relationships in which the people are not emotionally Well or evolving themselves
    5. Yes! I love my sacred livelihood!! Will do this every day of my life till I die. (and if I die at the end of this year I will have taken some action each day for Cherish Your World-coaching, writing, speaking, walking the talk in my home and life too!
    6. Travel to the Grand Canyon with my significant other, my two adult children and other gorgeous national parks…Yellowstone, Acadia, And I am moving to Asheville, NC in May/June 2018!!
    7. Learn Sign Language and learn how to ride a horse-actually get back on a horse again and overcome this fear.
    8. AMAZING care- A weekly yoga class and a monthly therapeutic massage
    9. I would say “I love you” to my brother, cousins, and sister and continue to tell a lot of people “I love you.” and I’m happy to say that I say this easily and regularly to friends and my significant other. It feels amazing. Love isn’t love until you give it away!
    10. I would uplift and inspire as many people as I could to clear clutter from their physical spaces, hearts, and minds and to transform their spaces into havens of joy and their lives into ones they absolutely love and appreciate living.

    Reply
  3. Lisa
    Lisa says:

    What would you start doing right now? Loving myself more.

    What would you immediately stop doing? Judging myself less.

    What relationship(s) would you repair? Strengthen girlfriendships.

    What relationship(s) would you stop investing in? Networking relationships. Only being with positive people. Authentic people.

    Would you keep your current job? If not, what would you do for income instead? If I had a year to live, I would live off my savings. I would not work.

    Where would you travel? Vietnam,
    Australia, India.

    What would you want to learn? Pure meditation.

    What would you do to take AMAZING care of yourself? Rest. Relax. Meditate.

    Who would you say “I love you” to that you haven’t told yet (or told enough)? Of course I would continue telling Larry how much I love him. I tell all my peeps regularly how much I love them. I might put it in writing or even poetry.

    How would you leave the world better than you found it if you could? I would teach people to follow their own hearts and not try to please others. Please yourself.

    Reply
  4. Jacqueline
    Jacqueline says:

    I would probably start by going through the 3 trunks of memories, photos, my writings, keepsakes. Organize them for my kids and then I think it would be nice to write a little note to everyone that means the most to me and share a few favorite memories and include a couple snapshots, I would just seal it in an envelope and they can open it afterward, I think it would be easier that way.

    Since I will be leaving the earth in a year I probably really don’t need to work my second job which I have had for 7 years and has been a blessing for sure, got me through some trying times as a single Mom but since we all know how quickly a year goes by…so gotta give Henry two weeks notice but I am sure he will understand.

    Maybe I have just been lucky but I cannot pinpoint a relationship that I really need to repair (except maybe my relationship with myself, but we are keeping this light, no?)

    Not in love with my job (main job not part time gig) but I must say after 12 years and terrific benefits I should probably stay put since it is just a year, no need to stress out trying to learn a new job when I am dying, I have a ton of sick time left, a bunch of vacay hours, deferred comp and retirement to cash in…maybe give my notice about 3 months prior to, well you know…

    I really love the good ole USA, so seems sorta simple but I want to go to Cleveland Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Chicago, I want to experience some real blues bars, NY for a Broadway show, and if I had to pick one place out of the US it would be Greece, Greece, Greece! Detroit, my birth home and just visit family in other states.

    Maybe learn guitar or saxophone

    I really need to learn how to meditate better, I think that would be a nice way to take care of myself, also lots of walking and music and hugs from loved ones that sounds pretty healthy to me.

    I pretty much tell everyone I love that I love them often but I probably could tell my Mother more.

    In my very humble belief, if everyday we practice kindness toward others, whether strangers, family, co-workers then is some small way we are leaving the world a little better, that said, if I won a ridiculous amount in the Florida Lottery I think it would be very fulfilling to build a community for those who have no home or family, there are a lot of wealthy people in this world with a vulgar amount of money and I would challenge them to a partnership to help those in need, I bet something could be done…again my humble thoughts. Thank you for the opportunity to share.

    Reply
  5. Heather
    Heather says:

    Three years ago, I got the (unwelcome) opportunity to answer this question for real. At 42, I went in for a routine mammogram and walked out two hours later with a cancer diagnosis. Although I would eventually find out that my cancer was Stage II, it took major surgery and six months of chemotherapy to beat it into submission; that’s a lot of time to “live like you’re dying.”

    It sounds trite and cliche and oversimplified, but I really did begin to “stop and smell the roses,” and I’ve tried to keep ahold of that insight. I frequently stop to enjoy a beautiful sunset, and it’s almost never somewhere out of the ordinary; I’ll gaze for 10 minutes at the purples and pinks and oranges just over the horizon right here in central Ohio.

    I’ve repaired some relationships, let others go, and started new ones. I started saying “I love you” more because of a cousin who reached out to me when I was sick. She was never bashful or awkward about it, and it meant so much to me. A year after my recovery, my cousin got a diagnosis of her own; four months later, she was gone. I owe it to her to continue the legacy of love she left me.

    Like Jacqueline mentioned, it became important to me to cull and curate the mementos I have, trying to consider what they’ll mean to my children when I’m gone (many, many years from now…). Otherwise, “stuff” lost much of its meaning; I’m just trying to surround myself with things that make me happy.

    I didn’t skydive like the character in Tim McGraw’s song, and I’m not really sure I want to try. But I DID spend an exorbitant amount of money to see Tim McGraw (and Faith Hill) in concert late last year, and it was worth every penny. And when Tim sang “Live Like You Were Dying,” I sobbed like I was very much alive.

    Reply

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