The demise of my best friend last month, whom I’d known since both of us were 8, was a life-changing event for me. Sanjiv was a devoted husband and son, who had recently been blessed with a healthy baby girl whom he doted on. He just had so much to look forward to in life! His car crashed against an incoming speeding truck while he was returning late one night from work and he was declared dead on arrival at the hospital.
On my way back from the burning ghats, the imagery that haunted me wasn’t just that of my friend’s lifeless body. It was also the look on his wife’s face. The look of someone whose spirit had died, forever.
A sudden realization occurred to me; what would happen to my family should a similar fate befall me? Whilst no one is every prepared to die, a few of us at least live life in a way that they have very little to regret. I was definitely not one of those lucky few. A week later, as I was still recovering from the shock, I examined my own life in extensive detail. Not that I’d done too badly for myself. I had everything that a 28-year-old man could wish for – the perfect family; a loving, intelligent wife, a bright and beautiful son, a devoted even if extremely lazy dog and a sanctuary that I could call as my own home. But if someone were to tell me that this week was my last on earth, to be very honest, I would be still be overwhelmed with a feeling of regret and dissatisfaction with the way I currently lived.
As my feelings grew stronger, I decided to do something about it. I started an experiment that would change my life forever. For a week, I resolved to live as if it would be my last 7 days on earth. The result- each day, I garnered a priceless insight that made life more beautiful and meaningful for my loved ones and me.
7 Priceless Lessons I learnt from REALLY living like it was my LAST WEEK
Day 1. Key Takeaway: Don’t regret past mistakes. Learn from them and look towards the future.
It is human to keep agonizing over our past mistakes, even if it’s too late to be able to fix them. I was no different. As I began my day with the goal of enjoying every second of it, for the first time I realized just how much I dwelled on my past shames, without even being consciously aware of it. The Engineering exams I failed to crack, that dream job I didn’t get, the list could go on and I could wallow in self-pity much longer than necessary. But then I wondered, what was I getting out of it? Wasn’t it so much healthier to accept that everyone makes mistakes but the ones who learn from them and move past those indiscretions are the real heroes? It wasn’t easy to break a habit that had been formed so long ago, but that was the first day I made a genuine effort to. And while I haven’t converted completely, every day I see myself getting more self-forgiving, positive, and enlightened.
Day 2. Key Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to have difficult conversations. Or confrontations.
Meanwhile, the look on Sanjiv’s wife’s face was still haunting me. So, the next day, I took my wife, Bhavya out so we could have a profound heart to heart. I started by telling her just how and why she was so valuable to me in countless ways. The look on her face made me realize that even though we were a happy couple, in many ways I hadn’t expressed my feelings often enough. Then came the tough stuff. I talked about how Sanjiv’s death me realize how truly fragile our lives were. I confessed that the conversation we were about to have wouldn’t be easier for either of us. But incase something were to happen to one of us, the other should work on having a happy and whole life. While it would be healthy to cherish the past we had together, holding on to it wouldn’t be conducive. Bhavya realized where I was coming from and agreed with me. We both conceded that because of our talk today we’d be able to come to terms with a tragedy (should it befall us) much easier than otherwise.
In our 5 years of marriage and 2 years of courtship, this was one of the most meaningful conversations we’d had with each other and it forged a connection between us that fused us as a couple.
This episode also made me realize that while difficult conversations and confrontations can seem almost insurmountable to initiate, sometimes they are necessary and for the best. It made me realize how I should have had a discussion with my manager about the raise I felt I truly deserved but didn’t get; That talk with my close friend about how he should spend more time with his family, which he was neglecting to do, the list went on… This time I resolved to take action. Because I knew the consequences would be worth it. And even if things didn’t work out, it would just be enough that I’d tried my best.
Day 3. Key Takeaway: Live Responsibly.
The next morning when I woke up, the first thought that stuck me was that while Bhavya was emotionally ready incase of my premature demise, financially there was a lot left to be desired. This was a woman who had given up a flourishing publishing career to become a devoted stay at home mom. Whilst this was entirely her personal choice, it still meant a lot to me that she made this sacrifice for our little family. I considered our finances. While I was doing fairly well in my career and money wasn’t really a problem to maintain our upper middle class lifestyle, comfortably, if something were to happen to me, my family would have to compromise extensively. I was still paying EMIs on our small but beautiful home, whose purchase we had carefully planned financially and considered every contingency pre purchase except my possible death. Death was a thought that was so far from our minds that I didn’t even have a life insurance policy! The one product that would protect my family so that they could still live comfortably even in the absence of a primary breadwinner in the house! I quickly set up an appointment with a financial consultant and also started researching extensively online for life insurance plans that would fit perfectly into my family’s needs!
Day 4. Key Takeaway: Take your Passion and Make it Happen.
The next morning I woke up earlier than usual and went for a long run to clear my head and get more insights on the remaining week. Running had been a long cherished passion for me ever since my school days. Since then work had engulfed me and physical wellness had taken a backseat. As my lungs were filled with air, I felt like I was floating in ecstasy. I wondered if revisiting an old, almost forgotten passion could bring me so much joy, how would it feel to revisit the other love of my life -Strumming the guitar? That evening when I came back from work, I started to gently strum my favourite Beatles number. I hadn’t enjoyed myself so much in a long time! It dawned on me that the simplest pleasures in life indeed did give me the greatest joy! These seemingly trivial hobbies let me blow off steam in an easy way while also energizing me and bringing renewed vigour for my job and my career goals. For the first time in life, I truly realized the value of balance between work and play.
Day 5. Key Takeaway: Do Something New Each Day.
As I woke up early the next morning, to run again, I caught a glimpse of Bhavya sleeping soundly. A strong wave of love and happiness coursed through my being just watching her rest peacefully. I decided to whip up a quick breakfast and bring it to her in bed.
Her reaction was priceless! I couldn’t believe that this idea had simply never occurred to me before! I realized how easy it was to fall into the trap of routine- Wake up at a certain time, check for important mails, leave for work by 9, etc. Life had quickly become so monotonous. And while I did value discipline and consistency, I also acknowledged this unconscious craving for novelty in my life, which makes things fun and exciting. I expressed this yearning to Bhavya and she had an incredible idea! “Let’s make a promise to do something new every day!” It could be something as big or life changing as skydiving or it could be something as sweet and simple as trying a new flavour of ice cream or striking up a conversation with a stranger.
Ever since that morning, I’ve made 3 new friends who lend important and new perspectives to my life, learnt that I actually enjoy getting wet in the rain and more. And I haven’t looked back. Yes, sometimes there are days where there is a lapse, but more often than not, I find that I want to keep this experiment going as it has helped us regain our lost innocence, curiosity, and childhood and filled us with a joie de vivre hitherto unknown to us.
Day 6. Key Takeaway: Sort out your priorities.
With all of these sweeping changes taking place in my life all at once, I realized that so many tasks and people had taken a backseat even though they were seemingly crucial to my life before! That particular circle of friends I couldn’t really connect with anymore but continued to see because it was apparently the polite thing to do, watching that mindless TV show because it was such an escape… I started to steadily but subconsciously declutter from my life. Once I let go of these, I found so much time to focus on more meaningful, productive and happier things and people- it was unbelievable!
Day 7. Key Takeaway: Express your Innermost Feelings Generously.
On the last day, I realized that I had spent way more time with my innermost circle (Family, closest friends) both in terms of quality and quantity than ever before! It was as though I was learning afresh how priceless they were to me. I’m not a very expressive person but I repeatedly found myself sincerely communicating to them just how much they meant to me. When they echoed the same sentiments, I knew I had gotten something right.
At the end of it all
As the sun set on Day 7 and I took stock of the entire week, I realized that in these 7 days I had travelled the farthest and explored more potential in myself than I had in my entire life in the shortest span of time! Life would never be the same again!