I have just completed a course on Zen meditation, and the closing talk included a well-known quote by the late Steve Jobs regarding living every day as though it were your last:
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”
I like this quote – and yet it also unsettles me because I know that most days I lead a pretty humdrum existence (I get up, eat a bowl of cereal, check my email, do some work, eat something not very exciting for lunch, do some more work, maybe do some yoga, watch something on TV, sleep…rinse and repeat) and, in honesty, if I were facing my last day on planet Earth I’d probably just go completely mental. I’d probably do a whole load of stuff that would have somewhat awful repercussions. I don’t mean I’d go and kill anyone, or anything like that, but I’d probably go max out my credit cards, act like a complete loon and make a total fool of myself.
Nobody wants to see me doing that every day.
The truth is that we have to live with the fact that we do have a tomorrow, and that how we experience that tomorrow is largely dictated by how we behave today. For example, if I went out and spent £500 on a luxury meal out with my boyf tonight, tomorrow I’d be feeling pretty gross from all the food and also fairly sick at the realization that I had just eaten over a month’s grocery shopping money.
I know that Jobs wasn’t saying we should go out and be reckless every day; he was encouraging us to cherish every day and be conscious of the fact that we will run out of days. However, I do think there is a danger in adopting such a mindset. Some of us make mistakes in our lives – or find ourselves living a life we don’t enjoy – because we don’t properly contemplate the fact that what we do today does have an impact on our tomorrow. Whereas some of us take risks because we want to hedge our bets on a better future, others of us take risks because we haven’t properly contemplated the impact of our actions (or our inactions). The trick, obviously, is to find a balance between being overly cautious (always playing it safe) and following your heart’s desire.
I think this is life’s greatest challenge. It requires faith, and it demands action.
Therefore, I would like to modify the commonly given advice of “live every day as though it were your last” and suggest that we also approach each day with the fresh inquisitiveness of a baby, excited to be in this world, unhindered by cultural/parental/peer/political expectation and ready to learn, explore, and take baby steps towards creating the future of our dreams.