Add 20 Years to Your Life

Chicago_1I often wonder if zombies can breathe under water. Being undead could be a pretty interesting superpower, minus the whole rotting body, attacking humans thing. I used to think that, given the option of any superpower, I’d choose flight or invisibility. But today I realized what my ultimate superpower would be: the ability to live without eating or sleeping. 

I’ve done the math. We spend, at a minimum, 4 months a year nourishing and recharging ourselves. That’s a lot of time. Over the course of a lifetime, that adds up to more than 20 years of time. What would you do with 20 more years? 

All of the things. That’s what. 

The reality, though, is that we can’t add 20 years to our lives. We can’t live without food or sleep anymore than we can move at the speed of light or pass through walls. So then, what’s to be done? 

Do the things that matter. 

I’m still trying to figure out what that means for me. Because sometimes it feels like everything matters, like everything is important, like I must do everything and DO IT NOW.   

But I’ve discovered that, for me at least, doing everything is the same as doing nothing. I make so little progress on each project that I may as well be watching a Lord of the Rings marathon and stuffing my face with marshmallows*, than actually attempting to accomplish anything.  *for the record, I love both Lord of the Rings and marshmallows. 

So, it isn’t just about doing the things that matter. It’s about doing the things that REALLY matter. 

Prioritize. Make the list long. And then shorten it. And then edit it. And then delete some more. I’ve started using something I call the “final moments” rule. Morbid, I know, but hear me out: what things, experiences, people, places, and tasks (from the day-to-day to the completely fantastic) would you truly, really, actually be disappointed you didn’t get to at the end of your life? Honestly, I ask myself this question every day. Otherwise, the DO EVERYTHING AND DO IT NOW voices start yelling, and once they start they’re like princess toddlers in a room full of glitter. Mayhem. 

I’ve started to reality check several times a day – to come to terms with how I’m spending my time and on what. Am I spending my day working toward the things I actually want to accomplish, or am I just movie-marathoning, a mindless zombie trying to breathe under water? I started doing this out of frustration with myself because I don’t have a one-track, un-dead mind, nor super powers to elongate my life. My brain is buckshot most of the time, millions of bolts of energy darting in every direction, all seeming to require my attention.  But I have a propensity to be able to work well under deadlines and I love to execute plans. So gut checking is helping me get the most out of my time by playing to those strengths. 

At some point I’ll write about the specifics of my ever lengthening list of goals, how I’m terrified of actually completing them, and why some of them are purposefully impossible. But in lieu of a scientific breakthrough, zombie apocalypse, or toxic-sludge-turned-super-human, it would appear that management and accountability of both time and goals are the first of many steppingstones toward a life lived as if it were extended by twenty years.  

Do you have other suggestions? Tricks that work for you or flops that didn’t? Serious or silly I want ‘em all, so let me know! 

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