Imagine, if you will indulge me, that you have only 90 days with which to live. You won’t suffer. You know the day, and you have the next 90 days to spend however you wish.
I know that it may be a horribly morbid exercise for you, but I am hopeful that I will make some sense by the end of this brief discourse. And just so you don’t think that I spend my time thinking about this, I got the idea from a book that I read a number of years ago called One Month to Live. The authors of this book challenged me to try to prioritize my life in such a way that I would add clarity, meaning, and intention to my days.
For my purposes, we are using 90 days; partly because it is three times as long and doesn’t seem as dramatic, but mostly because there is any number of logistical elements to this planning that are important for wealth management and transfer. Thirty days may not be enough for things such as updating documents, beneficiary designations, and getting your financial house in order (all things, by the way, that we can help facilitate).
Of course this is only an exercise, and in the real world we operate as if we have plenty of time to plan and get all of our matters in order, especially at the pace with which we feel comfortable. Unfortunately this luxury is not afforded to all of us: Tomorrow is promised to no one.
In addition to the paperwork side of things, there are all of the other aspects of our mortality to consider. If we knew that we only had 90 days, we probably wouldn’t spend our time with trivial arguments that seem to plague so many of our relationships. Think of the last disagreement you had with a family member or loved one. What was it about? Was it really as important as you remember? If you had 90 days, would it still be as important? Don’t you think that you may find yourself being more forgiving and more understanding with the clock ticking down? I know I would. I would not want to spend my days in disagreement but finding common ground and peace.
I would probably be a better citizen of the world, too. I doubt I would find myself getting upset with politicians, newsmakers, or other issues outside of my direct control. I probably would spend less time gossiping, complaining, or otherwise wasting my time. I believe that I would be much better at living in the moment and appreciating all of the little things that may escape my ordinary day: a smile from a child, a beautiful sunset, a single flower popping out of the ground, the smell of freshly brewed coffee.
I probably wouldn’t be stressed by all that “needs” to get done. Housework, yard work, and errands would take a back seat to conversations, relationships, and hugs. As I was growing up, my father would never let me leave without first giving me a hug. This was very sweet until I became an adolescent, and then it became annoying and embarrassing, especially in front of friends. Now I continue the tradition, and, fortunately, my children oblige me much in the same way I did my dad. We never know the last time we will see a person, and we always presume that we will see him or her again. If I had 90 days to live, I would hug everyone. I wouldn’t want to take a chance that I won’t see them.
I would use only kind words. I would be a gentle person. I would become the person that would reflect the best possible version of myself.
The question remains: If I only had 90 days left, if I would do all of those things, if I truly lived intentionally, aware of the legacy that I will leave, … why don’t I live that way now? Because I am, probably like many of you are, operating under the false view that there will always be time. There will be time to get my affairs in order, time to update beneficiaries, time to apologize, time to make peace, time to be kind, time to be generous, time to be grateful.
The time is now.
When considering your legacy, please remember that it is not just about the money. It is about so much more. As I alluded to earlier, by virtue of the fact that you are reading this, you can create your legacy to be anything you want it to be. Just don’t wait.