“I am now 55 years old. Like a lot of people in middle age, my late-night thoughts bend to contemplations about how short my remaining time is. Even with increasing longevity, there is not enough time to do all that I want. Nowhere close. My friend Stewart Brand, who is now 69, has been arranging his life in blocks of 5 years. Five years is what he says any project worth doing will take. From the moment of inception to the last good-riddance, a book, a campaign, a new job, a start-up will take 5 years to play through. So, he asks himself, how many 5 years do I have left? He can count them on one hand even if he is lucky. So this clarifies his choices. If he has less than 5 big things he can do, what will they be?”
How many 5 years do I have left?
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Even though I am just 27 now, going to turn 28 in exactly a month, This left me with the same question for myself, ‘how many 5 years do I have left?’.
It turned out that if I suppose I live till 80, I have approximately 11 blocks of 5 years left in my life. And when I reach 80 years of age, the year will be 2073!
Of Course, there is no guarantee that I might live till 80. I might even die tomorrow or next month or next year, but if everything goes well (touchwood*) and I am fit till 80, then I have 11 blocks of five years left with me.
You can calculate yours too if you want.
11 blocks of 5 years can seem like a lot of time but given how swiftly time is passing by, these 11 blocks of 5 years can too slowly start to diminish from 11, 10, 9…7.. until it is really time for us to go.
That is what happens with most people. We live in vain and forget to make our life count. One of the main reasons I think it’s because we forget that someday we will die.
If people remind themselves of their mortality, I feel we will all at least strive to live this life more fully and meaningfully.
So when I did this calculation it left me with a sort of reflection of my life and how I can make my life count mainly regarding two things. That is,
1. My days are numbered:
That I am not here forever. That this hand allowing me to write these words will no longer be there. These eyes, these legs, this body is not going to exist forever. I do believe that we are eternal but this life, this body, this ‘me’, will no longer be there.
This is not meant to be a pessimistic post about death. Of course, we will all die when we will die but thinking about death can really bring back things in perspective- about what we really want to do, what should we really focus on, with whom do we really need to be, and most importantly how we should live in our limited time here on earth.
Contemplation on death can be a powerful motivator to make life count and to do significant things.
Here is an article specifically on how death awareness is an essential mindfulness practice
“A culture that denies death inevitably becomes shallow and superficial, concerned only with the external form of things. When death is denied, life loses its depth.”- Eckhart Tolle
Death serves its purpose in the art of living.
Perhaps that is why it is said,
“Those who live under the shadow of death are often those who live the most.”
Stephen Hawking was given 2 years to live when he was diagnosed with ALS disease. It was this news, of the reality of death that motivated him to become the scientist that he did.
In one of the recent books that I read, ‘When breath Becomes Air’ by Paul Kalanithi it was the diagnosis of cancer that left him with 2 years of life that pushed him to shift his focus to writing and write a book that he always dreamt he would do.
I hope this is never the case with any of us, but I hope we do remember the fact that we are all here for a limited amount of time.
And thinking about the number of 5 years left for me brought me this reflection one more time.
2. My life goals and dreams:
11 blocks of 5 years is a long span of time but if not done anything it can pass by without anything done. And I have just 1 block of 5 years left to be regarded as a youth. (But that won’t stop me from always having a youthful spirit)
Anyway, what I choose to bring out from each of these blocks of 5 years is all up to me.
Even in my next one or two blocks of 5 years, I can have earned a Ph.D., I can have written poems and hundreds of articles here on my blog. I can have polished myself as a teacher, my blog can have grown to be successful, I can have read hundreds of great books and even written my own book. Any business that I may start can be successful, I can have a beautiful home with my loved one and I can have saved enough money and traveled to many of my dream destinations!
The same holds for you too.
All of it can be true even in the next one or two blocks of 5 years or none of it can be true.
Most of us feel that even late 20s is too old, leave aside 40s and 50s. We feel are too old to start anything new or form a new habit.
But even my mum who is in going to reach her 50s still has 6 blocks of 5 years left. She can choose to spend it in any way she likes. But I am happy to say that she still sets goals and dreams and has formed many good habits which she didn’t have in her 20s and 30s.
My mentor Daisaku Ikeda started writing his 30 volume serialized novel, The New Human Revolution when he turned 65 years of age back in 1993 which he has now finished in 2019.
In less than 10 years J.K Rowling went from being a poor person to a world billionaire. The secret behind it was her will to persevere and to not be defeated despite being rejected by dozens of publishers.
So I just want to remind you and also to myself that significant things can happen if we only decide to stay with it for long.
But first of all, we need to set goals. And after that have the courage to persist and persevere.
Here are some posts you might find helpful when it comes to setting goals and fighting the fear of uncertainty:
So after this small exercise and reflection, I just want to say that let us-
- Set goals for the next 5 years and if you have a greater vision, for the next 10 years that is till 2030. Then break them down to what can be done now to achieve them.
- Contemplate on our mortality often and
- Have the courage to have patience and enjoy the journey rather than seek immediate results.
December is a great month to review ourselves and our days.
‘How did my year go? What big thing happened in this one year? How did I spend most of my days? What did I learn from my mistakes? And what do I need to change and alter to really make my life count?‘
I wish you a wonderful week ahead.
Also, I wish for you and me to have good health and long life so that we can make good use of our blocks of 5 years left on earth and make our life count.
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