It’s not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of itSeneca
The eternal discussion that we have with ourselves, “If I only had more time in life, I would be able to accomplish all of my goals, I only have a short time to live on this earth”. The stoic philosopher Seneca quote above is one of my favorite. Simply said, we have enough time but we waste most of it.
Take this moment in time, what are you doing to accomplish your goals? Why are you not out conquering the world and making your mark? No, we are waiting for later because that seems to be when we are looking to accomplish our goals…later. On our deathbed we will look back upon our wasted life. We will exclaim that we only had a short time to live! We still have this large list of goals that have remained far from reach.
I am sorry to break this to you but you are not going to live forever. There is a finite timeline in which we will be on this earth. I have seen some stoic websites that are selling a poster where you would scratch off on your life journey to 80. ( link example, not a sponsor) I am guessing that after 80 years old, you are on borrowed time. This gives a great visual representation showing not only how much time is left but how much we have used.
Stop Wasting Your Time
We need to stop worrying about what happened before and what will happen in the future. Our bodies are slowly passing away every moment. We have, in a sense, already died in our past. We cannot get that time back, that boat has already sailed. Referring to the stoic timeline, everything that has been marked black is time that is no longer available. When you make that mark on the timeline to cancel it out forever, you are acknowledging the death of your time. Think to yourself if you have accomplished what you have wanted to for the week. By doing this, we become more aware of what we are doing with our time and if we believe that it is time well spent.
Stop Worrying about the Future
There is a vacation that you have booked this summer to a destination that you have been dreaming of your whole life. Everyday you wake up thinking about the vacation. Every night, you goto sleep thinking about this vacation. This is not a way to live your life. You will have wasted this span of time dreaming and yearning for this vacation and lost all of the time that leads to it. Self-check that you are not always living in the future but in the present. Remember that we have a short time to live and we need to stop living in a time that has not happened yet.
“Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”Marcus Aurelius
Start Living in the Present
Everything that you have control over is happening in the present. As I mentioned before, stop living in the past and stop worrying about what the future will bring. At this moment is what we have the power to manipulate and make it what we would like. Take an assessment at the end of the day to see if you accomplished all of the tasks that you have made for yourself. If you feel that you could have done things differently, make note and hopefully you will create a better day on the morrow.
With this short time to live, we need to make sure that everyday is the best day of our lives. The stoics use the phrase “Memento Mori“, loosely translated meaning “Remember that you will die”. Every day that has passed is one less that we have to accomplish what we have set out to do on this earth. Start appreciating all of the beauty that surrounds you. Mentioned in a previous post, learn to appreciate the Small Life Moments. It could be the leaves on a tree or the way a bird swoops through the air. You (and only you) get to distinguish how you feel about everything. No one else has the power to tell you how you feel about anything that you experience.
Short Time to Live
We actually have a lot of time on this earth if we use our time wisely and stop wasting it on trivial or frivolous tasks. Start appreciating and enjoying everything around us in the present. Don’t worry about what has already happened or what will happen in the distant future. We cannot affect either so we need to remove our focus and redirect to where it will make the most impact. Concentrate on what you can accomplish today and let tomorrow develop from the seeds that you have planted.
19 thoughts on “Stoicism Addressing a Short Time to Live”
Several times in my life I have had the opportunity to live like I was dying. Multiple times I have looked death in the face. I have died three times and come back. Heaven is real and hell is real too.
Yes, it is very true, no one gets out of this life alive.
While I am praying that I will be alive to 105, I know that we all have a time to go. When it is time, it will be time, but in the meantime, whether we go through fat times or lean times it is important to be kind.
One of my dearly departed husband’s favourite quotes was from a Three Stooges star -“It don’t cost nothin’ to be kind.”
That is an amazing that you were able to see this process! I am sure that you are aware that we need to love and enjoy all that is today. We don’t know what tomorrow may bring us. Glad that you are still with us and thank you for your post and the comment from some of the greatest comedians!
That quote is so true, and I agree with everything you said. We tend to make excuses for everything and blame external factors but don’t take our actions into accountability. Living in the present, instead of past or future, definitely helps. Great post.
Thank you! I appreciate your comments! While it is fun to look forward to something great, we always need to realize the great things happening at this moment with us.
Super advice Tim. Living in the moment is the only way to not only feel alive, but to let go the fear of death. In the Now, we know we are timeless beings. But in time, we think in terms of fears, limits, doubts, anxieties, whether dwelling on the future or past. Be here and now. Enjoy life and remember your infinite nature.
Thank you for the very insightful comments! You mention a good point in that when we are young, we believe that time is infinite. As we move forward through our lives, either through gaining more wisdom or feeling time within our bodies, we acknowledge that we are an organism that is withering away. Appreciate your insight!
This is such an inspirational post. Time waits on no one. One thing COVID has taught me is to live life in the present and not worry about the future.
Thanks Kevin! You are exactly right! We need to find ways to enjoy what is happening at the present moment instead of constantly worrying or yearning for something that is happening in the future. This is a constant battle for me so I use that as my mantra to live in the present.
This is such a great post! I have been practicing piano every day because, even though I don’t know if I will ever have a recital, I do know that it brings me joy and I have this time to become really good at it. I’m learning to bake because I have a wild dream of being a baker sometime, but I can’t bake a lot of things yet, so I’m just enjoying what I can make. There are other things that I want to do now, if God wills it. I have decided to spend more time concentrating on what makes me feel alive than worrying about my appearance. I will still take care of myself, but an hour on the treadmill? Nah.
Thank you for posting this!
Thank you for your comments! Glad to hear all of these things that you are learning! Me and musical instruments have so far not became friends but I need to try again. Just enjoy the moments now of what you can bake and the music that you can play. These are the things that make you feel alive. The more things that you want to do, just start picking them up and trying. I have traded an hour on the treadmill for walking my dogs multiple times a day. We all enjoy it more than the treadmill 😁
This is a great post with lots to think about. I am trying to live in the moment more. I have felt less stressed which has helped my mental health. Thank you for sharing.
Thank you for the comment! I believe that you are on the correct path, living in the moment to reduce stress. When you live in the future this creates anxiety that you have no control over. You are worrying about imaginary problems. Good luck on your continued stress management!
Time is our most precious commodity and it is usually wasted. Everything is put off until tomorrow. But, you’re right, tomorrow may never come. I have been trying to be more mindful of living in the present and taking control of today. I can’t say that I don’t waste time (some of my most enjoyable time is wasted), but I am more intentional than I have been in years. It’s still something good to be reminded of, especially after the last few years. You never know what’s around the corner.
Thanks for the comment! Not only do we not know what is around the corner, we need to not make up imaginary problems that are around the corner. Let’s just wait til we walk around that corner to see what it will bring. Glad to hear that you are more mindful of your time. I would say that the best times are never wasted times.
I loved this post! I have also reached really close to death and fir few years afterwards I was living like every day was my last one. But as time passed by I forget about it and get stressed about the future or think a lot about the past. It is in human nature I think. I still fight with both of them but try to focus more on the present. I love the stoics!
Thanks for your comment! I have suffered from anxiety for a long time and have recently discovered stoicism as a way to deal with it. I would say thet it has helped me tremendously throughout the last couple of years. I still find myself daily analyzing if a situation is something that is within my control and to let it go if I cannot control it.
I liked this quote you said “Never let the future disturb you. You will meet it, if you have to, with the same weapons of reason which today arm you against the present.”
I have never heard that quote before, and it really made me think. I don’t know much about stoicism so when I saw the title of your post I clicked right away. Thank you!
Thank you for the comment! It’s sad that so much information about the Stoics have been lost. Aurelius is one of the few books that are left and even this is a journal to himself about what his thoughts are at the moment. Seneca and Epictetus are 2 other great resources for Stoicism. Along this same line, Seneca is mostly letters that he wrote to friends. He never saved any of his writings but these friends saved his letters.
I stumbled on this blog post after a short felt epiphany about wasting time thinking about future goals rather than being present and making decisions about what is instead of what might be. We skip so many precious experiences by being mindless or mentally fixated on the future. Thank you for writing this piece and nesting these enlightening quotes.