If you only had 30 days to live…

I read an article this week about the latest self-development workshops. It follows the surprising success of an American book One Month to Live: Thirty Days To A No-Regrets Life which asks what you would change in your life if you were asked that question. Workshops are now inviting people to consider working through the way we spend our lives and how they might be improved.

The first exercise  asked : what would you do if you had 20 years to live; 10 years; 5 years; 2 years; 1 year; 6 months; 3 months; 30 days; 1 day? For each time limit, you write for 10 minutes.  ‘Time once spent cannot be reclaimed’ they say before asking people to journal how they spend every minute of the day. How much time is spent on work, on watching TV, on sport and hobbies, eating, sleeping, etc? ‘Once an hour, minute or moment is over, it’s gone forever.’ Have you got the balance right?

So, if you were certain your life would end in a few weeks, what would be your biggest regret? I guess for many people it would be about spending more time with the people you love. It probably wouldn’t be about seeing who has been kicked out of Big Brother this week. When I take funerals for people who have died suddenly, I often hear stories of regrets, things left unsaid, places and people not visited. Of course most of us don’t know when we are going to die but if we spent some time pondering these questions perhaps we might make some life changes for the better.


1. If you only had one month to live, what would you change?

2. If you were certain your life would end in a few weeks, what would be your biggest regret? Why?

3. Look through your mobile phone contacts. Who do you consider the most important? How often do you phone them compared to others on the list?

4. If you knew you had only one month to live, what material goods would you give away, sell or put in the bin?

5. For what would you like to be remembered? How are you contributing to this goal right now?

I am going through a bit of No 4 right now as I move to a house with less storage and cupboard space and no double garage to fill with junk and old furniture. If you want any garden chairs, a Gazelle exercise glider (don’t say a word, don’t even think it!), a large pink comfy chair – in fact, why don’t you come and have a rummage before Freecycle gets it all?

Over to you now…


5 thoughts on “If you only had 30 days to live…

  1. I’m reminded of the story I once heard about Martin Luther, who was asked: ‘what would you do if you knew you were to die tomorrow?’
    And his response: ‘plant a tree’
    Basically, I think, just get on with living… but I wonder, in our death-denial culture, maybe in order to just get on with living, you need to have come to grips with your mortality?

    What could all the folks spending time at these workshops journalling have done, in the time they used going to the workshops and journalling? 😉

    Hope the packing and sorting is going well Ruth x

  2. Cardinal Hume was once asked by a boy in his RE class what he would do if the world was going to end that evening. He said ‘go to the church and pray’. Then he thought a bit more and said, ‘carry on teaching my classes’, as he thought it would be more pleasing to God to carry on with his duty than to leave it and start getting himself ready for the Judgement.
    So there is something in common between Luther and the cardinal

  3. mmmh- facing these big questions myself at the moment. I think imagining what you would do, and what you actually do are in fact very different indeed.
    Certainly true in my experience anyway.

  4. Thanks for the replies. The woman who ran the workshop works in a hospice so probably is quite aware of the issues surrounding end-of-life decisions. Jo, I think you are quite correct in saying thinking and doing are very different. So can you say more?

    • The answer to question 4 should be ‘nothing’, because you can’t take anything with you when you go, and everything you leave will be divided up, sold, binned or passed on – most probably not in the way you imagined. The things that matter to you only matter right now and really only matter to you personally; it’s arrogant to assume that ‘stuff’ has some lasting significance – or that the significance matters in the great scheme of things. Enjoy the things you have and get rid of them when them cease to matter. Don’t pass a weight of guilt to your children and others by attaching significance to things that have no significance for them. That’s not a good inheritance.

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