If you were to die tomorrow, would you be happy with your life?

Photo Credit: Warren Hardie

It takes something substantial happening in our lives for us to realize that life is short.

I came to that realization three months ago, when I was in Sri Lanka.

I had only been in the country for fifteen minutes — when our taxi came to a screeching halt.

Our taxi driver opened the door to the car and we got rear ended from behind. I looked around to see what was going on, and outside of the left window of the car, I saw a man on the pavement.

He looked like he was in his 20s and he was just lying there bleeding on the side of the road.

Our taxi driver got out of the car to see what was going on, and he came back less than two minutes later and said, “Well I guess he’s dead.”

I had seen this guy on his motorbike pass by us a kilometer back on the road. He was just lying there, his body limp, and he was being carried off of the road and being put in the back of a trunk.

“What do you mean you guess he’s dead” I said, “Is this something common, do people just die on a regular basis here?”

The taxi driver said, “Well he was probably drunk or something”.

It made me angry that this guy was just so nonchalant about death. It didn’t seem to even phase him.

A young man had just lost his life and this guy seemed to show no emotion at all.

It wasn’t the fact that the guy had gotten killed in a car accident, it was more the fact that the taxi driver seemed to be desensitized to death. It was just another person. It was common.

At that moment, I realized that life is short and that something could happen to you at any moment.

If something were to happen to you right now, would you be happy with the life you’re living?

That’s the question I kept asking myself after witnessing this, and it’s a question I don’t think we ask ourselves often enough.

Too often, we let fear hold us back from the things we want.

We’re scared that things might not turn out as expected.
We’re scared of being let down.
We’re scared of what other people might think.

Then we look back weeks, months, or years down the line and wonder why we never did them.

We put things off for the future, because we’re scared to act now — thinking that we have an infinite amount of time on this Earth to do the things that we want, or to see things through.

We make excuses, telling ourselves that:

“It’s not the right timing”
“There will always be another chance”

But it’s simply not true.

The biggest risk in life is not taking one. You’ll only regret the risks you never took, everything else is a learning experience.

An easy way that I’ve found to get over being scared is to ask yourself the question:

“What’s the worst thing that could happen?”

When you do that, you’ll typically find that fear has been built up in your mind for no apparent reason, and that when you actually think through the consequences of your decision, they’re not as bad you make them out to be.

For example:

Let’s say you were trying to decide whether to pick up and move to a new city.

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

You don’t like it and you move back.

Not that bad is it…?

Let’s say you were trying to decide whether to take a new job or whether to stay at the same one…

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

You don’t like it and therefore have to go find another one… or maybe you could even go back to the same company you were at before.

Let’s say you were trying to decide whether or not tell someone that you’re upset with them…

What’s the worst thing that could happen?

You have a minor disagreement and you get over it.

What cost is greater? The cost of doing something and knowing you gave it your best shot or the cost of never trying at all?

If you think about what you have to gain from each of these situations — you might love living in the new city, you might take a job you’re happier at, or you might improve your relationship with someone by telling them how you feel and having them know what upsets you moving forward.

The downside seems like a small cost for something that could potentially be life changing.

But too often we let the downside hold us back.

For me the question “what’s the worst that could happen” helped when I was deciding whether to quit my job and go all-in on a business that I had started a couple months prior.

The only way I could afford to work on the business full-time was to go abroad while I got it up and running.

I was scared thinking:

“How could I quit a stable income to work on a business that didn’t make any money?”
“How could I move to a country that I’d never been to before, what if I hate it?”
“How could I leave all of my family and friends, what if they forget about me?” (Well, not as much my family, but my friends.)
“What happens if I completely fail?”

But then I asked myself the question “What’s the worst thing that could happen?

The conclusion I came to was: I could run out of money, fail at my business, and have to come home and get a different job.

The upside: It could potentially work out and I could travel while working on something that I love doing.

Well here I am six months into working from abroad, and while I wouldn’t call my business a success yet, I haven’t failed and I haven’t run out of money.

The best part is that I enjoy what I’m doing every single day.

I think to myself:

What would my life be like if I hadn’t taken that chance?

My life wouldn’t have changed for the better. I’d probably still be sitting behind a desk, doing work that I didn’t like, and dreaming about what could’ve been.

So the next time you’re faced with a tough decision — ask yourself:

What’s the worst that could happen?

You’ll likely find that the answer is not as bad as it seems.

Life is short. Stop being scared. Take risks because you never know where those risks will take you. You’ll never look back on life thinking I wish I wouldn’t have taken those risks, you’ll only look back thinking I regret not taking them.

If you enjoyed this post, I’d really appreciate it if you recommend this post (by clicking the ❤ button) so other people can see it.

If this post inspired you to take action on something you’ve been holding yourself back from doing, I’d love to hear your story in the responses below.