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A meaningful life

“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today

were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do

today?' And whenever the answer has been ‘No' for too many days in a

row, I know I need to change something…almost everything – all

external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure

– these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what

is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best

way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.”

–Steve Jobs

Like much of the world, I am mourning the loss of Steve Jobs and his creative genius. But while he left us a lasting legacy of wonderful gadgets that have transformed our world, perhaps his most important legacy is his outlook on life.

I have taken his challenge several times, spurred on by the likes of Brian Tracy and Franklin Covey, to determine if I was living according to my priorities. Had I not, I would never have become a teacher, I would never have gone to grad school, and I would not be home with my kids now, or living my dream as a writer.

The way I see it, we only get one shot, so I'd like to live with no regrets. I don't always succeed. I still let pride, fear of embarrassment or failure, and the expectations of others get in my way. But I'm working on it.

So in honor of Steve Jobs, my challenge to you is to look at your life, ask yourself if there's anything you need to change, and then sit down and brainstorm what that change might look like. It doesn't always have to mean a loss of income, or a massive change to your lifestyle.

Maybe it's as simple as saying “no” next time someone asks you to volunteer. Or “yes”, for that matter.

I've learned the hard way that life is too short to settle for an average existence doing what everyone else thinks you should do. What do you want to do?

Go find a way.

Photo credit: STONE STACK © Aje |

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  1. Reply

    A few years ago, I asked myself a question similar to Steve Job’s (which is awesome, by the way). As a result, like you, I am now writing, teaching, and finishing my MFA. And when I ask myself that question, I can say “yes.” Thanks for sharing this with us.

    • Reply

      Thanks for sharing, Amber. I think a lot of us came to writing after realizing we weren’t pursuing our real dreams. Congrats on taking the plunge and good luck with your MFA!

  2. Reply

    Gwen, I connected with you because about 18 months ago I had the same epiphany as Steve Jobs. I was overwhelmed and feeling trapped. I liked my day job fine, I have a wonderful husband and family, but something was missing. That’s when I realized I had pushed off my dream of writing for long enough.

    Steve Jobs was a smart man in many ways, but especially because he knew that it’s the life in a person’s years that matter, not the years in his life.

    Whenever I start feeling like a rat in the race, I force myself to slow down and remember why I do what I do and what’s important to me.

    Another heartfelt post, Gwen. Thanks.

    • Reply

      You make a good point, Jolyse, that we can’t ever stop asking the question, because at different points in our lives, we’ll get different answers. As I obviously have. 😉

      I’m hoping for a long life, but I’m not willing to put things off until later if there’s any way I can do them now. My mom died of cancer at age 58, and my only consolation–if there can be one–is that she had done more in her lifetime than many people might in three. And she was living on her terms, doing the things she loved and cared about.

      I’m glad you’re working on your dream now too!

  3. Reply

    good post, good quote and good philosophy. I never knew Steve Jobs had so many good quotes. His legacy is amazing and what’s more amazing is the generation he literally led through the technology age.

    It’s hard to judge yourself daily and really challenge yourself to change but i guess if you can do it, the rewards are worth it.

    • Reply

      I agree, Rich. It seems like everything that came out of his mouth and his mind was gold.

      It’s so easy to get into the rut of life and forget to stop and ask if it’s what we want. You’ve obviously done this along the way, or you wouldn’t be home with those beautiful babies and working on your comedy. I admire you for that!

  4. Reply

    Great post, Gwen. I have to repeatedly make similar statements to myself when I start feeling guilty about not looking for a “real” job. I may have to do that someday when my finances dictate it, but I’m not there yet. I worked my butt off for many years and managed to save enough that I should be able to do this without feeling guilty. Yet I always do. I wonder why it is so easy for us to think we don’t deserve to go after what we want, and then at the end or our days feel bad for not chasing the dreams. You (and Steve) are so right. We only get one shot at our lives, why not try to make it the best experience possible?

    • Reply

      Thanks, Maura. Somehow we need to get over that guilt. You put it perfectly: “…why it is so easy for us to think we don’t deserve to go after what we want, and then at the end or our days feel bad for not chasing the dreams.”

      Sad, isn’t it?

  5. Pingback: A meaningful life (redux) « The Edited Life

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