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It's sometimes difficult to think about the shortness of life and what that indicates about our values and priorities. It's a topic that people need to hear but often don't want to hear...especially when I draw pictures about it and put it right in their faces!

That's why I thought it might be a nice change of pace to see what artists (real artists) have to say about life and meaningful living.

What follows are poems and songs that get at similar things to what I write and draw about.

I listed the poems first, then various genres of music listed alphabetically. Each poem or song is also listed alphabetically by title within each group.

Note: All interpretations are mine, and I may interpret songs differently from others. If you have a different interpretation of one of these songs, I'd love to hear it!



Complainers, Rudy Francisco: "Muscle is created by repeatedly lifting things that have been designed to weigh us down...You are still alive. Act like it."

  • This is an amazing poem about recognizing that things can always be worse, and we can be grateful for being alive even if things don't go our way.

The Dash, Linda Ellis: "When your eulogy is being read with your life's actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?"

  • In this poem, Ellis reminds us that the most important symbol on a tombstone is the dash between the two dates and asks us to be intentional about how we use our dash.


I'm Alive, Willie Nelson: "Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I'm alive and well."

  • Willie does a great job of showing us how to be grateful for the small things in life, like simply being able to breathe. For a different take, check out the version by Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews.

My List, Toby Keith: "Call up my folks just to chat. It's time that I make time for that."

  • TK reminds us that we can get too busy checking things off our list of tasks, and we often forget to make time for the important things in our lives.

No Hurry, Zac Brown Band: "I'd be a fool now to worry about all those things I can't change."

  • ZBB reminds us to slow down and not rush through life.

Tomorrow Never Comes, Zac Brown Band: "I'm gonna live like tomorrow never comes."

  • This songt is a reminder that time moves fast and we have to take time to live in the present.


Life's Been Good, Joe Walsh: "I can't complain, but sometimes I still do. Life's been good to me so far."

  • This is a song about feeling grateful for all that's gone our way in life, told in a humorous and sarcastic way (via first-world problems). It's easy to dismiss others' first-world problems, but we all have them.

Life Won't Wait, Ozzy Osbourne: "Every second you throw away, every minute of every day. Don't get caught in a myriad 'cause life won't wait for you."

  • Ozzy's here to remind us that life moves forward, with or without us, and every second we waste is a second we don't get back.

Nothing Else Matters, Metallica: "Life is ours. We live it our way...And nothing else matters."

  • This song is about getting clear about what's important to us and living our lives thusly. The title of the song refers to letting go of what other people do and value.


Lie in Our Graves, Dave Matthews Band: "I can't believe we would lie in our graves wondering if we have spent our living days well."

  • DMB has a lot of songs about life, as you'll see by this list. This one is about using our time to live in such a way we'd be happy to look back on. You might be interested in a live version. Alternatively, here is an acoustic version.

Lifeboy, Phish: "Swinging on the lifeline. Fraying bits of twine entangled in the remnants of the knot I left behind."

  • This is a song about our lifelines and how we sometimes tangle them. It's a request to live our lives well before we run out of line. Here's a live version from the Sphere in Las Vegas.

Pig, Dave Matthews Band: "Wash out this tired nothing that the best is yet to come while you're dancing on the ground."

  • Pig is a song about seizing the day and acceptance. It's about feeling grateful for where we are and what we have.

You Never Know, Dave Matthews Band: "Don't lose the dreams inside your head. They'll only be there until you're dead."

  • This is a powerful song about the recognition that life is short and finite, and we ought to use that knowledge to live while we're here.


I'm Gonna Live Until I Die, Frank Sinatra: "Before my number's up, I'm gonna fill my cup. I'm gonna live until I die."

  • In this song, Ol' Blue Eyes reminds us that we will die, but until then, we get to live.

My Way, Frank Sinatra: "I've loved, I've laughed and cried. I've had my fill, my share of losing...I did it my way."

  • Frank tells us that we don't have to conform to societal norms about how to live life. We can live it our own way.

What a Wonderful World, Louie Armstrong: "I think to myself, what a wonderful world."

  • This is a powerful song about gratitude and appreciation of the world around us.


Brave, Sara Bareilles: "Don't run. Stop holding your tongue. Maybe there's a way out of the cage where you live."

  • In this song. Sara asks us to speak our minds. Self-expression is one of our core psychological needs and not expressing ourselves is a top regret people have about their lives.

Try, Pink: "Just because it burns doesn't mean you're gonna die. You've gotta get up and try."

  • This song (and accompanying video) appear to be about taking chances in your love life, but I think it can be applied more generally. Take some chances. Embarrass yourself. That's how you grow.

Unwritten, Natasha Bedingfield: "Live your life with arms wide open. Today is where your book begins. The rest is still unwritten."

  • You are the author of your life. How do you want to write your book?

You Learn, Alanis Morissette: "You cry, you learn. You lose, you learn. You bleed, you learn. You scream, you learn."

  • This is a classic resilience song. It reminds us to reframe "winning and losing" into "winning and learning."


Eternity, Dax: "I'm living my life in the moment and not in the future that's not in my hands."

  • In this song, Dax reminds us that time is infinite, but our own lives are a mere blip in existence. We are given a gift by even being here. Enjoy the gift!

Hope, NF: "What's my definition of success? Listening to what your heart says...It's a person that would never waver or change who they are so they could feel accepted by a stranger"

  • Hope is about authenticity and being who you are in the face of the Joneses and social media.

Life, Dax: "It isn't promised. All the time you got's borrowed. Don't bottle your emotions until they crack and fill a couple just sorrows."

  • Dax does it again with this song about recognizing life is short and that we ought to experience all of life - the ups and the downs.

Meaning, Ren: "We spend so much time searching for the meaning of our existence that sometimes we forget to just exist."

  • Ren tells us that the meaning of life is to live it. There are many distractions that can keep us from living a life that we find meaningful, but we can choose to focus on our own values.


Beautiful Day, U2: "It's a beautiful day. Don't let it get away."

  • U2 gives us a simple song about finding the beauty in every day. It's a song about appreciation and gratitude.

Clarity, John Mayer: "Was there a second of time I looked around? Did I sail through or drop my anchor down? Was anything enough to kiss the ground?"

  • Clarity is about remembering to live for the moment rather than speeding through life.

Closer to the Heart, Rush: "Mold a new reality closer to the heart."

  • This is a short song about designing a life that's true to who you are. In other words, one that's closer to your heart.

Good Life, OneRepublic: "Sometimes there's bullshit that don't work out. We all got our stories but please, tell me what there is to complain about."

  • Good Life describes optimism about life being good despite things not always going according to plan.

Heart of Life, John Mayer: "It won't all go the way it should, but I know the heart of life is good."

  • Mayer tells us in this song that part of living a life is experiencing setbacks and obstacles. However, life is still good despite - and even because - of that.

I Was Alive, Beartooth: "When I die, I'll know I didn't just live. I was alive."

  • This is a song about living life to the fullest and not just doing the motions.

Time, Pink Floyd: "You are young and life is long, and there is time to kill today. And then one day you find ten years have got behind you."

  • Time is about appreciating the time that we have while we have it. In my opinion, it's best heard in the context of the entire album, Dark Side of the Moon.

What's missing from the list? What's your go-to song or poem about life?

You get one life; live intentionally.


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About the Author

Derek Hagen, CFA, CFP, FBS, CFT-I, CIPM is a speaker, writer, and coach specializing in financial psychology, meaning and valued living, resilience, and mindfulness.


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