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drawing of time left in life and quality of life both matter

❝We don't beat the reaper by living longer, we beat the reaper by living well and living fully.❞ -Randy Pausch

Mike and Emily wanted to take a long trip together to visit wine country. They thought about it and planned it for years. They could never quite get themselves to go, though. It never seemed to be the right time.

Then Mike suddenly passed away from a heart attack. Emily is no longer able to take that trip with her best friend and husband, Mike.

Chris and Jessica enjoy motorcycle trips and wanted to take their motorcycles on the open road to explore all the national parks in the lower 48 states. They saved up for it. They planned their route. And much like Mike and Emily, they never got around to it.

Now, Chris is unable to go, suffering from early-stage Alzheimer's disease. Even if he could, Jessica doesn't have the physical ability to ride for that long.

Considering both the time you and your loved ones have left, as well as the quality of that time, will help you design your life to live meaningfully while you - and your loved ones - can.


Something that everyone knows but few people like to think about is that our lives are finite. We were born, and one day we must die.

This is your lifeline.

drawing of lifeline of birth and death

Of course, you've already lived some of your life, so your actual lifeline looks something like this (yours may look different than the middle-aged sketch here).

drawing of lifeline showing you've lived some of your life

Said another way, of the total life you have - or may have - some of that has already been lived.

Take a moment to ponder the life you've lived. Any thoughts or feelings come up as you think about your experience in this world?

drawing of you've already lived some of your life

What remains is the rest of your life, assuming everything goes well.

Take a moment to think about the rest of your life - no matter what your age is. Any thoughts or feelings come up as you think about the life you have left?

drawing of finite amount of time left in life

Of course, this is a gross oversimplification because we can't actually know how much time is left. You don't know how many more moments you'll have with yourself or with others.

drawing of we don't know how much time we have left


Speaking of others, here's another fact that you already know, but may spend a lot of energy to avoid thinking about. Not only do you have a lifeline, but everyone you love also has a lifeline.

And they cover different spans of time!

For example, your lifeline and your spouse's or partner's lifeline might look something like this when compared to each other.

drawing of you and your spouse have different life lines

If your parents are still with us, yours and theirs might look something like this.

drawing of you and your parents have different life lines

If you have kids, they have their own lifelines too.

drawing of you and your kids have different life lines

Everyone has a different lifeline, even your dog (or cat, if you prefer)! That makes it important to think about your relationships and the experiences you wish to have with your loved ones.

drawing of life is finite, and everyone dies at a different time

This questionnaire is an instrument that taps into ten valued domains of living. It assesses the perceived importance of each of these ten life domains and the degree to which you are living in accordance with this perceived importance.


If we just thought about lifelines and how to best use the time we have life in connection with the time our loved ones have left, that would be a good start.

Yet time alone isn't the whole story. We might consider thinking about the health we have left along with the life we have left.

drawing of health and time

My friend and fellow "artist" (I put this in quotes with love - and would put my "art" in quotes, too) Dan Haylett coined the term Healthspan to put alongside Lifespan. You can learn more about his idea in this video.

His point is that not all years are created equal.

Over time, our physical abilities and our cognitive abilities decline. In other words, one year when I'm 55 is not the same as one year when I'm 85 (if I get to live to 85).

drawing of health declines over time

Thus, in addition to our own lifeline, we now add a healthline.

And just like with the lifeline, everyone's healthline is different.

drawing of everyone has a different life line and health line


Considering both your lifeline and healthline, along with others' healthline and lifeline, can help you live more meaningfully by allowing you to invest your time, energy, and even money in experiences with the people most important to you.

Consider you and your spouse or partner, if you have one. There will come a time when one of you predeceases the other. There will also be a time when your partner can't do all the things they used to do and vice versa.

drawing of you and your spouse have different health lines and life lines

Considering time left is important.

Mike and Emily, who wanted to take a long trip together to wine country, never got a chance to because they ran out of time.

drawing of consider that you and your spouse have a different amount of time left

Chris and Jessica, who wanted to take a long motorcycle journey together, missed out on the opportunity because the quality of their health declined.

drawing of consider that you and your spouse have different levels of health left

It's not just romantic partners. How much time do you have left with your parents? How much ability do they have to enjoy time with you?

drawing of consider time and quality of life with your parents

It goes the other way, too. How much time will your kids have with you while you are mentally and physically healthy?

drawing of consider time and quality of life with your kids

How much time do you have left with your dog (or cat, if you're a cat person)?

drawing of consider time and quality of life with your dog

Thinking about your life this way gives you the opportunity to think about how you want to spend your time, energy, and money while you and your loved ones are healthy enough to experience life together.

You get one life; live intentionally.


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Barker, Dan: Life Driven Purpose Burkeman, Oliver: Four Thousand Weeks Ellis, Linda: "The Dash" Fischer, John Martin: Death, Immortality, and Meaning in Life Frankl, Viktor: Man’s Search for Meaning Hagen, Derek: Money’s Purpose in Your Life Hagen, Derek: Your Money, Your Values, and Your Life Haidt, Jonathan: The Happiness Hypothesis Ivtzan, Itai, Tim Lomas, Kate Hefferon & Piers Worth: Second Wave Positive Psychology Lindsay, James: Life in Light of Death Manson, Mark: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Retirement Planning with Dan Haylett: Why your retirement plan should focus on both your Healthspan and Lifespan

Robin, Vicki: Your Money or Your Life Vos, Joel: Meaning in Life Wallace, David Foster: This is Water Ware, Bronnie: The Top Five Regrets of the Dying Yalom, Irvin: Staring at the Sun



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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