“Focus your time and your life on your highest talents and dreams.”
I turned 40 a while ago and I am spending a lot of time reading obituaries. I get rejuvenated when I look at people’s obituaries and the lives they’ve lived. The differences that people have made inspire me.
As we reach the half-time point of life a lot of us begin to reflect on whether or not we are living the lives we want to live. We ask ourselves, “How can I make a difference?” We ask ourselves this important question because the biggest regret of all is to reach the end of our lives only to realize that we walked the planet in vain.
The Story of Peter
I want to share a story with you on this point. It is about a little boy named Peter. Peter was a child who could never live in the moment. He could never present his gifts to the world; he was always in a rush to get through life. He’d be in class and he’d want to be on summer vacation. He’d be on summer vacation and he’d want to be on Christmas holidays.
One day this little boy was walking in the woods and he came across a patch of grass. He laid down and fell asleep. Suddenly, he was roused by the sound of his name.
“Peter. Peter. Peter.”
He opened up his eyes and could not believe what he saw. In front of him was an ancient woman with snow white hair. In her hands she held a ball. In the center of the ball was a hole out of which dangled a long piece of thread. She looked at him and she said, “Peter this is the thread of your life.”
She said, “This is the thread of your life. And if you pull on it days will go by in minutes and if you pull it a little more weeks will go by in days.”
“Do you want it?” she asked.
Peter said, “Absolutely. I’ll be able to fly through the boring parts of life.”
The next day he was sitting in class, not enjoying the moment or experiencing the gifts of the day. Then he remembered the ball, so he pulled it out and tugged on the thread. Tug, tug, tug. The next thing he knows he’s on summer vacation.
He said, “This is fantastic!”
He pulled out the ball again. Tug, tug, tug. The next thing he knew he was a teenager.
He said, “Well, being a teenager is great but now I think I need a girlfriend.”
So he grabbed the ball and pulled on the thread again and found himself with a pretty young girlfriend named Elise.
He said, “This is great but I don’t want to be a teenager anymore. I want to be an adult now.”
The next thing he knows he’s married to Elise and the couple has two wonderful children. Then he noticed that his once jet black hair was slowly turning gray. His once vibrant and vital mother was growing old and frail.
Perturbed, he pulled out the ball and tugged on the string again. The next thing he knew he was an 85-year-old man. As for his wife Elise, she had passed away years earlier and the children were grown up and leading lives of their own.
For the first time in his life, he became very sad. He realized that he had not used his time and had not experienced life fully. In his sadness he walked out to the woods that he had loved as a child and found that patch of grass and he laid down to take a rest.
All of the sudden he heard his name being called, “Peter, Peter, Peter.”
When he opened his eyes he couldn’t believe what he saw. It was the old woman with snow white hair and she looked at him and said, “Peter, how have you enjoyed this gift I gave you so many years ago? Have you lived life fully? Have you been your best?”
He looked at her and said, “At first I loved this gift. I could fly through life quickly. I was always on the move. But now I realize that I didn’t live life. I didn’t watch the sunrises. I didn’t make great friendships. I didn’t give my potential to the world. I didn’t make a difference. It was all a waste.”
The old woman looked at him and said, “Peter, you’re a very ungrateful man but I’m going to give you a second chance to live your life over again.”
Confused, Peter went back to sleep. Then, he heard his name being called again. But this time he couldn’t believe what he saw. It wasn’t the 100-year-old woman. It was his mother. And she was young and vital and laughing.
She shook him awake and said, “Peter, you silly little boy. You’ve slept in again. It’s time to go to school.”
Peter realized that it was all just a dream. He stared at his mother. Looked out the window at the day and went off to school grateful for every moment.
The point of wisdom from that story is that every one of us knows that we’ll never have a chance to live our lives over again, yet so many of us postpone living. Here’s the big idea: you will never have a better time to play your best game. Most of us postpone being better at work until our children grow older. Or we postpone traveling until we have more time. Or we postpone taking better care of our health until we manage our workload better. Yet there will never be a better time to play your best game and shine as brightly as there will be today. Chinese philosophers once said the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second best time is today.
Elite performers understand that life is short, there may not be another chance to be great.
Robin S. Sharma, LL.M. is an internationally-known speaker on sales leadership, peak performance and creativity. The bestselling author of several motivational books including MegaLiving, he is the managing partner of Sharma Leadership International. He can be reached at RobinSharma.com