On February 14, 2008, nearly six months ago to the day, seven of us were given one year to live. Now before you get concerned, I would like to be clear, this was not a medical diagnosis, nor was it anything like a suicide pact among friends. It was instead a commitment among us to take the next year to live our lives as IF it were our last year to live. Based on the work of Stephen Levine, A Year to Live: How to Live This Year As If It Were Your Last, we were each invited to address areas of our life that we felt were preventing us from living the lives we truly wanted to live. We are now halfway through our year and each one of us feels uniquely changed from the experience. Some of us have taken the opportunity to live less fearfully; others of us have worked to let go of attachments to aspects of our lives that aren't serving us, such as hectic schedules, unfulfilling careers, or selfish people; and still others have chosen to take this time to develop greater appreciation for the gifts already present in our lives.

When I have told people about my Year to Live group, I've gotten all kinds of responses, from "How morbid!" to "Ooh, I don't like to think about those things." The truth is, no matter how morbid you think it is or how much the topic makes you feel uncomfortable, one way or another, the only thing we are ALL guaranteed to do in this life is die. But although most of us do not have a choice as to when we might take that final breath, we do each have the choice, while we are breathing, to live the life we want to live.


The eventuality of our sometime death need not intimidate us like the grim reaper lurking around each corner waiting to pounce, but rather as a reminder of how much life we have yet to live, the exquisiteness of each breath, the miracle of each heartbeat, the perfection of each laugh.

For the next month, I invite each of you to savor each day as you would a beautiful sunset, your favorite meal, or your lover's embrace. Although there are countless ways you can go about this, I'm offering here, some ideas to get you started. Pick a few, make up a few of your own, and start celebrating your aliveness today.

Expressing gratitude can give us a break from our daily stresses and provide us a chance to reflect on the joys in our life.

* Take a few moments each day to express gratitude for anything in your life. It can be a person, a place, a thing, or even an experience for which you are grateful.
* Write a letter or email to someone you have never thanked but always wished you had, such as an old teacher, relative or friend.

When we expand our comfort zones we give ourselves the chance to move beyond fear and insecurity to embrace the wonder and possibility that each day brings us.

* Say "hi " to that guy you've noticed, on the bus each morning, or ask that woman out whom you've been chatting with in the lunch room.
* Go back to school, learn to sing, train for that 5K, do what you've been wanting to do but have been putting off until a "better time" -- there is no better time than the present.

The quality of our life can be deeply affected by the things we are holding on to that aren't fulfilling us, such as frustrating relationships, outdated opinions or unhealthy habits.

* See if you can cut your caffeine intake in half a couple days a week. If caffeine isn't your achilles heal, how about doing the same with sugar.
* If you're harboring ill will towards a boss, co-worker, family member, or friend, see if you can find a way to let go of that thinking and perhaps replace those thoughts with others that are more productive and useful to you.

By expressing forgiveness to yourself or someone else, you are acknowledging and accepting the reality of the imperfectness of our humanity and honoring your inner strength and resilience.

* Each day, practice forgiving yourself for saying or doing something that you would have preferred to say or do differently.
* See if you can find some forgiveness for the colleague, friend, family member, or stranger who was not as kind to you as you would have liked.

If you would like to find out more about participating in a Year To Live group, please visit Year to Live facilitator, Dean Bellerby, at www.awayoutofnoway.info.

Author's Bio: 

Kirsten Mahoney, founder of Insight Out Life Coaching, enjoys speaking nationally and for the media on the subjects of life balance and stress management. She specialized in empowering burned out businesswomen live more balanced less stressful lives through coaching, workshops, retreats and corporate wellness programs. Her clients include Clif Bar, Wells Fargo, Cisco, eBay and Facebook. To find out more please visit http://www.insightoutlifecoaching.com