Visualising Your Life on a Piece of Paper

This common expression, “Life is short”, is quite popular. I remember when I was about 15 years old, I put a sticky note with phrase “Moment Mori” near my computer desk at my home with parents, the translation of which from Latin to English is “Remember death”. My intention that time was purely to keep reminding myself how short life is and that we need to act fast, and I hope I did not scare my relatives by that.

In addition to just reminding ourselves of how limited the time and other resources, which we have to achieve what we need, there is a good exercise which helps to visualise it. I came up with it myself, but I saw it in different places. I also heard it is used at Harvard Business School and most probably elsewhere.

The exercise is very simple. You just need to visualise or draw on a piece of paper a table with at least 90 rows and either 52 or 365 small columns plus one large column. The rows correspond to age, while the columns correspond to the weeks or days in a year.

(NB. The image of the table above is clickable.)

Then, you can pencil the cells in different colours or with different patterns. The colours and patterns might be chosen as you wish.

The first 10-15 rows are marking the period in your life, over which you don’t have a lot of control. You are not necessarily aware of the vastness of the Universe, about the adult life. Some of us might have experienced some pain and huge suffering during that period, but even if that unfortunately happened, still more of awareness and mindfulness often will come afterwards.

Next 5-10 years you might be full of energy, but still, often the skills to direct that energy are only being developed. The “more mature” / “older” (choose what you prefer) you become, the more aware you can become, but then at some point, it is also the less energy you usually have on your own. By the age of 40-50, a lot of us might have less energy as well as some diseases might start affecting us. No doubt, it is still possible to be very active to the very end, but the older we become, the more resources and support we need for that.

By doing the exercise, you visualise all your single, precise life on one piece of paper. You can mark using stars some important events inside the main table, as well as mark main theme(s) of each year in the last column on the right if you wish.

The life does not have “uniform density”. There are work days and weekends. There are some holidays. There are periods when you are very active, and there are times when you take some time to digest. There are periods of some depression as well as periods of very happy times. There is “a time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them”.

One point on this illustration is of the most importance. You can mark it with a bold, big star or any other symbol of your choice. It is the now. It is the exact moment of time when you are reading or listening to this, when you can look back to your past, but most importantly, when you can act, as in right now. The future brings us a lot, and we shall plan and put some themes we would like to explore and experience in the future (e.g. live a happy life with your family, succeed, increase your wealth, and make it work for the sake of the others by investing), but the time to do everything possible and enjoy life is right now.

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Thank you very much.