Learn to Thrive at Work and in Life

This past weekend I watched a movie on Netflix called “One Week”, starring Joshua Jackson as the main character, Ben Tyler. Stunned by a sudden diagnosis of end-stage cancer, Ben mercilessly assesses his current life circumstances, impulsively buys a motorcycle and takes off on a cross-country solo trip.

The moment he heard the chilling words from his physician, Ben’s first two thoughts were: “I want to call off the wedding” and “I don’t want to go back to work”. Funny how an expiry date on your life can throw things into perspective.

I imagine most people wouldn’t want to spend their last weeks working. Still, if someone deeply loves what they do and the people they work with or serve, work could potentially figure into those last days in some form (assuming sufficient energy to do so, which applies to everything discussed here).

I wouldn’t want to spend my last days at a medical clinic (other than if forced to be a patient), but I’m quite sure I would be Facebooking and Tweeting to my community and would probably post an article or two sharing lessons learned and insights gained through such a profound experience. Maybe even a podcast… I love this work and could see myself doing it until my last breath.

Since I get paid to dance flamenco it counts as work, too…I’d probably throw a one-night flamenco juerga with my closest flamenco friends and mentors and favorite local musicians, dancing the most powerful Solea solo of my life, before heading off to a gathering of my closest friends and family on the Amalfi Coast in Italy.

What about you? If you had a week left, would you go anywhere near the work you’re most involved in right now? What does that say to you?

What about the people in your life today? Are they people you would spend your precious time with if you knew you only had a week or two left? How would your life be different if you focused on prioritizing time for “last week of life” people?

In the movie, Ben had been going through the motions of a successful life and was engaged to a woman he was very fond of. After his diagnosis, he discovered he didn’t love her enough to spend his last days with her – not a very good sign for a future spouse.

In one scene the couple argues with spectacular Banff National Park as their backdrop. Ben explains to Samantha:

“It’s not about the cancer; it’s about the life I built for myself. Why am I over-insured? What do I care so much about being responsible all the time? Why do I give a $%&* about the appliances we’re putting into our kitchen?”

(Yes, I took notes during the movie – proof of how much I love this work)

Society conditions us to believe it’s about the house, the prestigious high-paying job, the granite countertops. Yet when a health crisis or other huge jolt comes along, suddenly the things many of us focus on or worry about or covet every day seem of no consequence at all.

As a strange coincidence (are there any coincidences, really?) almost exactly a year ago I had a brief breast cancer scare and posted my thoughts about how, if necessary, I might spend my last year. I now think that that exercise is less effective than focusing on how you’d spend your last week; the latter pushes you to get excruciatingly clear about the most important elements of life.

I asked my communities on both my personal and professional Facebook pages (www.facebook.com/drsusanbiali ) how they would spend their last week and was fascinated by the answers. Some examples:

“ride a quarter horse, Grand Canyon by helicopter, watch several fave movies, 2 day party for family & friends at some very nice hotel in South France…Duomo & Medici Tombs Florence, Michelangelo’s Pieta, St Peter’s”

– “travel to Ireland and gallop across the countryside” (what is it about horses?)

 -"I would reach out to people who are enduring specific challenges in life and give them the wisdom I have learned to take me as far as I have gone”

– “I would write letters to my children and spend every last breath with them – maybe even record videos for them”

– “I would try to right all my wrongs and make sure I spoke the words to everyone I love, so they wouldn’t have to question how I felt about them”

– “After making love to my husband often, making my son laugh over and over and breathing in everything amazing about him, and eating all the cheese fondue and chips and guacamole I could stomach, I’d write letters to people who have touched my life”

Do these inspire you? What would be on your list? Get out your journal, if you have one, and write it down.

At the end of the movie, the narrator comes into view and says:

“If you knew you had only one day, or one week, or one month to live, what life boat would you grab onto? What secret would you tell? What band would you see? What person would you declare your love to? What wish would you fulfill? What exotic locale would you fly to for coffee? What book would you write?”

Perhaps most importantly, what do your answers tell you about what you need to do in your life, today?  I would love to hear your thoughts on this – please let me know by commenting below!

Thanks so much for stopping by, and I hope I’ve helped you move closer to living a life you truly love!


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