I just spent the weekend with a remarkable group of leaders all looking at the question of how do we create lives of life-long learning and purpose? It was during this meeting that I heard the following comment. “I want to live my life”, one participant said, “driven by the following question; ‘What will I do to the last breath?’”
This is a stunning notion. Because it doesn’t say, what will I do till I am no longer healthy, productive, valued, influential, or even conscious. It is a statement of what you will do no matter what, in good times or bad, all the way to the very end of your days.
I asked some people at the meeting what this meant to them, and the answers were quite inspiring. A seventy year old leader in his field said, “I want to be learning to the last breath.” A national policy maker said, “I want to be loving”. A university professor said, “I want to be having fun” and a philanthropist said, "I want to be curious.".
What strikes me is the simplicity of this phrase, its utter ability to get to the core. “Last breath” is more than a positive intention, more than a desire to live fully to a larger purpose. It is a vow, a commitment, to the last moments of one’s life, regardless of external circumstance. What was interesting was in all the responses, nobody said, “I will be…”, only “I want to be…” Whether this is just a language difference or denotes an unconscious awareness of the seriousness of the challenge, I am not sure. But I do think it is more powerful when framed in the affirmative.
This month, as the leaves turn and winter settles many of us into a slower rhythm, take some time and consider, “What will I do till the last breath?”