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How many days?

We all have things we’d change about our lives, but we never seem to get around to it.

That’s how it was for me. I was trudging through life, stuck in a bad marriage, working at a “good” job (that bored me to tears), wasting about an hour a day commuting, racing from one obligation to the next.

I wanted a whole-life do-over. Yet I changed nothing.

I knew I wouldn’t live forever, but it didn’t become concrete to me until I found out how many days I had left: 17,011.

The next day, it was 17,010. Then 17,009, 17,008, 17,007…

When the big number rolled over to 16,999, I knew I had to stop wasting time and start living now.

I started making tiny changes. They started adding up. Now I’m a self-employed writer. I love what I do. My life is full of freedom, joy, and meaning. It’s the opposite of my old life.

Try it yourself. It could be just the wakeup call you need. Here’s how:

Look up your age and gender in a life expectancy table. Convert the remaining years to a number of days by multiplying by 365.25 (the .25 accounts for leap days). You can use the date calculator to find out your projected date of death, and use a tool such as Days Left for Mac or TimeLeft for Windows to show you each day how many days you have remaining.

Each time you see that number go down from the day before, it’s a reminder to use your time well. Obviously, you probably won’t actually die on exactly that date, so no need to worry about getting too exact; the important thing is to get a ballpark number of days and be reminded every day that you have one less. Make each one count! Do something fun, or meaningful, or kind, or valuable in some other way, in every single one.

This exercise was the inspiration for this whole blog. (My answer was 17,011 using New York State’s Medicaid life expectancy table.) I later discovered the Social Security Administration’s actuarial tables are more optimistic. I considered switching, but it bothered me to have more days get added to the total–kind of defeats the purpose! Also, there would be a glitch every year on my birthday because for each year you’re alive, you lose a little less than a year off your life expectancy, so for now, I’m just counting down from the original projected death date of 10/10/2056.

More details on the calculations can be found here:


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