“If You Had 6 Months to Live….”

Would it change your priorities?

Steven Yates


Photo by Eepeng Cheong on Unsplash

Recently the question was sprung on me, “Suppose you learned you had just six months to live.” As I’ve found such queries useful in the past when I wanted to focus my priorities and actually finish something I’d started, I paid attention.

The question is serious, not frivolous. None of us knows when our number is up. There are just too many factors outside our control. But that doesn’t tell us the best way to approach this.

Suppose you learned you had … say … pancreatic cancer, which is bad news since it has virtually no symptoms until it’s too late. I had an uncle who passed away from that in just four months following the diagnosis back in 2015. I’ve had friends who lost their lives to pancreatic cancer. It’s nothing to brush off.

So it’s possible, this is more than a mere thought experiment.

If you learned you had something you’d pass from in six months (or four months or eight months or whatever), what would it change about your priorities?

That depends on you, obviously. But might it not still bring about a major reorientation of what’s important in your life.

Maybe family is important, and you fear you’ve been neglectful here because of work. I get that accusation sometimes from loved ones I won’t name.

You’re always on that damn computer!

I’d almost certainly spend more time with the person who says that the most often.

Because let’s face it: time’s a wasting. So it’s time to prioritize.

You either spend a lot of your time at work to earn the money, or you’re at home.

If you work for someone else, you’re probably underpaid and never going to get rich. You’re probably not going to get rich anyway in six months.

And even if you are, you won’t be taking your money with you, as the saying goes. So how high of a priority in your life should money be?

I know of millionaires who became millionaires because they cut loose from the rat race, started their own businesses, and went all-out. Some of them worked on their businesses 60, 70, 80 hours a week … to the neglect of family and…



Steven Yates

I am the author of What Should Philosophy Do? A Theory. I write about philosophy (especially the Stoics), health and systems, and the future if we have one.