This is an account of day 12 of the 21-Day Daily Stoic Freedom Challenge, for accounts of other days please click here.
The task for day 12 of the 21-Day Daily Stoic Freedom Challenge is to plan (and live) the last day of your life. The idea isn’t to go crazy and indulge in all sorts of hedonistic pleasures without worrying about the consequences because you’ll be dead tomorrow, but rather to take care of what needs to be done before you depart. In other words, to get your affairs in order. To take responsibility instead of wasting time on frivolous things like we do on a normal day. We assume we have years ahead of us, plenty of time, but what if we didn’t? What if we had one day?
Today’s instructional email from the Daily Stoic draws on the example of Bud Day, who prepared extensively before being deployed to Vietnam in 1967 and subsequently shot down and held as a prisoner of war for five years:
Today, you will learn from this powerful example by planning the last day of your life.
You’re a soldier and tomorrow you do deploy. Sit down and talk it through with your partner or a loved one. Then write it out. Get out a journal or a piece of paper and write down exactly how the day will go. What do you have to take care of? Who do you need to make things right with? What can you do to make sure your family will be ok in your absence. What needs to be done—for yourself, for your family, for your legacy—before you ship out?
The soldier about to leave on deployment, the mother who just got a terminal diagnosis is forced to get comfortable with the idea that their world might come to an end. They get their affairs in order. They handle their business. They tell their children or their family that they love them. They don’t have time for quarreling or petty matters. And then in the morning they are ready to go—hoping to come back in one piece but prepared for the possibility that they might not.
That’s the kind of order and preparedness we must cultivate for ourselves and our families. If today was the last day before they shipped you off to the front, what would you do? How would you live? You’d have a list and you’d check those things off. You’d want to tell the people who matter just how much they mean to you. You’d patch things up with so-and-so like you’ve been meaning to. You’d handle your business. You’d make time for my family—after you made sure they were taken care of in your absence.
You wouldn’t make time for bullshit, you wouldn’t let other people impose on you, you wouldn’t waste time with trivial conversation, mindlessly scrolling social media, or getting angry at the bozo who cut you off. Not today. You’d see the cost too clearly. You’d be a little afraid, but you’d know you didn’t have a choice and so you’d proceed anyway.
Today’s task felt difficult and detailed, but necessary. I didn’t get all of it completed, but I plan to chip away at it over the coming days even if that defeats the purpose of “living your last day”. I think the reason it was hard to finish was that it made me think of a number of things that need to be tidied up and “squared away”. For example, documenting important usernames and password, deleting unused accounts, and setting up a master file for important paperwork will take some time.
Although I won’t be doing an authentic last day (can you ever unless you truly know it’s your last day), the end result will still be worth it if I can get to the point where my affairs are in order.
With that in mind, I used today to come up with some ideas for what needs done:
- Email audit
Reduce inbox size of active accounts and delete inactive accounts. Document details of important accounts, store safely and give access instructions to trusted family member.
- Smartphone audit
Remove social media apps with a view to eventually shutting down personal accounts. Delete old messages. Backup photos and contacts and ensure there is nothing on the phone that can’t be accessed elsewhere – get the phone to a point whereby losing it or having its data deleted would have no impact.
- Computer audit
Back up important files to USB drive, store safely and give access instructions to trusted family member.
- Payments audit
Review bills and automatic monthly payments. Cancel anything (e.g. subscriptions) that seems unnecessary and document the rest.
- Set up paperwork master file
Create a master file to hold important documents – records of bank accounts, insurance, etc. Store safely and give access instructions to trusted family member.
In addition to getting my affairs in order, I think this is a good opportunity to declutter – digitally, mentally and physically. Having less of an online presence, removing social media apps, and compiling only the most important documents while discarding the rest sounds like the freedom this challenge is aiming to provide.
In the challenge’s group Slack channel, fellow participant Or came up with some other good ideas for what to do on your last day:
One little reflection here: Dying could be seen or considered to be something very personal. One’s last day might be very different than his friend’s. And still, dying (or death) is one of the few things that truly unites us – that truly are of all of us. After all, we will all die…
So I thought it would be interesting to open up a little discussion about this challenge, and give us the opportunity to share our ideas of the things each of us would do on their last day.
I will start with some ideas of mine. I believe some might be obvious, and hope others won’t be so:
1. One file with all important users passwords.
2. One file with all finance and money – where, how much, purpose.
3. Legalize and sign for organ donation
4. Would you like to be burried/burnt to ashes/other?
5. Money – would you like to donate some? To what cause/organization? Who are your inherits? How would you split it?
6. Write your key principals/lessons learned. Make it accessible for someone to find or give it to them.
7. Conversations – what is it that you know you need to say to someone, but didn’t already? Do it!
8. What and who would you like to teach before you go?
9. What would you like to eat/drink?
10. What kind of adventure you were dreaming of but never did?
I may not have done today’s task exactly correctly, but I think a lot of these tasks are more about what you can get out of them than following them exactly to the letter. The main thing to achieve on day 12 is getting your affairs in order. I won’t do it in one day, but I’ll get it done (Fate willing!).