Ace your End-of-Life Interview with a simple Scratch Poster
There are 86,400 seconds in a day — that works out to 1,440 minutes.
We’ve all heard the cliche advice telling us to not let a few hundred of the 86–4 or a couple of the 14–40 spoil the rest. We all know that a few bad minutes of your day doesn’t automatically stain the rest red. Some of us have a harder time distancing ourselves from the bad moments and letting them go-we give our conditions names like anxiety and depression.
But what about the moments that aren’t so bad? The ones that aren’t an active attempt at ruining our day? Time spent idle but not necessarily spent relaxing or recharging?
If you’re between 10 and 100, I’m sure you have those moments, too.
I’ve read dozens of interviews where an octogenarian, nonagenarian, or centenarian lists the few regrets in life they had. Almost unanimously, they talk about things that they didn’t do and they almost always say that they worked too much. At the moment, I’m sure the seconds or minutes felt like any other. Added up over time, they become regrets. Those of us who already have a hard time separating our self from a mistake or misstep may resent ourselves or, worse, fall into a depression.
Our parents got to have mid-life crises. For us, it feels much closer to a constant low-level existential crisis. Are we really doing what we should be doing? Am I in the right job or career? Am I taking care of myself enough or spending time with friends or family as much as I should be? Am I making the kind of impact that I could be? Will I live up to my full potential?
Most of this seems to come from social media (in my experience). We are bombarded by images and success stories in a much higher frequency than is properly representative of the whole. We’re not seeing the whole bell curve-we only see the top 5 or 10%. These are usually outliers and they do a terrible job of describing the norm. Average, by definition, is the typical value, situation, or result. But we don’t see average. Average doesn’t garner clicks or likes or shares. Amazing does.
Not everyone has the chemical imbalance required to achieve amazing status. Yes, I said chemical imbalance. It’s pointed out when someone has a hard time controlling their thoughts or emotions but rarely is it mentioned when speaking of the sociopaths who start and run billion-dollar companies or send themselves to space for no real reason. Normal people don’t do these things because, in order to get to that level, you need to completely ignore the rest of your existence. You can’t play volleyball on Wednesdays, go to church on Sunday, and volunteer at the soup kitchen on Friday nights in the winter. You can’t.
So, rather than comparing ourselves every hour of every day to those with who we would never even want to switch shoes, given the chance, why not use our own journey and values as a measuring stick?
Zooming in on every second and reformulating our sense of self, based on what we see is exhausting in so many ways.
If you’ve ever traded stocks, you know that traded the 1-minute or 1-hour charts are more tiring and stressful than trading the 1-day or 1-week chart. You smooth out all of the minor volatility and focus on the overall trend. Zooming out makes a scary-looking chart less scary because it has more to do with fundamentals than it does hourly emotions. Charts are based on emotion but trends are based on fundamentals.
Scratch and Live is an interactive and ever-evolving life chart designed to look at our own fundamentals rather than the volatility of daily life. There are roughly 29,200 days in an 80-year lifetime, which works out to 960 months. As with stocks, using a longer timeframe gives you a chance to look past the daily volatility and instead focus on the overall trend.
Sometimes daily journaling can make you hypersensitive to the good and bad of daily life. A bad day gets replayed with pen and paper while the emotions are still running hot. A downside of journaling? Yupp…
Scratch and Live posters are a way to zoom out. Hourly or daily check-ins become monthly check-ins that allow for the natural ebb and flow of life. Here’s an example I’m sure you can relate to. Finals week.
We all know that finals week is an anomaly of college life. It happens once per semester and it takes everything out of you. You probably won’t see or talk to friends or family unless they’re on your project team or in your study group. Life balance goes completely out the window. But, we know that it is a temporary circumstance that will pass as quickly as the week passes. We don’t get hung up feeling like this is how the rest of our life will be. We know, based on the schedule, that it will pass within a week. So, we hang in there, take care of business, and take a few days to get back to our “normal” after that last exam is turned in.
The same thing happened to me while on deployment. It’s not sustainable for anyone to work for 90 hours per week in the desert sun and wind but I knew it was for 6 months and after those 6 months, I would be able to regain a bit of balance. Some of my coworkers struggled every single day because a bad day or bad week, to them, meant the rest of the deployment would be just like that. They couldn’t zoom out.
In theory, there are enough hours in a day to sleep a full 8 hours, meditate for 30 minutes in the morning and night, journal for 30–45 minutes before bed, shop for and cook all the organic food, spend time with the wife, kids, dogs, extended family….The problem is, life happens on life’s terms and sometimes you just can’t do one of the above (or any) for a day or two or twelve. When you put every day under a microscope, it’s easy to feel like you’re failing. What happens when you zoom out? Well, you’ll see that you spent the week before fighting a cold while finishing up a major project at work and your car broke down. The kids both had checkups and it was the anniversary of your grandfather’s passing. As far as the month is concerned, you did pretty well.
What if your month turned out to be shit? Well, just like with the long-term stock charts, one red candle doesn’t spell doom for the company itself. Maybe your shit month felt like a shit month because the two months prior were out of a fairy tale.
can also be as much or as little of a ritual as you choose. It puts you physically in the moment each time you scratch off another month. You can put a smiley face for an overall good month or a sad face for one that is less than ideal. You can use color pens or pencils to make it even more beautiful. This poster isn’t just a scratch poster or simple calendar-it grows and evolves as you do. It is a direct reflection of the life you’re living as you live it.
You have 960 months.
A monthly reminder that time goes in one direction and one direction only will help to keep you on track. Revisiting your own mortality on a monthly basis gives you an amazing opportunity to correct course with less of a risk of overcorrection since you’re now distanced from the emotional events.
If you have a couple of bad months in a row, now it’s time to zoom in a bit and see how you got from where you were feeling and doing good a couple of months ago to now. Again, you’re not in the thick of the emotions and have given them a chance to dissipate so you can make objective observations and responsible decisions.
It’s tough to not lose the forest for the trees when you’re in the trenches, grinding away building a foundation for your future self. It’s tough to find time to journal daily and even when you do find time, it becomes a chore and can actually reinforce negative events when you have a string of bad days, especially when the causes are oftentimes out of your control. It’s easy to forget that we only have so much time on this earth. When we have no endpoint, it’s easy to put off what matters most to a later date.
Scratch and Live is a perfect combination of reflection, introspection, and visualization to help you get and stay on track to living the life good memories are made of. Then, when you pass that 80-year mark and are being interviewed by today’s millennial equivalent, you can spend the whole time talking about the amazing things you’ve done and less about the dozens of regrets you’ve been carrying all these years.
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Originally published at http://integratemylife.com on October 13, 2021.