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Turn Ordinary Moments into Memorable Ones with the ‘Last Time’ Exercise
- Michael Thompson
I had just dug into the amazing meal my mother-in-law had made when I heard something that made it hard to take another bite.
Every Tuesday, my father-in-law Lluis goes hiking with his buddies. It’s his time. The mountains are his place. He normally doesn’t return till late. While we were eating, however, we heard the front door open and Lluis let out a massive sigh before joining us in the kitchen.
“What’s wrong?” my mother-in-law asked in a concerned voice. “Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself?”
“I’m fine, really,” he replied after sitting down to take off his boots. “I’ve made that climb 100 times before. But I think it has outgrown me. Today, I had to say goodbye to my favorite mountain.”
I wanted to say something. We all did. But what do you say to someone who just realized they can no longer do something they love?
Is there a phrase for that?
Are there words?
I looked at my wife. She looked back at me. A single tear ran down her cheek. I thought for sure we’d spend the rest of the evening in quiet contemplation. But after Lluis had a couple of bites to eat and a few sips of wine, he began to talk.
He told us about how when the fog lifted he could see all the way to the sea.
He told us about the jokes he and his buddies shared.
He told us about how the light changed colors at every turn.
In short, instead of seeing it as a sad event, the realization that this would be the last time he’d climb that mountain brought the experience into laser-sharp focus.
To this day, five years later, if you asked him to retrace his route, even at the age of 87, he could tell you a story about every single step.
What if this is the last time?
As someone who has a tendency to worry too much about what’s ahead of me, instead of giving my full attention to the things directly in front of me, I think about Lluis’s experience a lot.
For Lluis, this was a defining moment in his life. He had to accept the fact that his body could no longer do what his mind wanted it to do. But instead of allowing this thought to bring him down, after realizing it was the last time he’d climb up his favorite mountain, he chose to squeeze every last drop out of the experience.
Imagine how your life would be different if you approached not only big events with this mindset but also the small everyday things we often take for granted.
If you knew it was going to be the last time you spoke to a friend or family member, would you scroll through Instagram while talking to them? Or would you give them your complete and undivided attention?
If you knew it was going to be the last time you wrote an article, would you just go through the motions? Or would you bring more focus and care into your work?
If you knew it was going to be the last time you gave your kid a bath before they could do it on their own, would you sit on the sidelines? Or would you get in and create the greatest bubble bath the world has ever seen?
Envisioning this will be the last time I do something has not only helped me to bring more focus to what’s directly in front of me. But while in lockdown, reminding myself that this will be the last time I’ll have so much time with my two young kids has helped to settle my breathing when my blood begins to beat red. It’s even brought on new meaning when I change my youngest son’s diaper.
Give it a try for yourself. The next time you feel yourself either going through the motions or dreading having to do something, imagine it’s the last time you’ll ever get a chance to do it.
Pretend you have to say goodbye.
Remind yourself everything is temporary.
Much like the story of Lluis, this thought may sound depressing. But it can also be extremely liberating. It serves as a reminder that our time isn’t our greatest asset, but our presence is.
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