Many of us have probably daydreamed at some point in our lives about what we'd do if we had a lottery win land on our head — the sort of eight-digit win that truly is a life-changing event.
But the other day, something prompted me to ask the opposite question: what would I do if, for the sake of argument, I contracted a medical condition that gave me roughly five years to live? (3-4 years in good health, then a 12-18 month decline followed by death.) Think in terms of Steve Jobs, if you like; it's not as rare as you might think — a friend of mine was given a terminal cancer prognosis of three years to live six years ago, and is still coping.
It's fairly obvious what you do if you have a minor lottery win, or (conversely) are given a month to live. You focus on it: blow the money on a vacation (or paying off debts), or make a will, quit work, spend your remaining days with family and people who are important to you.
But what about the big picture?
Five years is too far in advance to do the saying-goodbye thing. There's still time to accomplish a lot. But by the same token, it puts a hard limit on things. If you're stuck in a boring job, do you keep doing it right up to the bitter end just to make ends meet? Or do you try and use the time you've got left to change the world, and if so how?
(Disclaimer: I have not been given five years to live! This is just a thought experiment, folks. Nothing to get worried about.)