Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

5 May 2016

Mahatma Gandhi

‘Living as if every day was your last’ is an undeniably popular, if perhaps a bit morbid, sentiment that has taken hold as part of popular discourse over the last few years. It encourages a constant state of awareness and appreciation of life, and the soaking up of every minute as something precious. It feels to me that this is quite an unsustainable way to live, as no one can exist at that level of euphoria. It also implies that negativity, or boredom, or misery, are not as much a part of life as excitement or happiness. We all experience downs as well as ups, and having a good balance between the two is important. In fact, being down can be essential, forcing us to reconsider our life choices, analyse what has gone wrong or why we are unfulfilled and making us appreciate the ups all the more. Looked at sensibly this motto presumably assumes that those who know that they only have one day left, would make sure they enjoyed themselves but also took stock of their journey through life, realised that all those petty disputes and anxieties really meant little after all, and that they would tell everyone who mattered they were loved. If we could do this every day, life would be significantly improved.

As we only have a limited life, it can, quite paradoxically, cause us to be less open to experiencing all we can. Yes we must be proactive to cram as much in as we can, but if you make bad choices, or things don’t turn out as you plan, then you may waste precious time involved in things that you do not enjoy, or cause you harm. Likewise, too much proactivity, investing heavily in anything and everything, can leave you vulnerable later when you have failed to secure yourself either financially or spiritually. For these reasons many people play it safe, settling themselves into a comfortable routine and never putting their heads above the parapet to see if there’s anything more.

Imagine, however, that you were to live forever? Suddenly the pressure would be lifted and you have all the time in the world – and more – to discover and explore new things. You could waste centuries learning the finer points of some obscure and relatively pointless discipline, and then aeons more just lounging around, and yet time would carry on. I think the message behind the second sentence of this quote is to say that, though we do have a finite life expectancy, perhaps we have more time than we think. And we certainly have the capacity to keep an open mind and take on a huge amount of knowledge and experience. Is it possible to take on too much? Of course, but even then you will learn something about yourself and your scope for juggling life’s opportunities. To play it safe early on, for fear of wasting time, may end up with the opposite of the intended outcome and ensure that you stay in one place for the majority of your life, closing down opportunity and imagination.

At Hammersmith Academy we teach our students to keep an open mind, that no matter how many opportunities there are, there will always be many, many more, and for as long as you are around, you can always take advantage of them.

Gary Kynaston – Headteacher

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