Ann Ranson.meditating workers

In a recent interview on Tell Me More with Kelly Corrigan, Atul Gawande shared his thoughts on the importance of making each day count.

Gawande is a practicing surgeon, who has shown us some of the struggles in the medical community. He examines its limitations and failures―in his own practices as well as others’―as life draws to a close. His book, Being Mortal   ( shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life―all the way to the very end.

Sage advice that I’d like to repeat:

Live a good life all the way to the very end.

How do we do that? His advice, greatly simplified, is to make each day count. That’s the goal of using this simple process and our remaining time, however long that may be.

To begin you need to identify what counts for you. Each of us has different values and beliefs. Are you consciously aware of yours? If you are, great. Stop now and jot down a few ideas of your values. If you’re unsure, or would like to explore the topic, you can visit my website and access the Core Values Worksheet ( ).

Many of you have an idea of what’s important to you, but many of my coaching clients say that some of their values have shifted over time. For some, it’s part of the aging process. I’m not suggesting that people no longer feel honesty and integrity are important. Rather, than they define those values differently. You may have thought yourself honest but are afraid to discuss vulnerabilities. Expressing in that way might open a new aspect of honesty. So, step one is to explore your values.

Next, sit for a moment, perhaps with a nice cup of tea or glass of wine and quietly begin to imagine your perfect day. How would you describe a day that ends with you affirming, “Now today counted!” Make some notes as you experience that feeling. What were 2-3 activities or actions you took that contributed to its great outcome? What did you feel as you moved through your day? Was there anything exceptional about the day? What made it feel different? You might include things you’ve never done but have wanted to. Or it may be taking a different look at things you’ve done regularly.

Once you have some ideas of what “a day that counts” looks like to you, brainstorm with yourself, or gather a few friends with similar thoughts and beliefs, to come up with ways to make future days count. If your ideal day included walks in nature, but you rarely do that now, you want to think of ways to incorporate that into more of your days. Perhaps you want to be more social or to feel more gratitude. Think of ways to make that happen.

Then, lastly you want to set ONE intention for how you want to be in the future, one day at a time. Pick one action or way of being that will result in most days counting. Part of the message of Being Mortal is to live until we die. So, the invitation here is to not give up, or give in to age by following traditional definitions of retirement or end of life. You can live ‘all in’ at any age, once you know what a fulfilled life looks like for you.

There are stories every day of people living with extreme situations who flourish despite their circumstances. So, why not say, if they can do it, so can I?

The four steps:

  • Identify what you value
  • Imagine your ‘day that counts’
  • Brainstorm ways to make it happen
  • Commit to one thing to do

Using these four steps will help you to live fully until you die, and isn’t that the goal for most of us? It’s time to celebrate life and our age, with NO regrets.



Originally published in fyi50+

How Can We Live a Good Life? By Making Each Day Count

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