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The Difference a Question can Make

Mar 01, 2024

When people think about their finite life, and how to make the most of it, a very common question asked is, “If you had a limited time to live, how would you spend your time?”

This question is in fact, found in Willow materials. That question assumes that we need urgency to get to doing or addressing the important things in our life that we’ve been putting off. It's indeed a powerful way to identify who and what matters most.

Meet Betty Reid Soskin

I was recently inspired by 101-year-old Betty Reid Soskin who says that she has been so many things in her life, that it’s hard to remember. She became a park ranger at 85 years old (and retired at 100), was a daughter, mother, wife, even a musician and songwriter! 

Watching a clip about her motivated me to turn this question on its head and ask the following:

If you knew you would live to 100 years old, how would you spend your time?

If I knew I would live until 100 years old, I would have 40—and a half—more years to live! 

I would still have one third of my life left, and I would have as many years left to live as an adult as I’ve already been an adult! I’ve learned, accomplished and experienced so much in my adult life, so why not consider that I’ll be just as productive in the next 40 years?

Here is how I would answer this question:

If I knew I would live until 100 years old, I would:

  • Care for my body and mind so that I am as sharp as Betty is
  • Hike, cross country ski, and swim more
  • Learn an instrument: time to dust off the electronic drum kit?
  • Paint
  • Fall in love
  • Get that life/work balance figured out once and for all!
  • Make my home beautiful
  • Live in another beautiful place for one or two months per year (Sicily, Portugal, Canary Islands, or Bali, anyone?)
  • Nurture and expand my cherished relationships
  • Host regular dinner parties
  • Learn a new language
  • Write several books
  • Let go of any worries that I’m too old, or it’s too late in life and other such nonsense! 

Betty also says that the questions in life are the important things. “Each time they get asked, there's a different meaning because you’ve grown so much from the last time you asked it. The answers are only temporary.”

In Betty's words, “being 101 is really something because you feel as if you’re starting all over again. I don’t know what comes next!”  

What about you?
What would you do if you knew you would live until 100 years old? 

Share your response by heading on over to the Willow Facebook page and share with the community!

Click here to learn about Betty Reid Soskin on PBS Newshour, or watch here on Instagram


Wishing you a long and spectacular life,

Reena (she/her)

Co-founder of Willow End of Life Education and Planning