bucket list
Photo: Adam Voorhes
On New Year's Eve, when I was 21, I had a chat with a friend I'll call Vicky. "The last three months sucked," Vicky said. "I had ten pounds to lose, so I didn't let myself leave my room, except to go to class, until I hit my goal weight." She lifted her Champagne. "This is the year I can really start living!" Two days later, Vicky was killed in a traffic accident.

I'm sorry if that story just harshed your mellow. It's been on my mind for decades. Since Vicky's death, I've never been able to stop asking, How would I spend the next three months if I knew they were my last? Sitting in a dorm room waiting for my thighs to shrink has never made the list.

Our culture loves the phrase "It's never too late." We want to believe we can toss every adventure onto our bucket lists and accomplish them all. But life is brief. To fill it with the things worth experiencing, we must empty it of pretty much everything else. In other words, there's a lot we don't have time for. And after decades of helping people figure out how to fill their remaining years, I hereby present five things for which it truly is too late.

1. It's too late to get a completely different body.
You can make alterations to your body, of course. Lose weight, or gain it; have surgeons perform anything from liposuction to mole removal. Ultimately, you'll still have to face the fact that we each get one body per lifetime. The one I'm in now is mine—its puffy little fingers; its strangely shaped skull; its inexorable mortality—and the one you're in is yours. Vicky spent her final months obsessing about her supposed physical imperfections. It's too late for you or me to do the same.

Instead, put "appreciate my body" on your bucket list. Think of it: You have trillions of intricate cells performing a vast array of functions with phenomenal precision, even if you do nothing but suck up pork rinds. That's a miracle. Right now, take five minutes to admire your body. Try repeating phrases like, "At this moment, I offer no resistance to my body as it is," or "For this one instant, I accept my body completely."

Self-acceptance can help you experience what Dr. Herbert Benson famously called the relaxation response. This is the state in which your body can calm down and heal. The alternative? More boring self-loathing, with its accompanying stress-related illnesses, compulsions, and addictions? We don't have time for that.

Next: How to live your life's purpose

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