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Would you choose: (1) more years in your life or (2) more life in your years?

Abraham Lincoln

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count.

It’s the life in your years.

Abraham Lincoln

This quote hangs on the door of my Dad’s fridge in his 2nd floor apartment in Ardmore.  I bought it for him a few years ago imagining what he would be like if he shoved a little more (anything) into his life.  My Mom on the other hand crammed, what most people couldn’t accomplish in 130 years, into her 65 years of life.   Constantly out and about, talking on the phone, working until midnight, falling dead asleep with a book on her chest, and countless other vivid memories encapsulate a small piece of my Mom’s existence.

There are many ways to interpret this quote, but when I think about it, I wonder whether I’d rather live a shorter, action-packed life or a longer, calm and mellow life.  That’s not to say that a long, even-paced existence necessarily has less “life” in it, but  I’m picturing the man sitting on his couch wasting away his existence as his life passes him by in this scenario.

Which life should I choose: (1) more years in your life (calm, long life) or (2) more life in your years (action-packed, shorter life)?

For scenario (1) I could imagine living the monk’s life…a Shaolin monk, of course.  Who would want to be a monk that doesn’t practice martial arts?  In this scenario I would see meaning in devoting yourself everyday to your thought, to being one with nature, and to practicing your art.  I think I could train my brain to enjoy that, but I don’t know whether I’d last and it would take a lifetime to figure it out.

Shaolin Monks
Shaolin Monks...they meditate too.

As it is, I think I’m living the action-packed, shorter life.  I have no data to prove that it will be short.  It’s just a guess.  I know it’s action-packed from 7 am to 10 pm every day with work and training and teaching and school and cooking and, and, and.  I don’t mind all the activities.  I choose them every day and enjoy them.  I can’t imagine cutting one out.  Still, I believe in focus and I’m getting better at saying no, so I’ll have time for my daily meditation at least once a week.

You may believe you can have both and create an action-packed longer life.  There’s been some research that indicates that humans, other mammals, and a few different species have just one-billion heartbeats in their life on average.  This link, while not a research paper, does a reasonable job explaining the concept.  Take a minute to read this.  I think you’ll find it interesting.

The author explains that exercise can actually increase your lifespan despite temporarily increasing your heart rate.  I don’t believe other activities in most cases have the same effect.  The constant running around, chasing after that next task, connecting with one more person may be worth it to you, but count your heartbeats.  Choose how you spend them wisely.

Which life would you choose: (1) more years in your life (calm, long life) or (2) more life in your years (action-packed, shorter life)?