One Question for Immediate Perspective



Perspective is a big deal for me. It marks the difference between good leaders and all the rest.


Perspective sorts what’s important from what’s just interesting. It differentiates what needs to get done from what needs to get done by me. You’ve probably heard me say, perspective is like altitude, it lifts our eyes up beyond the immediate to see the bigger picture.

I’ve learned that perspective does not come from will power.

It’s not a result of becoming “The Little Engine that Could.” Perspective is the fruit of reflective action, usually flowing out of provocative questions.

To that end, I am kind of a perspective nerd. I’m always looking for tools and tactics that will help find the perspective I need.


Therefore, I want to introduce you to one question you can use to create perspective. It is a question you can ask yourself in almost any situation.


“What would I do if I only had two years to live?”

That other, gimmicky, 2-weeks-to- live version of the question feigns significance but is little more than a party trick.


Two years is long enough to put today into perspective without panic. At the same time, two years is short enough to make us take today seriously as we choose how to invest our limited time.

Asking the two-years-to-live question can help you sort through the clutter of life. It can help you address big questions like…

  • Who are the people in whom I want to pour myself?

  • What are the distracting and unproductive entertainments that I should let go of?

  • Is my job the right place and am I in the right role to make the most of the time I have left?

  • How is my relationship with God and what steps should I take?

The two year question can help you address immediate issues, like…

  • Do I really want/need to spend money on this thing?

  • Of the different projects I/we are working on, which matters most?

  • Where should I spend my time and energy this week?

  • Who are the people I have been taking for granted that I want to get time with?

And, a two-year perspective gives me enough time to address one of life’s most important questions…

  • What kind of impact to I want to make on the people and the needs of the world around me? What can I do about it this week?

Look, I don’t want to be morbid, but facing our mortality is not a bad thing. In fact, I am posting this article today while my wife is having surgery. It’s not a big life-threatening type of surgery, but it is complicated and significant nonetheless.


Earlier this year I watched a friend lose his wife. Another colleague discovered he had terminal cancer. A third had one of those scary shadows on an x-ray. Others hand frighteningly serious cases of Covid. And, my short list of mortality reminders goes on.

I refuse to spend my days under the illusion that I have indefinite time. I never want to be careless about today. Embracing my mortality helps me live on purpose today treasuring it as one of a very precious few.


Asking this simple question now and then, helps me sort the clutter and find enough altitude to see afresh how to live as a steward of today.

So, if you knew you only had two years to live, how would it affect the way you are spending your time and energy today, this week, this month?

I dare you. Ask yourself the question and reflect on how you might approach your life if you only had two years to live.

... gary


Follow this link to access previous articles on the theme of perspective.