As human beings we know we’re going to die. So shouldn’t we be living every day to our full potential?
In Russian writer Dostoevsky’s book The Idiot, a man facing execution tells Prince Myshkin: “What if I didn’t have to die? I would turn every minute into an age; nothing would be wasted, every minute would be accounted for…”
Years later the author himself faced a mock execution when the ruler at the time (Nicholas I) accused him of being part of an underground group of liberal intellectuals. He was arrested and held in solitary confinement, along with other members of the group. Following months of imprisonment they were taken to be executed by firing squad. Hooded, they stood before the guns, aware of the order for the men to load their rifles and take aim. Dostoyevsky’s way of coping was to embrace all the good things that he had experienced in his life and how much he valued it.
At the last minute the author and his companions were reprieved and sentenced to four years hard labour instead. But the trauma of the staged execution caused two of the men to go mad. Dostoyevsky, on the other hand, regarded the day as the one on which he was reborn. He later said he had considered all the time he had wasted in laziness, mistakes and how little he had appreciated it, adding: “Life is a gift; life is happiness; every minute can be an eternity of happiness.”
Once he had his freedom again the writer lived his life with a renewed sense of purpose and indeed became one of Russia’s most famous authors.
We should all live life to our full potential. Life creatively and resolve not to squander any more precious time.