Life is Short and Why This Matters

Oct 24, 2022

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Looking back over all that has occurred the past couple of years has reminded me of how precious life and time are. We’ve all had things drastically change in our lives and in the lives of those around us. And all this change has me pondering the depth of what it means to live the moment, and to appreciate the time we have. 

Through this episode, I want to encourage you to examine the truth that life is short. And to dive into why this matters. This is absolutely not in a “life is short and then you die” kind of way, but rather in a way of cherishing one another and the time we have together. I hope to help each of us embrace more fully the gifts of living wisely, aligning with purpose, and especially, loving and being loved.

“Is there a way in which someone who was observing how you spend your days… would they get what’s really valuable to you?... I don’t believe in just living FOR the moment, but living IN the moment… I would just encourage all of us to not miss out on our actual life while maybe worrying about or thinking about our future life or maybe even our past life.”  – Dr. Sara Dill

What You’ll Learn

  • Daily appreciation
  • Cherishing time and other people
  • Living wisely
  • Embracing the moment
  • Aligning with purpose
  • Fully loving

Contact Info and Recommended Resources

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Connect with Sara Dill, MD, The Doctor’s Coach


Dr. Sara Dill: I’m Dr. Sara Dill, and this is the Stress-Less Physician podcast, Episode Number 37. Welcome to the Stress-Less Physician podcast, I’m your host, Dr. Sara Dill, MD. Using my unique combination of coaching and mindfulness tools, I will teach you practical ways to reduce your stress level, feel happier at work, and create a better balance between your medical career personal life. If you are a busy practicing physician who wants to design a life and medical career that feel good to you, you are in the right place.

Hey, everyone, welcome back to the podcast. So, today is something I’ve wanted to talk about, actually, for a while. Ever since I did that podcast a few weeks ago, on the good old days, I feel like this podcast really on sort of contemplating the brevity of life in a way that serves us, is very related. And since that time, there’s been a couple other things that have also just sort of brought the importance of it, at least for myself, really home.

And so there have been actually quite a few events in the last few weeks and even few months that have really sort of brought the shortness and uncertainty of life into sharper focus for me. And at least temporarily, I feel like our mind doesn’t usually hang on to that. It becomes sort of clear, and then we get distracted by the events of our lives and getting busy and all the sorts of things that we do on a day-to-day basis.

But it can be helpful, at least it has been for me, to really intentionally take a little time every day, if I can, I’m trying to make it a habit, to contemplate a little bit, the brevity and uncertainty of life in a way again, that helps inform my day, and inform my life in a way that makes it better.

And so, some of the things that have happened: So, my dad lives on a boat, he sails around the world. And he’s been living in the tropics for years and years, which is a little bit funny, he’s a dermatologist, of course. But he usually comes back to Santa Barbara, which is where he was raised, every year to catch up with friends and family and health care. But I hadn’t seen him in about two or three years because he couldn’t fly out of the Philippines because of COVID. So, he’s actually been here in Santa Barbara for the last two and a half months.

And last week, he called me in the morning on Monday and just told me that he felt terrible. And so I went over and I was going to take him to the hospital. And then it was clear, there was no way I was going to be able to do it just based on his condition. And so he actually ended up getting admitted to the hospital for about three days. Turns out he had two large blood clots, one in each lung. And he’s doing great now. And in fact, he’s actually flying back to the Philippines today, so lots of thoughts on that one.

But yeah, just the frailty of my father and seeing him ill. And then of course, seeing him recover, really sort of brought that home for me. And the fact that he lives on a boat, and I often can’t reach him and I don’t see him that frequently, is something I think about a lot.

What else has happened? I’ve had a lot of patients, at least several patients recently, with either new onset serious illness and disability themselves or in a close family member. So, I like to talk a lot with my patients and chit chat and find out what’s going on. And it seems to be a theme recently. My boyfriend’s mother died unexpectedly a few months ago. So that was something that really hit home for me as well. I just learned if someone my age, who recently had a heart attack—luckily survived and is doing well now. But that also is sort of a potent reminder of the fact that that things aren’t guaranteed, and that things that can happen in the future, can happen really any day to any of us.

And last year, one of my residency colleagues passed away at a very young age from cancer, and I still think of that, and her quite frequently. So those are just some of the things that have really recently caused me to think about the brevity of life and the sort of uncertainty of life, in a way that I am still working on utilizing to maybe be more mindful and intentional with my life.

And I think just like the podcast I did on “The Good Old Days,” this reflecting on the brevity of life, not in sort of a flippant, “life is short, then you die” way, can be very useful in more fully inhabiting, or living your life to the fullest more intentionally, right? With intention with consciousness.

And I want to offer you some of the ways I have found valuable to intentionally reflect on the fact that life is somewhat brief, our human life, and that we never know when it might end, really. And I feel like a lot of us go around really sort of intentionally trying not to think about that. But can we think about it in a way that serves us? Not ruminating on it, or protesting against it, but using sort of the facts of this to more fully inhabit the life we do have.

So, the first way I like to think about this is to really think about the fact that our life is brief, and valuable. And ask myself, can I use this to make sure that I’m not taking my life for granted? Am I appreciating my life each day? Am I appreciating the fact that I woke up today? Am I appreciating the fact that I’m going to sleep tonight, right? At least for a few minutes.

So, this is something that I am trying to do when I wake up and before I go to bed, to sort of cultivate gratitude for the day I have, the day I had, and for the life that I am living, for the fact that I’m alive. So, I feel like this is a way of really appreciating and valuing our life on a day-to-day basis. And I found this very useful. I find that it helps me sort of not take things too seriously, in some sense during the day to appreciate what’s really important and what is maybe less important, to not take things as personally. And to have a little bit more perspective again.

The second way I like to think about it is can we use this, these facts, really, of the human lifespan and the uncertainty of when our life will end, to make the most of the time we have with loved ones, with people we care about, with family and friends.

So again, my dad was visiting, although he wasn’t staying with me for the last two and a half months. And then my niece has been staying with me for the last two or three weeks. And I’m someone who’s pretty used to living on my own and having my own schedule, and having things be pretty quiet. And so I will say that I do tend to get frazzled at times, especially when I’m trying to manage other people’s schedules, and trying to be available, but also trying to get work done. And sort of have my own life and everything else.

So, it was important to me to remind myself of this, that, you know, this could be one of the last times I could see my dad, or anyone for that matter, not in a modeling way again, but to more sort of deeply cherish others, and especially to show up how I want to show up, as my best self, or at least a better version of myself. And not in a way that I would regret, if indeed, it was the last time I saw someone.

So, I will say that I have a long way to go on this one. That became very apparent in the last month or two. But I think I’m getting much better at catching myself, right? Redirecting, again, prioritizing what’s really important not getting lost in sort of my focus on getting things done and accomplishing work tasks and other tasks. And then also just making amends quickly, apologizing if I’ve been sort of a little bit distracted or not fully present.

So again, it’s a practice, not about perfection. But I really find this useful to ask myself: how do I want to show up? What if this was the last time or one of the last times that I saw someone, am I cherishing these moments? Am I enjoying this? Am I like fully present? Or am I sort of distracted and just going through the motions? So, this is something that I’ve actually found incredibly useful. And, again, I like to think about.

The third thing you can ask yourself or reflect on is, are you spending your days wisely? Are you living your life in a way that you might regret, or already do? Yes, regret is an emotion that comes from our thoughts. But are you sort of out of integrity, or living a life that you sort of don’t really want to continue to do? But maybe you are postponing making changes for a variety of reasons. Is there a way in which you can live your life that is more joyful and fun and meaningful right now?

So, you can just ask, like, am I spending too much time and energy on things that in the end, I don’t care about? Do you need to course correct a little bit? Do you need to tweak things? It doesn’t mean you go out and quit your job or anything. But is there a way in which someone who was observing how you spend your days—would they get what’s really valuable to you? Are you spending today worried or thinking about the future too much? Or maybe you think a lot about the past? Can you live more in the moment?

There is, of course, a time for planning, and for goal setting. And I don’t believe in just living for the moment. But living in the moment, is how we live our lives. So I would just encourage all of us to not miss out on our actual life, while maybe worrying about or thinking about our future life, or maybe even our past life, right? Are we spending too much time, sort of tomorrow or further down the road? Are we worrying about it today, and missing out on the actual day that we have now?

Another thing you could contemplate or ask yourself is whether you’re living a life that is meaningful and fulfilling to you? I really believe that we don’t have to discover, write our purpose, or go out there and find meaning or find fulfillment. I think we are the ones who get to create the meaning and fulfillment in our lives. We get to decide what the purpose of our life is. And I think that can change as well over time.

So, what if you create the meaning and you create your own fulfillment? What if it’s not just waiting for us? Can you align your life more? Can you take more responsibility for creating a life of meaning and fulfillment and purpose? Can you use the brevity of life in some way to sort of better illuminate what is important to you? What does have meaning? What does bring you fulfillment? And then, are you spending too much time worrying about things that in the end, are just not that important?

So, for me, this would include, like what other people think about me, what other people think about how I live my life, or some of the decisions I have made or am making. I think this includes worrying too much about how we look right, how we appear to others, and maybe even how we appear to ourselves. As a dermatologist, I do think that sometimes a little vanity is good. I think it keeps us motivated to write be healthy and stay active and care about ourselves. But are we overdoing it?

I see so many people who hate their bodies, at any age and every size, right? I have 20-year-olds who come in and hate how they look. I have 40-year-olds who come in and feel old and don’t like their bodies, 60-year-olds, 80-year-olds, right? What would it be like to love and accept ourselves more our physical body, our personalities, our life or decisions? Are we spending too much time comparing ourselves to others? Or assessing or judging what other people are doing or saying or anything? Can we stay more in our own business and lead our own lives?

And again, what would it be like to really just love and accept ourselves fully, even with our imperfections? Whatever we might think those are. And then one thing you’ll notice is that it becomes more of a possibility to love, or at least accept everyone else too. Is it possible that life is short? And too short to be constantly judging ourselves and others and having everyone come up lacking? What if we just changed that bar? What if we just noticed the self-judgment and the judging of others and decided that maybe that’s not a great way to spend our time? Like, really, what’s the point of that? Does it make you feel better or worse in the end?

So, can we spend less time thinking and worrying about things that in the end are just not that important? What here maybe resonates for you? You get the idea here. I would encourage you to think about this subject. And notice what comes up. For a lot of people, it’s a lot of discomfort. Again, I think a lot of us, especially in Western culture, just maybe try not to think about the fact that life is uncertain. And life is short, in some ways. So again, this isn’t an exercise in ruminating or regretting or railing against the brevity and uncertainty of life. I think this is really the opposite.

I find for me, there’s this sort of rather poignant beauty, tinged with sadness for me a little bit when I think about life and death and the uncertainty of it all. But in the end, I think it helps bring me more joy, more gratitude, more connection, more acceptance, maybe a little bit just more fun, and happiness in my day-to-day life. So again, not ruminating. But carrying this around a little bit, as a way to more fully appreciate the life that we do have, while we have it to not miss out. Let’s not miss out on the life we do have, thinking about the future or the past, or what’s not perfect now.

So, I’m going to close with just the last few lines of a poem I really like. I’m sure pretty much everyone has heard this. It’s by Mary Oliver. And the poem is called The Summer Day. And the last two lines are: Tell me what else should I have done? Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon? Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” I’m just going to leave you with that. What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? Thanks, everyone for listening and I will talk to you next week. Bye.

If you are a busy practicing physician, ready to start feeling less stressed, enjoy work more and learn how to create a more balanced and sustainable medical practice and life, sign up for a consult call with me at, that’s It would be my privilege and pleasure to work with you.

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