A number of things have happened this week that have reminded us that life is way too short.

The tragedy in Aurora, Colorado is just a few miles from our home. Andrew and I grew up in this area. In fact, the school they are using as a meeting/interview/recovery center is my old high school.

Both my sister and sister-in-law are facing surgery and problems with their health.

And finally, Andrew had his class reunion this weekend.

And with all three have come time to reflect on the past, present and future.

Andrew spent time with one old friend talking about the future. In this friend’s line of work, he chats every day with people planning for retirement. And he mentioned how he recently had a client planning on retiring on a Friday, only to die the Thursday before – yes, one day before retirement. But the scary thing is he says that’s common and he sees it quite frequently.

Which makes you ponder the reason why.

And it only takes a moment to figure out the reason why.

People identify with their jobs even if they don’t enjoy them, feel they are doing anything of value, or even think they have security in them. They work to earn money without thinking about the true consequence. So as they work 40, 50 60, or even 70 hours each workweek, they lose the one thing that should truly matter – their self-identity.

They end up losing closeness to family members. They lose the ability to work at hobbies and outside interests. They lose passion for anything outside of the office. Even if they don’t enjoy it.

So when they are faced with the concept of no longer having the one thing in their lives they “depend” on, they simply shut down for good.

But if you look at it another way, they don’t lose their “life” on the day the die, they lose their “life” the day they commit to that 40, 50, 60 or 70 hour workweek.

That’s when they lose the ability to build close relationships. They lose the ability to find things to do that interest them. They completely associate with the wrong things – making money – instead of what’s truly important, which is creating a life worth living.

And even for those that retire and live long after retirement, if they don’t find interests before they retire, chances are they don’t find much in the way of interests after they retire. So they end up sitting in front of the television believing all of the heartache and misery that is reported every day of the year.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. And you don’t have to quit your job to make a change.

1. Decide on your priorities

If you see yourself in any of this, the key is to recognize that you aren’t at a place you truly desire. You want more and are ready to take action to get there.

What is it that you want out of life? Do you want stronger relationships? Do you want a different career? Do you want to expand a hobby?

Whatever it is you desire, you have to make time for it in your life, and not just in you mind. Wishing you were closer to your spouse/child/mother/brother/friend isn’t going to happen if you leave it in your mind. Wanting to pursue your hobby doesn’t look good on your New Year’s resolution list, unless you take action.

This week, set aside one hour for yourself to do exactly what you’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks/months/years. If you want to build a better relationship, invite that person to lunch. If you want to pursue a hobby, create some time to actually so something with it.

If is stays in your mind, it will remain a thought. But if you make it a priority, calendar it, and actually do something with it, it will change your life forever.

2. Commit to making a change

Doing something once is great. But that will never stand the test of time.

In order to make a change you have to commit to doing it again and again. And again.

So if you have decided to strengthen a relationship, take that person out to lunch this week. Then take the next step and do the same thing the next week. And the next.

It can take anywhere from 10 to 30 times to make something a habit. To build it into your system, into your being, you have to do it over and over. If you truly want this new lifestyle, its time to change the way you have always done it and do it your new way from this point forward.

3. Accomplish something

Now that you’re starting to change your patterns, its equally important to have an end in mind.

And while the end result doesn’t have to be a huge accomplishment – winning a gold medal at the Olympics – it does have to have meaning for you.

If you want to write a book, the key is writing. So your goal may be to start a journal and write for 30 minutes every day for a month. Buy the journal today and at the top of each page write in a date – one day for every day for the next month. Then set aside time every day to write, whether that means stepping away from your office for lunch, or going to be 30 minutes later each night. Don’t go to sleep until your goal is reached.

At the end of 30 days, you’ll see how easy it was to complete that journal – and how good it feels to have accomplished what you set out to do.

Now expand on it. You already have what it takes to make a change, so take it to the next level. Instead of journaling, start an outline for your book. Make a commitment to write 1000 words each day.

Then do it.

Take action.

What have you got to lose?