The Question


the question

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, there was a woman named Barbara.

Barbara had it all: success in her career, two amazing children, a loving husband, supportive extended family, and more friends than she could possibly need. However, Barbara struggled to keep it all together. She enjoyed her work, but it was taking a toll. Barbara loved her children but recognized she wasn’t letting herself enjoy being a mother. She had a wonderful partner but saw that she was taking her stress out on him.

Barbara was in her mid-thirties and found herself overwhelmed with the demands of a high-powered career and the demands of raising two young children (not a situation any of us can relate to…). In reality, Barbara did not have it all.

She did not have what should have been most important — happiness.

The problem was, she could not figure out what she needed to change in order to be happy.

Luckily, part of Barbara’s strong support system was her mother. One day her mother came to visit and took Barbara to lunch. She knew her daughter, and she quickly saw that her daughter was not ok.

After patiently letting Barbara vent, she looked at her and said,

“I have a question: If you only had one year left to live, what would you change about your life?”

Barbara thought for a moment and replied, “I would quit my job, spend more time with my family and write a novel.”

The next day — not the next year or even month — Barbara quit her job. She soon began working on her first novel. She never missed the corporate world and even went on to be a New York Times Best-Selling author. She got to spend more time with her children and still have a rewarding career. The children are now grown, and some 35 years later, she continues to write novels.

“The question” her mother asked basically gave Barbara a sense of urgency: what would she do if she had only one year? With this new outlook, Barbara was able to easily diagnose what wasn’t working; she quickly realized that her career was the major negative force in her life. By changing her profession, she became a better mother, wife and friend – and even daughter.

So why do I tell you this story?

I don’t know about you, but I have often felt like Barbara. Some days I am just going through the motions. Some days I am doing so with great success, but other days I am failing miserably. There are times I am satisfied with just being ok. But there are many times I yearn for better than just “ok.”

Honestly, at this moment in my life, I feel like I am doing pretty well. I have a fantastic family, a great job, am in an amazing relationship, and have fabulous friends. However, this hasn’t always been the case.

I got here because when I have started feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or unhappy, I have asked myself “the question” Barbara’s mother had posed—what would I change about my life if I only had a year to live?

Although unlike Barbara, I never had a quick answer identifying one basic modification to make, that question has helped me make several positive adjustments in my life. The biggest impact has been that it challenges me with that sense of urgency: what would I want to change given just one year — 365 days, 525,600 minutes (we can all thank “Rent” for now having “Seasons of Love” stuck in our heads). “The question” is always a great reminder that there is no time to waste. If I only have a year left, what can I do to make it the best year yet?

Don’t wait to make those changes you identify, do it today.

Quit your job if you hate it.
End a toxic relationship.
Take the kids to Disney.
Get a puppy.
Order dessert. 
Make-up with your sister.
Renovate your kitchen.

“The question” has given me a perspective to focus on what is actually most important to me. To really drill down on what makes me happy – or unhappy. To help me make decisions to improve my life. Some changes have been small, while others have been life-altering. Some have been fairly easy, while others have been challenging. Regardless, today I know I am a better mother, girlfriend, daughter, and friend because of those changes.

I am so thankful my Grandmother asked my Mom “the question” 35 years ago. I am confident I will keep asking it to myself throughout my life.

So today, I ask you — What would you change about your life if you only had a year to live?

the question

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Robin Zimmern is originally from Boston, MA arriving in Pensacola in 2008 via Nashville and Birmingham. Since moving to the south, Robin has embraced her inner "y’all," learned to wear pearls, eat grits, and knows the words to every Garth Brooks’ song. Robin is a proud girl mom to two precocious, creative and sassy girls: Emma (9) and Charlotte (6). They keep her on her toes in their never-ending desire to become YouTube stars, survive on a diet of pizza and chicken nuggets, and always trying to have the last word. Robin received her bachelor's and master's degrees from Vanderbilt University, and her specialist degree from the University of West Florida. Robin serves as the director of development at the University of West Florida. In Robin’s spare time (is that a thing?), she is a passionate community volunteer. Robin sits on several local boards, including the Pensacola Little Theatre, Manna, Junior League of Pensacola, Fiesta Pensacola, Valerie's House and the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


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