Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

The Mayans Were Right About the End of the World

Today, the world ends. But let’s be honest: we saw it coming. We didn’t need the Mayans to tell us.

Mayan Calendar

Photo credit: leanderthal (Creative Commons)

First, 90 year-old fundamentalist Harold Camping told us Jesus was coming back and convinced people to buy billboards to warn their neighbors about the impending Apocalypse. When that didn’t happen, he asked for a rain check. Eventually, he admitted his math must’ve been a little “off.”

Then Obama was re-elected (which felt like the end of the world for Republicans). Whether you live in the U.S. or not, you probably heard someone on Nov. 7 proclaiming gloom and doom via Facebook.

After that, Twinkies became extinct, which was really scary. Fear and paranoia drove my wife and me to the store to stockpile a few boxes. Good thing, too, because we’re able to eat like royalty before the meteor crashes into Earth.

Why this matters

Of course, I kid. But what if the world was ending? How would you live differently today?

You’d probably hug your family a little tighter, chew your food a little slower, let your wandering eyes linger a little longer as you glanced out the window — soaking it all in.

Our world is a busy one, full of obligations and deadlines. And if we’re not careful, we can rush through it all without paying attention.

Sometimes, we need a little jolt to shock us back into being present to the moment.

The Advent of the Apocalypse

I’m writing this four days before Christmas. As a child, I couldn’t wait for December 25 to arrive. But as an adult, I’m learning to live more in the anticipation — the seasons of waiting leading up to the Big Moment. Some traditions call this Advent: a time of waiting, not of arrival.

I’ve realized life — real, abundant life — is not the day you open your presents. It’s everything leading up to it.

The world is ending. It’s all ending, every day. We just don’t want to admit it. So we create buzz around bizarre predictions and events that distract us from what’s right in front of us: the opportunity to live.

The irony is we’re so worried about life ending that we neglect living. [Tweet that]

But what if we could live every day as if it was our last? Without hype or fear or paranoia. Just with an appreciation for the gift of life itself. Wouldn’t that be something?

The end is here

What’s holding you back from doing this today? And what, pray tell, has you convinced that today isn’t your last day on earth? As recent news reminds us, none of us knows when tragedy may strike. So let’s live like we mean it.

  • If you’ve been telling yourself you’re going to write a book, start writing it — today.
  • If you’ve been saying it’s time to quit your job, quit — today.
  • If you’ve been wanting to spend more time with your family, do it — today.

An old poet once prayed, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Our days are numbered. But instead of counting down to Doomsday, fixating on how it’s all going to end, let’s focus on what really matters — what we might lose. All those wonderful moments in between now and then.

Today is the end of the world for someone. Maybe you, maybe me. And whether or not Christmas Day comes, we always have Advent.

In other news, if you want to make 2013 count, we still have a few spots left for the trip to Guatemala I’m leading in February (where you can really meet some Mayans), and I am SO buying this T-shirt.

If today were your last day on earth, what would you do? Share in the comments (if they’re still here!).

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • Realizing that my time is short (even the longest life is short) literally launched me into a whole new life. When I finally got in through my thick skull WHY God tells us in the bible that “life is a vapor” I didn’t want to sit and wait for life to pass. It was such a jolt that my wife and I then traveled the world for 14 months, I wrote my first book, and started and organization. For me, knowing this (what you just said above) is vital as it may just launch a few people who could one day change the world.

    Great Post, Jeff.

  • Woke up singing, “It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s the end of the world as we know it. It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.”
    Awesome Jeff! Reposting this. 🙂 Peace+

  • Jeff, I love this. It makes you think, doesn’t it? What if today WAS my last? And you’re right that it very well could be. 

    I want everyone in my life to know how much I love them and I want to tell my story in the most honest, most truthful way I can. I want to spend an extra moment on my coffee, savoring it’s rich flavor, and I want to laugh- just because I can. Thank you for this reminder, especially in the busy season of Christmas. May we all live today, gratefully and on purpose. 

  • I’d do what I’m doing right now–writing thank you notes to some people that have become precious to me over the past few months.

    • Man, I need to get better at that. Thanks for your example, Christine.

  • I think having kids has taught me more about the brevity of life than anything. We have a 21 month old + a 3 month old + everyday I am reminded of how quickly time passes when I see how they’ve grown +  the new things they’ve learned.  So, yes, hugging them tighter is definitely on my list.  If the world was truly ending today, I hope that I would prioritize telling my unsaved friends + family more about Jesus.  I’d also be sure to work in some of the things I love – playing guitar with my husband, eating some good food (probably italian), + making some good memories with my kids – it’s snowing here now, so maybe we’d go outside for snowballs!  Thanks for the reminder, Jeff.  

    • That’s good, Alle. Being a parent has certainly made me realize how quickly time passes. And the older I get (and our son gets), the faster it seems to go!

  • Marjorie Hill

    A very wise woman once said: Do the next thing. That’s about where I am right now. My husband of 52 years is suffering from dementia. However we are truly blessed as I look at my life and the way that the Lord Jesus has led us. Our children and grandchildren love us but most important is that we are loved by God.  What more could I ask for? Merry Christmas to you and yours.

    • Thanks for being an example of gratitude in tough times, Marjorie. You’re an inspiration.

  • Jim

    Lovely piece, Jeff. Thanks for all the wisdom and encouragement this year. 

    • A pleasure, Jim. Thanks for paying attention.

  • Nora

    Enjoyed this post!! Uplifting and thought provoking. If today were the last day, I would be at home with my family in our cozy home. My husband and son would be on their computers and I would be enjoying a cocktail while writing a book.

  • You are absolutely correct. I wrote about the same thing in a couple of blog posts at https://wp.me/pXp5J-3p and https://wp.me/pXp5J-HM. It is very easy to become so obsessed with knowing the end of time that we don’t get around to doing what we can do with the time we have. Thank you for reminding us in words that are both inspiring and motivating.

  • Kelsey Jay

    Great post Jeff! 

    If today was my last day, I would go to the nearest pet store and cuddle all the animals. Then I would have some of my favourite foods and spend the rest of the day with my best friends and family, hopefully enjoying some of that food.

    I might do that today anyway. 🙂

  • Great read. If today was my last, I would spend it with my family at the beach… 😀

  • Great thoughts Jeff. 
    Reminds me to tackle my dreams step by step. But then that reminds me of that 90’s tv show too 🙂

  • Julie Luekenga

    I’ve made several decisions based on the logic, “At the end of my life I’m never going to wish I’d… (worked more, stressed more, was thinner, etc)”.  We get one shot at this life, why not treat it like a big, juicy peach and take a big bite out of it and savor. Part of that savoring, of course, is the joy of giving to others, serving, making a difference in life– however we’re lead. Great post, Jeff.  

    PS I saw a picture of the circular Mayan calendar and an Oreo cookie side by side. They were eerily similar…

    • I saw that, too. Except I thought: “eerily delicious.” 😉

  • Mary Young Robinson

    Enjoyed post…and your bits of humor with Twinkies, etc.!

  • Great post!  I love this!  Advent in my household turns into gifts for the teachers, gifts for the neighbors, Christmas cookies with the kiddos, Christmas cards with the family letter, photo book to complete, Christmas parties to host. OH, and of course fit Jesus in there somewhere.   I wonder which we would do if we knew it was our last Christmas?   https://stacyneus.blogspot.com/2012/12/stressed.html

  • You described how I feel about not really wanting Christmas to arrive. I am so anxious about its actual arrival and just want to Be in the Now — the anticipation. 

    • For years I felt this and never understood it. Now I do.

  • This really hit home as last night I was in the hospital with a friend who had a brain bleed. In the blink of an eye – his life changed. He is still hanging on, but not good. The whole time I was there I kept thinking I need to live more in the now as I’m not guaranteed of anything else. Love people more. Say the loving things that need to be said. Just be.

  • Psalm 90 was running through my mind even before I saw your link to it. Our culture doesn’t want to think “morbid” thoughts about our deaths. But realizing the finite nature of our time here is what drives us to appreciate it enough to do the hard, important things now.

    • Agreed. It doesn’t have to be morbid. There’s something powerful about realizing we won’t be here forever. Somehow makes the time we do have that much sweeter (or it can, at least).

  • Dawn Wilson

    I was going to say, “Go to Costco,” because that’s the next thing on my schedule (but somehow that doesn’t “sound spiritual”). The truth is, if we are being wise stewards of our time, talents and treasures, and obeying God by faith all day long, we’re on the right track. Thanks for the reminder that we’re not to worry about how life ends, but to be faithful “in the dash” between our birth and death.

  • Ana

    Last week our Philosophy teacher gave us an assignment – we had to think what we would do if we had 5 days left to live. Later, when we discussed this assignment, he noted that in this scenario, a lot of people would get in touch with their beloved ones and tell them how much they matter to them. “If that’s so important to you,” said the teacher, “then why wait until you die to do it?” 
    And I think he’s right. Anything could happen – today, a meteorite could split the Earth in half, or tomorrow we could get crushed by a falling piano. Who knows? Not us, in any case. We should just take a moment to appreciate what we have, because we don’t know how much longer we’re going to have it. 

    Great post, Jeff!

  • aamir

    well I would read as many books as I can and enjoy the sunrise and sunset and of course pray to God to please grand me heaven 🙂

    • Good one! I would definitely get up early just to watch the sunrise.

  • kookazoo

    Well the end of the world was yesterday in Australia and I am still here. I live my life this way most days, tell those close to you how much you love and appreciate them. Marvel at natures beauty. Eat that double layered chocolate cake, as long as you have a piece of fruit after it everything is fine. Mostly spend time with family and lastly pray like crazy that the man up stairs has a spot for you.

  • I would share the best news I have with everyone I know.

  • Nikita

    If today was my last day on earth, I would just pray to God to take me now, because I can not image trying to say goodbye to the people who would be affected by my going home to be with God. I can’t conceive of living my life this way. Anything you need to do that can’t be done within 24 hours, requires a couple days, weeks, months, even years depending on what your goals are.

    What I try to do is get the most out of everyday is to bring my focus back to Jesus whenever I find myself freaking out in anyway. I’m amazed how well and fast this works. I feel free to enjoy the day and be all I can in that day.

  • Annamarie Muirhead

    I di like your comments might already have joined if not am now.
    Merry Xmas

  • Well said.

  • Angelina

    I wouldn’t let what people say get to me, I would want to enjoy my day and not let someone’s harsh word ruin it for me.

  • I think this is my favorite piece of writing from you yet. Bravo. And, thank you. 

    • Wow, Marlee. I’m honored! And thanks for the comment.

  • Krbrid

    Yes, Yes, Yes!  A most excellent post!!!
    I’m working on that book! 🙂

    Merry Christmas!

  •  Love this “And what, pray tell, has you convinced that today isn’t your last day on earth?”.  Selah.

  • I’d probably hitch a ride to another planet?

  • Do exactly what I am doing. Spreading the word of Christ. Loving everyone. Being at peace. Listening to God.
    Blessings and thanks for a great post,
    Janis http://www.janiscox.com

  • Mae

    Brilliant. Thanks!!!!

  • Last night around 10pm, I got a text from my newly wed daughter who recently moved to the other side of the country. It read, ” Mom, if something bad does happen, I want you to know I love you very much and I will come to you.” I responded, “I love you more, I’ll be waiting for you.” 
    We both knew there was really nothing to fear because of the Mayans’ predictions, but since we have a chance to dialog about it, lets say what each of us needs to hear,  put in place what we need to set in order, strive to accomplish that which we were created for, and to be truly thankful for all the blessings that God has so richly blessed each of us with. 

  • Kennisha

    This was awesome, Jeff!

  • Agreed.  I wrote a similar post (https://trinitydigitalmedia.com/2012/12/its-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it/ ).  This morning, people woke up with plans for days, weeks, months, and years ahead.  Some of those people are dead now.  We never know when we’ll go.  

    Make one small step today.  I did that two years ago when I started my first book.  Now, I’m five books in (two still need to be edited).  I love being an author.


  • Susan48

    When this world ends I’m expecting a rather nice next world – as He promised. 

  • I think this has always been the point behind the REM song “It’s the End of the World as we Know It (and I feel fine).”  

    • interesting. and i love that song.

      • I don’t know if that was REMs intended meaning, but that’s the way I always think of it now.

  • Judith Robl

    Thanks, Jeff, for the reminder that “NOW” is all we have. Everything else is past or may not come.  We are to occupy this earth as if we were going to be here another thousand years. But we are to be as ready for the end as if it were coming in the next breath.  Talk about your balancing act!

     Blessings on your today – even when it’s Christmas. 🙂

  • Darrell Gwaltney

    The lunacy of the “2012 the World Will End because the Mayans stopped their calendar” made it easy to dismiss the urgency of Dec 21. Your post reminds us the immediacy of every day life. Thank you for that. 

    I loved how you wove in everything from Camping to Ps. 90.12. Nice. Very nice. 

  • Hala nobani

    A wise man once said. ” Work  for your life as you’ll never die, and for your death as your going to die tomorrow”
    This how I try to live my life. I Dream for the future, think big, plan ahead, establish new projects….etc. But I Keep reminding my self that I might die tomorrow so I pick up the phone and tell my beloved ones that I love them, I visit my family with a gift, I pray to God, I give charity….etc. This how I see life long and short at the same time and I try to do my best in both cases

  • Ethan Paz

    Jeff, I appreciate you writing with such passion. You demonstrate the authenticity of what all writing should be.

  • I love your blog. If we have a message to share, by books, blogs or other channels, we must pour it out. I appreciate your message. Have a blessed year. 

  • Moe

    The world is ending, we are all getting old and are going to die some day. “If today were your last day on earth, what would you do?” I find it easier to look at what I wouldn’t do. I wouldn’t bother checking my facebook, or tweets. I wouldn’t go to work. I wouldn’t be so crabby in the morning (or maybe I would, hard to say), I wouldn’t stay indoors, and I wouldn’t waste time on people who are wasting my time. Perhaps I should have a glass of wine and chill.
    Happy holidays.

  • When this world ends I’m expecting a rather nice next world – as He promised. 

  • Bryan

    I’d plant a tree. 

  • If we live in peace, I think it’s a very long way to the apocalypse

  • Y8

    You are quite smart together with your words.

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  • This really hit home as last night I was in the hospital with a friend who had a brain bleed. In the blink of an eye – his life changed.

  • Thanks, Jeff, for the reminder that “NOW” is all we have. Everything else is past or may not come