That we live only once is not speculation. This is it. This life is all we have. This fact, however, is not cause for despair; it is cause for action.

To quote a favorite ad, “It’s not that life’s too short, it’s just that you’re dead for so long.” Our time in life is substantial—we might live to eighty, ninety, or even a hundred years old—and we can do a great deal in the decades we have. But we are going to die. And when we do, that’s it. We’re done. So: What to do?

As rational egoists—as people who know that the moral purpose of life is to maximize our personal happiness—we want to fill our days and years with accomplishments and joy. We want to wake up every morning and pursue our values with vigor. We want to thrive in a career we love, in romance, in our recreational pursuits, in our friendships, and so on. In short, we want to make our lives the best they can be.

That’s easy to say. And, in a sense, it’s easy to do: Just think rationally and act accordingly. In another sense, however, it is the single most difficult thing in the world.

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