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Act Like the House Is on Fire

“Act like the house is on fire.” 

Those words got me through one of the toughest moments in my life. About five and a half years ago, I made the decision to leave a seven-year relationship with an unfaithful partner. I don’t say any of this to shame her — it always takes two — or in this case, three, I suppose. But relationships fall apart for a myriad of reasons- not solely because of one’s infidelity but because of all those underlying issues ever present before the infidelity occurs.  

I knew in my gut for the last several months of our relationship that she was having an affair. There were so many signs that I knew, but I didn’t really want to know. I didn’t want the routines and the life we had created with our friends and families to change… until the fights became too much and the pain became too heavy to carry. In fact, if I’m completely vulnerable, it was after a specific suicidal ideation, that I knew I had to leave the relationship.  

On the day I moved out, I remember walking into the house and standing in nearly every room, knowing it would be the last time for so many things in my life. Tears streamed down my face until I found myself lying on the bedroom floor sobbing uncontrollably and frozen in grief. I couldn’t bring myself to get up and get my belongings. I called a dear friend and through wailing tears said, “I can’t do this.” 

Her reply was curt and exactly what I needed to hear: 

“Act like the house is on fire and get your stuff out as quickly as you can. I’ll call you back in one hour,” and she hung up.

I repeated the phrase “the house is on fire” over and over and over for an hour as I literally ran through the house grabbing my belongings as though the house were actually burning to the ground. 

Since that day, this phrase and moment have stuck with me and it’s been heavy on my heart recently. 

Maybe it’s the self-reflection that comes with the new year or the fact that my birthday is right around the corner and I’m feeling older with each passing day. But I realize I’m guilty more often than not, of coasting through without a sense of urgency and laser-like focus that this phrase stirred in me on that day. I’m guilty of always thinking there will be more time or I can do it tomorrow… yet we all know what tomorrow holds — just another delay.

I feel like the house is my life and it is on fire.

Time. Is. Running. Out.

I think about all of the things I could achieve if I’d act like the house is on fire and wake up with this sense of urgency to achieve my goals each and every day.

These visions include urgently addressing things like financial freedom and debt elimination, improved health and physical fitness, career aspirations, building connected relationships with others, showing up as my authentic self in every situation and the list goes on… things I make excuses for and tell myself that I’ll do better tomorrow or next week or next year… but I don’t want to live like that.

I want to act like the house is on fire this year. I want to get clear on what the most important things are in my life and I want to run after them, scooping them up before they disintegrate in the flames of yet another lost day.

And so I ask, what could you achieve this year if you were to “act like the house is on fire” too?

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