The other day my friend Lynn went to the hospital for an outpatient procedure. The plan was to place a stent in his heart. Lynn expected to go home that afternoon, but during the procedure something went terribly wrong.

The surgeon made a critical mistake. While making a turn on its way to the intended destination in Lynn’s heart, the tube he was working with became obstructed. He tried to force it, and accidentally tore a piece of artery in Lynn’s heart. It took an emergency open heart surgery to correct this mistake and save Lynn’s life.

Fortunately, Lynn survived and is well into the process of making a full recovery. While I was visiting him in the hospital, he shared a story with me that I will never forget.

He was awake during the procedure! He watched the entire series of events play out – that is, until he was put to sleep for the open heart surgery.

He said he had no problem watching the monitor until the mistake happened. That mistake changed everything. Lynn shared with me the unbelievable sensation he had when the mistake was made. When he saw it on the monitor, he immediately looked at the surgeon and the surgeon looked at him.

In that instant, he realized he may only have a few minutes to live. He was literally looking at the monitor watching himself die.

How many people do you know who are, in essence, watching themselves die a little more each day?

They wake up in the morning and go about their day, teasing themselves into thinking that someday, somehow, something will change and everything will be better. Yet they never take action to change their situation. Yesterday becomes today, today fades into tomorrow and everything gets blurred. The three days that define their life are just tiny pieces of a mosaic that points to impending disaster. Yet they remain paralyzed within that way of life just as Lynn was pinned to his gurney.

It doesn’t have to be that way. There is a way out.

If you know someone like that, challenge them by asking what they really want in life. Dig deep. Follow that question by asking what three things they need to actually do today that could put them in the best position to have what they want tomorrow. Then ask for permission to hold them accountable.

If that person is you, then you may need to ask yourself the tough questions, and then seek others who will hold you accountable.

If you commit to these three steps, you could help somebody break away from the death grip of mediocrity. The life you save might even be your own.