“Almost everything- all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure-these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
The concept of death is powerful because it feeds you perspective in the strongest dose possible. It’s a delicate balance between fearing death and using its inevitability to fuel your dreams. Here are a few ways on how to use the concept of our mortality to power purposeful work and live a life true to yourself.
- If today were my last…
Bring out your deepest desires and address them on a daily basis by asking yourself, “If today were my last, would I be proud of myself?”
This triggers you to evaluate your most fundamental goals and whether or not they are being prioritized. Sometimes, this question will help you eat healthier meals that day or to hold your tongue when someone cuts you off in traffic. Sometimes, it may trigger a bigger change such as tackling career advancement or forgiving a past relationship. It’s important to remind yourself that tomorrow isn’t always promised and that your existence is what you choose to make of it, each and every day.
- How do you value your time?
Ask a dying person what they wished they had more of and it will always be more time. More time with loved ones, time to take a passion project to the next step, time to travel around the world… Just another day would be a blessing.
Meanwhile, we pack our hours with things to do and complain endlessly on our desire to have more time. What do we actually do with our 24 hours each day?
List out your day and how much time you allocate to each activity. This includes sleeping, commuting, eating, getting ready in the morning, watching TV, etc. Now, add it all up and total how many hours you still have left in the day for the activities you want. Chances are, it’s a surprising amount. If you haven’t taken the time to break this down for yourself, you will learn a lot about where you’ve misplaced your priorities. You will most likely find that you can easily reduce several activities and insert the ones you wish you did more of. Over time, you will be naturally aware of the value and use of your time.
- What’s the ROI?
Expanding on the previous concept, do you spend your money and time on the things that matter most to you?
Making the most out of your life also means investing in the areas that will give you the most return in the future. This includes anything ranging from your health, relationships, passions, travel. The key to recognize that your return on investment is very different than someone else and you have to identify your most valuable investments on an individual basis, not what others or society tries to sell you. At the end, where you choose to spend the majority of your money and time will show a lot about your priorities and whether or not you are investing in areas that will triple in value or temporary things that depreciate.
- Choose closure & gratitude
You ultimately realize there is no point to suffering or holding on to negativity. Knowing that your time is limited, will you choose to spend your precious energy venting about the past or holding on to a grudge? Instead, you could choose to forgive and focus on the beauty of everything else passing you by.
If someone has hurt you recently or in the past, don’t be afraid to reach out, be kind and understanding, and then move forward. Writing an email or reaching out to find common ground with someone important can release you from your own ego and anger. If you approach even your biggest demons with an open mind and heart, you can learn to forgive.
- Finally, find balanced bravery
With all that being said, there’s a fine line between being reckless and being brave. You can live in the moment or take a leap of faith, but if you aren’t responsible for yourself, it becomes reckless for you and those who are affected by your actions.
Knowing that you will die one day doesn’t mean you should discount the consequences of your choices. With every courageous decision you make or situation where you are putting yourself out on a line, balance it with an act of preparation or planning.
Understanding the boundaries of “you only live once” will help you live in the moment and do courageous things, but also avoid swinging from one extreme to the other. Follow your heart, but take your mind with you.
The concept of our limited time on earth is powerfully motivating for our dreams and desires. Are you spending your time on the things most important to you?