I wasn’t really sure how to start so let’s just get straight to the point.
You will, eventually, die.
Your next breath might be your last, and tonight may very well be the last time you ever go to sleep. Nothing is guaranteed. But, don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to scare you. I’m trying provide you with a potentially powerful mind shift. Here’s what I mean.
In our western culture we are so afraid of death that we never talk about it, even though it’s the only thing really guaranteed in life. And, contrary to what we like to think, there really isn’t a whole lot we can do about it. But, what we can do is change our perspective. Instead of hiding from it, we can change our relationship with it, and view it as our friend. View it as a constant reminder that this life will go by in a flash and every second, of every minute, of every single day matters. Tremendously.
At about age 24 I was exposed to a really power exercise in a book, which I still process in my mind probably about once a month. And, while it’s not specifically a mindfulness exercise it creates a crazy amount of awareness.
The exercise is to write out your own obituary as if you had died today. In fact, in India some will meditate in the graveyard to remind them how close death can be.
That’s some pretty intense stuff, right?
What would the people say about you? When you write this out you’ll discover the things that, deep down, really matter to you. And, you’ll also have a clear dashboard of where you actually spending your time. No one on their death bed wishes they had accumulated more things, had a bigger house and a nicer car. Is there anything inherently wrong with those? No. I’m all about living a life of abundance. But it’s our relationship to those things that matters most. If you have a mansion enjoy it. If you have a 1986 Buick Lesabre, enjoy it. Be present.
It’s different for everyone, but when it comes to my obituary I really only care about 2 things:
- The love I’ve shared
- The impact I made.
I want people to say “he’d loved me, he truly cared and helped me pursue my potential.”
When you clarify what you want people to say about you when you die you get clarity on how you want to live your life. It gives you the ability to start making changes right now to live the life you would be proud of.
And, the great thing is that the things you think you might regret, you can start to change right now. Remember, without awareness we cannot change. For me, I never take time off. I’m constantly working, but I am finally starting to realize that this is a real issue — both personally and professionally. It’s an issue, not only with being able to recover and refresh, but to be able to live a life with no regrets. In the first 9 years of my professional life I took off a total of 10 true days off. No phone and no computer. And eventually it starts to wear on you.
But even though I am a believer that you can’t be at your greatest on an empty fuel tank, it’s something I haven’t practiced. It’s like trying to drive a Ferrari on fumes. You’ll eventually crash and burn. So recently I made a conscious decision, that no matter the circumstances, I needed to take at last 1 trip per year. I think travel does 2 things. It puts you in some uncomfortable situations, like extreme poverty I experienced in Indonesia and it increases empathy. And, by being in nature, in awe of some of the natural creations of the world, you are completely present. I think these two things I have a way of resetting your system and balancing you out.
Jim Rohn said, “the more you become the more you can give.” And recently I’ve come to realize that the biggest part of becoming more is self-care, self-compassion and self-love. So without taking vacation, without taking time to love myself, I wasn’t going to be able to live out the mission of my life. I wouldn’t have the obituary that I wanted.
So stop acting like you have all this time. All this time to get better at your craft, to start that business or to do something you’ve dreamed about.
By making death our friend it helps us be truly present. To be completely aware and conscious in every single moment. When we realize this, instead of just attending events or buying things, we begin to experience them. And, we don’t cling to the happiness because we know the only thing we can really do is be completely present in this current moment. This awareness of death is a right hook that says “you don’t have that much time. Be here now”.
So my closing challenge to you is this.
Write out that obituary. Be truthful, be vulnerable and write from your heart. And then take that obituary, turn it into the mission of your life and start living it out.