We’re all going to die one day.
Really, we are.
But being aware of that isn’t a bad thing. It shouldn’t be negative or depressing.
In fact, if you want to have the happiest and most fulfilling life possible you need to realise you’re going to die one day and embrace it.
Realising you’re going to die at some point really is the best thing that will ever happen to you.
It’s the best thing that will ever happen to you because once you properly realise that our time in this world is finite it raises two very important questions. Two questions that have the power to transform our lives in the most significant and fundamental ways.
You may be thinking, “Well of course I know I’m going to die one day, I’m not an idiot.” but has that realisation really hit the core of your being yet? Have you really truly realised deep down that some day the life you have is going to be over? And you have no real control over when that will be*.
Until a certain point in our lives we all have this “blissfully” ignorant period where we haven’t yet realised our own mortality. Usually that state of belief continues until someone close to us is taken from us far too young, we have a health scare (that was the one that did it for me) or just we get older and realise “Oh wait this may not actually go on forever”. But I would argue that describing this state as “blissful” is an error.
That’s because, as mentioned above, properly realising that one day you will actually die raises two of the most important questions you can ever ask yourself.
These two questions can literally make all the difference between living a life that you’re just plodding through on autopilot everyday and living a life that you love and are proud of.
These two fundamental questions are:
- Am I doing what I love?
- What do I want to leave behind?
Question 1: Am I doing what I love?
What you do every day is your life.
Yes there are some hours that are split between what is usually described as our “work” and our “life” but it is all your life at the end of the day.
There just aren’t enough hours outside of “work” for those scraps of time that are left over to be all that constitutes your life once you realise that some day, you’re no longer going to have that life any more. It will be gone and maybe even without warning.
Given this we need to love what we do for work as what we do for work is a part of our life. A large one in fact as it takes up a large proportion of our time. Work therefore can’t be seen as a thing we do each day purely to make enough money so we can then go and get on with our actual life. There just isn’t enough time to think of your work as not part of your actual life. It’s an integral part of it.
But it’s so easy to lose sight of this and spend years working in a job where you get up every day dreading what you’re going to go do.
If you wish away every day you spend working, waiting for the weekend, you are wishing your life away.
And remember, you’re going to die some day so making the most of that time, rather than wishing it away, is incredibly important.
When you’re on your deathbed, you will no doubt be wishing you had more time. So don’t wish away the time you do have now.
Look back on the last few weeks and ask yourself honestly did you dread most days you went to work or wish you didn’t have to? Were you forever spending your time wishing it was the weekend or time to go home already?
If you answered yes to either of these questions, you need to change what you’re doing. And you need to change it now.
Nothing is worth wishing your life away for.
As Steve jobs said:
“I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…almost everything-almost 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. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.””
Question 2: What do I want to leave behind?
When you die, and you will die, what is it that you’re going to leave behind that has made the world a better place?
For our lives to have had a purpose we need to have done something more than just exist and then cease to.
If you haven’t improved the world is someway by the time you leave it, do you really know what the point in you having been here was?
When I was younger I used to want to be a famous actress. I wanted to be an actress because I enjoyed acting, but being famous was also an integral part of my desire.
Because I couldn’t bear the thought of going through life and leaving this world without having made my mark on it in any way. Without there being something that I’d done that would cause me to be remembered after I’d gone as otherwise, what was the point?
As I’ve gotten older and, thankfully, somewhat less egotistical I’ve realised that’s not the point. Being remembered isn’t what’s important…having made some form of positive change in the world is.
I’m not talking about us all going out and devoting our lives to charity work, although if that’s what you decide to do, that’s of course great. It doesn’t matter how large or small the number of people we effect and make the world a better place for is but as long as we make it a better place for some we will have lived a life of meaning.
It may be that your way of making the world a better place is to inspire others, to share your knowledge, to raise a child who goes onto achieve greatness or to find a new ways of doing things that no one had thought of before. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long as it improves the world in some way.
If you look at most successful entrepreneurs and business leaders, it is this focus on making the world a better place that has even brought them their success. If you read or listen to anything by Tony Robbins, Tim Ferriss, Guy Kawasaki and countless other successful names in business they all repeat this time and time again. Many of them even go so far as to define success purely in terms of the positive impact they have on the world.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it:
“To leave the world a bit better…to know even one life has breathed easier because you lived. This is to have succeeded.”
Since I am no longer an egotistical maniac, like my younger self who just wanted fame, the way in which I’ve decided to make the world a better place is by sharing my knowledge, sharing the things I’ve learnt in my life.
It’s inspired me to write and publish books (well the publishing will be happening soon!), to set up my own company and to help others when they’re trying to achieve things that I have in anyway I can. That gives my life purpose. And it’s made my life more interesting than it’s ever been before.
So what are you going to leave behind?
Embrace the fact that one day you are going to die and live your life by being able to answer these two questions in the right way. It will make your life more fulfilling and enjoyable than it has ever been before.
* Obviously we do have some control over our life expectancy through the choices we make about our lifestyle but we can’t control everything and even the most careful person could get run over by a bus tomorrow.