Every once in a while something reminds me of death. Whether it’s somebody passing away, or simply the presence of disease. And, without fail, I almost always tend to shift into a different state of consciousness. One where I am not caught up in petty thinking, but contemplate about how short and fragile life actually is.
I mean, how is anything anyone ever does relevant in the bigger picture? In short, it isn’t.
Even if I were to cure cancer and save generations of people to come, it would still fade in comparison to the vast and inconceivable dimensions of the universe. A short blink on the radar of universe’s existence.
Given I continue to take care of myself and with a bit of luck in the generic lottery, I might hit age 90. From any human’s perspective, that seems like a damn long time. (Especially if you’re waiting to retire.)
Compare that to the measured age of the universe: 13.82 billion years.
Yet, I have to admit that death has something relieving about it. In a way, it releases you from many burdens when you realize that, ultimately all of life is pointless, insignificant and more like a games console. All that really matters is which game you put in. And it better has multiplayer mode.
On an average day, I am usually caught up with day-to-day activities. Which is fine, as I work on my goals most of the time and know the purpose. However, an element of urgency is certainly missing.
That manifests itself in the lack of risk I take in certain areas and that I rarely focus on actually enjoying life in the moment. (Versus postponing feeling good for when I have achieved a certain goal.).
We’ve all read the quote, “Live each day as if it was your last.” I would like to know how much damage this single quote has done. I can only imagine how many lives have been ruined.
Plain stupid. What does it suppose anyway?
Blowing all your money? Quitting your job today?
Really not in any way useful advice to conducting life.
In rare moments where I can almost feel the shortness of life, I take a step back and ponder about what I actually want in this lifetime – beyond my monthly and yearly goals.
One of my role models has recently been asked about how he plans his days. His answer?
If you’re waiting to plan the day, you’re in trouble. I plan what I want to accomplish in this decade.
He basically has a rough outline for every decade of his life, up until his 80ties.
What a great idea to direct your life.
It’s not about being super anal about every year – nobody knows what might happen along the way – but all about having a general idea about what you want. 5, 10, 20, 40 years from now. Being less of a leaf in the wind.
Having thought about this before, my objection has been, “How can I possibly plan ahead further than a year? I wouldn’t know what I want 5 or 10 years from now.“
But again, it’s not about putting a life plan in stone, just having direction.
The way this is done is based on the same principles as yearly planning. Only this time, thinking unrealistically is a must. A lifetime is a long time and compared to a year (pretty much) anything is possible. It doesn’t have to be very specific, just something, you can create long-term and eventually a yearly goal off.
Then from there, it’s as simply as planning your week and achieving certain outcomes on a daily basis.
I have also found this to be the best way to counter distractions. Prior I might have thought I am missing out on something but now when I compare it against my life goals, I realize – going out on a certain day, etc. – has no importance at all.
Beyond helping to plan life long-term, death also serves as a powerful reminder that I always need to step it up a notch and need to make and implement decisions faster. Time is limited and thinking about something insignificant for too long is a poor investment of this resource.
I’ll end this article with the best quote I’ve come across on this topic.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because 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. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.