You’re alive and well. You don’t think about your death a whole lot. You go through life acting as if you have infinite time. You take tomorrow for granted. You take your time with others for granted. You spend your time replaying arguments you had with your friend or spouse, thinking about what you would’ve said or could’ve said if given a do-over.
But one day, you will buy your last movie ticket. You’ll hug a loved one for the last time. You’ll gaze deeply into your lover’s eyes for the very last time. Whatever hobbies give your life meaning, there will come a day when you enjoy them for the last time. And you don’t know what day that’s going to be. It could be 60 years from now. It could be tomorrow.
Whenever you approach that day, if you’re lucky enough to realize it’s coming, you’ll have a realization I’ve seen others on their deathbed also have. You’ll realize that, day by day, you allowed your attention to be wasted on petty things when death wasn’t knocking at the door. You’ll regret expending so much of your attention on things that didn’t matter. You’ll give anything to turn back the clock, to relive your life with the clarity that you now have. But it will be too late.
There’s actually a lesson to be learned here. It’s possible to avoid the fate I just described. How can you get your priorities in order? How can you focus on what really matters in life before you’re on your deathbed? Simple. Do what most people are afraid to do.
Most of us do our best to avoid thinking about death, especially our own. But avoiding thinking of death allows us to go through life with a warped sense of priorities. We need to sincerely entertain the thought of our own death, and the deaths of those we care about, to remind ourselves what really matters.
What’s your purpose in life? What’s important to you? Most of us pathologically find reasons not to do the things that matter most. We don’t start that business because we’re afraid it won’t work out. We don’t ask that question in class because we’re afraid of looking stupid. We don’t ask the girl out on a date for fear of rejection. We mask our true selves for fear of what others might think.
But so what if you look stupid? So what if you’re ridiculed? So what if you fail? You’re going to die some day, and you don’t know when. You don’t have time to waste. Do what matters right now because you may not get another chance. If you knew for certain you were going to die in one month, what would you do? Who would you spend the rest of your time with?
Many of you will imagine that you would be doing the same things you’re already doing, if given a month to live. You imagine that your impending death wouldn’t change your priorities, because you think you’ve already got them in perfect order. But do you really, or are you just telling yourself that as a way of avoiding thinking about how much time and attention you waste on things that don’t matter?
The Gift of Death
Seen through the right lens, death is a gift. It offers us the chance to put it all on the line, to live a truly meaningful existence. You’re going to die anyways, so you might as well put all your cards out on the table. Risk being the owner of a failed business. Risk asking stupid questions. Risk getting rejected asking someone out on a date.
Consider death and take the risk of living a meaningful life, because you won’t get another.