“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.
You are going to die. It’s a fact.
It might not be easy to accept, but you have only a limited amount of time left on this planet. Many people feel really uncomfortable giving the subject of death a passing thought, let alone focusing on it as a motivator. This is a pity, because it’s worth comprehending that death is the most important thing in life. Understanding this helps drive you to achieve incredible things and really live up to your full potential. It is the ultimate motivational tool, available for all to use, at any time.
Be brave enough to accept that you are going to die, and you will be on the way to truly understanding what is important and what success means to you. Once you know this, you can go out and achieve it.
There is one technique I like to use to help you visualise the timescale. Take a look at the tape measure of your life. This is a five minute exercise that will help you get things in perspective. Don’t just visualize it, but hunt out a real tape measure and use it. Open out a tape measure to eighty-five centimetres to demonstrate the average lifespan. Now, measure out your current age in centimetres. What’s left is how much time you probably have available to live. You might live beyond, or die before it, but it will give you a decent idea of how you much life you have left.
It is important to look back and recognize that everything you have already done, every memory and achievement, all you know and have experienced, is in those centimetres up to now. If you are only halfway to eighty-five, you have the same amount of time to do everything all over again. Look at your tape measure again. Each mark still to come is a cause for celebration, because there is that much more to experience.
This is also a reminder for you to be careful how you spend your time. Value it; take care of it. Most importantly: enjoy it. It is the one commodity you can’t save, and once it’s gone, you can never get it back. Time is your most valuable resource – and it’s non-renewable. You need to squeeze as much as you can out of each hour in every day, and make sure it all counts.
I think it is really important to take a look at the end in order to have a better beginning, and middle. But what to do with that life? We need to look at those who have already lived their lives and see what lessons can be learnt from them. People at the end of their lives have a phenomenal clarity of vision.
A nurse called Bronnie Ware spent several years working in palliative care in Australia. She wrote a book about her observations: “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying”. When people were questioned about whether or not they had any regrets and if they would have changed anything, the following common themes arose.
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret, but as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.”
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.”
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.”
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.”
How will this wisdom change the way you think?
Do you have any regrets already?
How will you change from now on?
What do you want to achieve before you die?
Why not start now?
Make sure you invest your time wisely, because it is the most important investment you’ll ever make. The returns do not always come in monetary terms – but can be even more valuable. Be mindful of what you do, and ensure you do good things. Help people, and when you give them your time, make sure you do so as thoughtfully as you would with money. When you spend time, allocate it fairly, equally and lovingly. This is the best way to garner a positive return on the investment you make.
Above all, and most importantly, use this sense of timescale to decide what is really important to you, and spend the time you have on those things and people. Prioritise your life and use this focus to drive your actions to take you where you want to go. It’s a real opportunity to motivate yourself and aim to smash your targets.
There’s no better time to think bigger, and believe that you can have it all. Be downright audacious – because life is short. Have no limits, massive goals, huge ideas and great fun putting them into action. Be incredible, while you can!
Don’t share those common regrets of people who haven’t lived life to the full. Enjoy what you do, and savour the time you spend with family and friends. Make sure you play, as well as work, and actually live that work-life balance, instead of bemoaning its lack.
Death can teach us a lot about how to live. We can use the lessons of others to help motivate us to follow our true path fearlessly. If you accept death as a fact of life, all fear disappears.
To quote the incredible achiever, the late Steve Jobs:
“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.”
Whether you have a few years left, or a few days, spend them being true to yourself. Above all, grab life and all it has to offer, and run with it, while you can. Make every day the time of your life.
Life is short. So live it!
The Ultimate Shortcut to the Ideal Life by Marc Winn (Blog)
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