Yes, it’s scary but it’s the truth. You will die.
That man you hate for breaking your heart, yes, he will die too.
That boss who puts a lot of pressure in your job, she will die as well.
And what about the person you love. The teacher you admire. The celebrity you follow… and your parents (ah yes your parents). Your siblings and relatives. Your friends and your enemies.
Guess what, sooner or later they will all face death.
Sad but true.
But what makes it even scarier is that any day could be the day.
Regardless of your age, your wealth, your race, or whatever your circumstances, any day could be your last day alive.
And yet, here we are acting as if we have infinite amount of time.
I don’t mean to sound dramatic. I don’t mean to scare you. But this is reality. There are things beyond our control. Death included. And it’s non-negotiable.
Steve Jobs delivered a commencement address to the graduates of Stanford University on June 2005. His message about death is, no doubt, an eye-opener.
He said [emphasis mine]:
“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.”
I’d guess you’re thinking that you should give up everything and follow your heart and pursue your dreams, because what if you die today, right?
Stop right there.
Be rational (as long as you can). Just because your dream is to travel the world doesn’t mean you should leave your job and family. Consider your situation. Make a plan. Find alternatives. Yes there are.
But remember, this isn’t only about following our heart and pursuing dreams. There’s another thing I like about contemplating our own or everyone’s death:
It makes us a better person.
If you know any day could be the last day of your loved ones (or maybe your day), it’s most likely that you’ll treat them with all your attention and love and kindness. Same goes to your friends or even strangers.
I’ve been practicing it for years, although sometimes I forget. But I can attest that it truly changed the way I treat people, the way I think, and the way I view life.
Strange. I never thought it would work.
This made me think: If only we can put this truth up front in our daily consciousness, maybe things will be a little bit better.
Less hatred. Less complains. Less fights. Less negativity. Less bullshit.
It’s highly possible. Give it a try.
Trivia: The Buddhists call this practice as Maranasati, which means death awareness. The Stoics also practice Memento Mori, which means remember death.