Why Remembering You’re Going to Die Is the Best Motivator

Written by on December 8, 2018 in Conscious Evolution, Conscious Living with 0 Comments

Image Credit: Tiny Buddha

By Tommy Baker | Tiny Buddha

“Don’t be afraid of death; be afraid of an unlived life. You don’t have to live forever; you just have to live.” ~Natalie Babitt


Once a month, I visit the local cemetery and walk around. I’m not there to visit anyone in particular. I’m there to remind myself of my own mortality.

And it always wakes me up.

I soak in the energy: I read the simple legacies on the tombstones, from young children to those who made it to 100 years old. I’m not morose. I’m not negative. I’ve simply found the greatest motivational tool in the world, and I assure you it’s not quotes on Instagram or Pinterest. It’s not the latest YouTube clip.

It’s one thing and one thing only: remembering we are all going to die soon.

How Many Summers Do You Have Left?

Seneca was a roman philosopher who lived 2000 years ago and a leader of the stoic movement. One of his essays, entitled On the Shortness of Life provides a reminder to all of us: our time here is nearly over.

And yet what Seneca argues, and does so brilliantly, is that life isn’t really short. The problem is how we waste so much of our lives on things that don’t matter: wondering what others think, getting caught up in gossip, wasting our lives on social media and the non-essential.


When this happens, it’s no wonder we lack clarity and meaning in our lives. It’s no wonder we feel overwhelmed, overworked, and overstimulated on a daily basis. When we’re in this place, we don’t have the time or energy to think about death.

And yet, our time is running out. I like to think of it this way:

How many more summers do we have left? How many early June mornings with the sun barely making its presence known as we sip coffee do we have left? How many moments with our kids, family, and those who we love do we have left? How many times do we get to do what we love for yet another day?

We don’t know the answer to this, but I do know one thing: it’s much closer than we think, and every day is a gift. Let’s examine why remembering our own mortality is the best way to start living and how you can use it as leverage to live boldly today.

Ask the Tough Questions

Reminding ourselves of our mortality invites us to ask the tough questions from our lives. These are the questions we often avoid, yet are always running in the background:

Who am I?

Why am I here?

Is this life for me?

Am I on my own path, or someone else’s?

Because they’re uncomfortable, they become easy to avoid through busyness, noise, and the endless demands of a 24/7 digital culture. Usually we don’t take any time to face these questions unless someone close to us experiences a crisis (or we do, too).

But within these questions lie powerful answers. They allow us to get honest with ourselves instead of giving in to the usual mental chatter we so often believe. By asking the tough questions, we start to achieve clarity around what matters… and we start discarding what doesn’t.

Release What Doesn’t Serve

When I moved from New York City to Phoenix, I experienced a wow moment. No, it wasn’t the awe-inspiring sunsets, although I love those. It was the moment I realized my walk-in closet was bigger than my old space in Manhattan.

And yet, I realized as time passed, with all this space, I started to accumulate a lot of stuff. One day, as I was preparing for a meditation (yes, my closet doubled as a brilliant meditation room), I realized: I had no space left. I looked around and noticed I barely used anything that was taking up so much space. I was overwhelmed.

Much like our lives, I had filled my space with the non-essential. Remembering our mortality allows for clarity around releasing what doesn’t serve us. These may be habits, mindsets, environments and yes, even people.

Even just doing this step often releases a heavy burden we feel in our lives: there’s too much going on, and it never ends. Once we have space, we feel lighter, clearer and more empowered to start figuring out what we really want. 

 

 

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