“You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.” – Marcus Aurelius
It is not a matter of If; It is a matter of when. We are all going to DIE, sooner or later. Contemplating your eventual mortality is one of the greatest grounding mechanisms I have found to reorder my priorities daily. In the face of death, we focus on the important things in life. Memento Mori is Latin for ‘remember that you have to DIE,’ it is an artistic or symbolic reminder of the inevitability of death. Our time here is limited, life is short, but we can make the best use of our time here by constantly reminding ourselves of its inevitability.
“The trouble is, you think you have time.” – Buddha
The average life expectancy in the developed world is around 80+ years which is around 30,000 days. If we sleep 8 hours a day, that means we would sleep 1/3rd of our life: 10,000 days, work and commuting would be around 3,500 days. Work and sleep alone would take close to half of our lifetime. The challenge is that we all think we still have time, we procrastinate, and we tell ourselves ‘Someday I’ll,” and the someday turns to never.
“You can’t do anything about the length of your life, but you can do something about its width and depth.” – H. L. Mencken
In his very inspiring commencement speech to the graduating 2005 Stanford University students, the Late CEO of Apple, Steve Jobs, said:
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.
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.
Here are great tools to remind you of your coming mortality:
The WeCroak app is inspired by a Bhutanese folk saying: to be a happy person; one must contemplate death five times daily. The app sends you a notification quote about death and dying five times a day; it’s meant to encourage: contemplation, meditation, and conscious breathing.
See how many days you have left and make the most out of it. You live for 30,000 days. Based on the principles of memento mori, this extension displays a progress bar of your life every time you open a new tab, so you remember to make the most of your time!
This is one of my favourite browser extension as it shows your age and can also be used to countdown to your eventual mortality.
Mortality is a new tab extension that reminds you of your precise age. It can also countdown to your death, the countdown to a deadline, or show you how many people are older or younger than you globally. A bitter-sweet motivational tool; it illustrates how little time we have. By default, circles represent months for the average lifespan of 79 years. As you age, the circles fill and are split into the main Chapters of your life.
These coins are designed with the intention of carrying them in your pocket, a literal and inescapable reminder that “you could leave life right now.”
The front features an interpretation of de Champaigne’s 17th-century painting, and the back shows a shortened version of Aurelius’s timeless wisdom. The coin acts as a reminder to not obsess over trivialities or trying to become famous, make more money than we could ever spend, or make plans far off in the future. All these are negated by death. It’s time we stop pretending otherwise.
Visit the Cemetery
Although a little bit scary, it is recommended by different religious teachings to visit the cemetery once in a while so as ponder our mortality and the vanity of life. American Motivational Speaker Les Brown often says:
“The graveyard is the richest place on earth because it is here that you will find all the hopes and dreams that were never fulfilled, the books that were never written, the songs that were never sung, the inventions that were never shared, the cures that were never discovered, all because someone was too afraid to take that first step, keep with the problem, or determined to carry out their dream.”
Visiting the cemetery helps us put things into perspective and allows us to have a sense of urgency, the inevitability, and the brevity of life itself.
Visit the Hospital
One other way of reminding yourself about your mortality is to visit a hospital, hospice care, palliative or end of the life care centre. Visiting these centers allows us to be more appreciative of our health and the fragility of life. One moment you are ail and healthy, the next moment you are recuperating from an illness. Life happens so fast; it is very fleeting. Seeing people with a terminal illness and might be dying is a great way of staying grounded to what really matters.
Australian palliative caregiver Brommie Ware, documented the top regrets of her dying patients and she found that the dying have 5 top regrets:
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
By visiting the hospice care home, you could hear the top regrets of the dying and use it as a model of living your own life by minimizing your own regrets.
Use an Hourglass
An hourglass is a device used to measure the passage of time. The hourglass is a great symbolic tool for staying aware of the passing of time. Seconds turn into minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, days to weeks, weeks to months, months to years, years to decades, etc.
Read great Literature
Reading about mortality, dying, and the inevitability of death is a great way of contemplating our eventual demise. A memoir by someone dealing with a terminal illness, such as When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi or a great book like The Shortness of Life by Seneca, could give us insights on preparing for our death and living a life of purpose.
“An unexamined life is not worth living” — Socrates
Contemplating your mortality might seem a bit dark, but it is a very great tool for re-ordering your priorities. If you have your priorities in place, scrolling endlessly on social media, sweating the small stuff, excessive worrying, and dealing with trivialities would reduce. With that insight, you would be focused on leaving a legacy that would stand the test of time.
All the Best in your quest to get Better. Don’t Settle: Live with Passion.