That’s right. We are all dying. I’m dying. You’re dying.
Death as a Motivator
I know that I will die, no matter what I do to try and prolong my life. That knowledge gets me up in the morning; it fuels my desire to do more with my life. I am able to see more each day how people tend to simply “get through life,” going through motions each day until the next. They wake up, drink their coffee, rush out the door, wait in traffic, work for 8 hours with a 1 hour lunch break, wait in traffic, eat dinner, maybe spend some time on a hobby (or hidden passion), watch some TV, go to bed; repeat.
These zombies are unaware of their own existence, their own importance. We are all here for a purpose greater than being a corporate drone. Generation Y’ers have started to grasp this concept. They are more free than any generation before them. Their parents see them as lost, causing them to question their own paths. Many young people are bombarded with the notion that getting a degree, then finding a good, “stable” job, is the path to success.
If there is anything we’ve learned from this economy, it is the fact that stability in any job is simply a myth. Bosses have egos, businesses mis-spend, customers move on, and the government has the ability to really make a mess (regardless of whether they are democrats or republicans – they both screw things up).
The only truth that has remained stable since the beginning of existence, is death. All things die. Stop for a moment and ponder on that. People all die, no matter how awesome, successful, rich, etc they are. Animals die, sometimes by the hand of people, mostly just natural causes – which includes being eaten. Plants die. Planets die. Even stars die.
Some people will read this and simply close-off to the idea that coming to grips with their own mortality is the answer to finding peace and personal success. Don’t be one of these people. Many Christians feign a belief that they know they will one day die and all will be well. Christians, of course, try to believe they will go to heaven when they die. Many have doubts about the certainty of this idealistic result. It is what they are taught, and what they try to believe, though. By the way, every major religion promises some sort of “happier after death” scenario, assuming you follow their beliefs, if you don’t they promise some sort of “worse than life after death” scenario, like hell. Atheists are the only ones (that I know of) that believe nothing happens after life.
Religion Has Nothing To Do With Death
Regardless of your beliefs regarding the afterlife, knowing that death is eminent should be used as a motivator. If you are a Christian (or other religious subscriber) then life is a vehicle by which you are judged, and therefore should be made the most of. Christ was anything but a corporate drone. Quite the opposite. All major religions follow a leader that challenged the system. All of these leaders knew they would one day be gone from this earth. They used that knowledge to motivate themselves and others to do more with this life.
Religion attempts to motivate us to do more with our life so that our afterlife will be more enjoyable. Atheism attempts to motivate us to do more with our life so that we get the most out of it before it is over. I believe that we should be motivated to live our best life for both.
Get the most out of this life possible. Do it because that makes this life more enjoyable. This is not license for promiscuity, or drug-use, or murder, rape, or other vial acts. Even atheists subscribe to the philosophy that we should all treat one-another with kindness and love. Getting the most out of life simply means doing everything that makes life more fulfilling. For some, this will be feeding the hungry. Others, making a ton of money to do whatever they want to with. As a sidenote: most people who make tons of money end up giving most, if not all, of it away. Mark Zuckerberg is doing this; Bill Gates is doing this; Warrent Buffett is doing this; the list goes on.
Get the most out of this life to leave behind a legacy. Live eternally in the minds of those to come. This is usually something only presidents and world-leaders have the ability to claim. After all, they are studied in history. There are those that weren’t presidents that are just as known and loved, though. Mother Teresa, Gandhi, William Wallace, William Shakespeare, Leonardo Da Vinci, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller; the list goes on and on.
The Army Got At Least One Thing Right
Everyone living in the United States, and many who live in other countries have heard the Army’s famous slogan, “Be all you can be.” We’ve heard it so much that you probably just rolled your eyes or scoffed in disgust that I just referenced it. The reality is that this very slogan motivates even those that don’t join the Army.
I never served in the military. I have as much respect for service-people as I believe is possible for someone that has no real idea what it is like to serve in the military. These people are the ultimate examples of being in touch with the reality of death. They learn that death is a real possibility within the first few days of basic. I’m sure some of them might even feel as though they may die in basic training.
This death-reality is incredibly motivating to service-people that want to spend time with the families and loved-ones. They do everything possible to survive so they may come home and live out their days. Being all they can be is not just a slogan, it’s a life-purpose.
Death Reveals Purpose
According to Amazon.com, there are 25,153 books relevant to a search for “purpose.” Obviously discovering your purpose is something people strongly desire. The question, “why are we here?” has been asked by people for millennia.
Accepting that death is unescapable allows us the fortunate opportunity to discover our purpose. When we know we are going to die. We begin to understand that we should be doing more with this life than we are. Accepting death is a powerful exercise in discovering purpose.
It’s a common question, “what would you do if you knew you were going to die in _____ days/weeks/months?” People typically respond with things like, “I’d go skydiving,” or “bungee jumping.” Others say they would spend as much time with their families and loved-ones as possible. Others venture on a journey to mark things off of their “bucket list.”
Everyone wants to believe that their life has some meaning. They want to leave this place knowing they made it better, if only just a little bit. Even the “bad guys” want life to be better.
How to Accept Death
There are multiple ways that people have taught to accept death. Religions do so through concepts like salvation. The easiest way that I’ve found, is to simply meditate on the activities that would surround your death. Close your eyes and think about how you’ll die. Will it be old age? Will it be in a horrific car crash? Will you be murdered? It’s morbid, and for some terrifying to think about. This is part of the process. Accept the death you want.
If you want to die of old age, envision the activities surrounding such a death. Will you be cremated or buried in a coffin? What will the funeral service be like? Will you have tons of friends and family show up to pay their respects? Play through the entire events as though it were a movie in your head. Accept that this will one day happen.
Now, once this movie has played in your head, hit the rewind button. What did you do with your life leading up to this event? Were you a leader? Were you loved by many? How did you fill your days. Don’t think about what you’re doing now. Think about what you want to be remembered for, how you want your mark on this world to be left. What you envision as your activities leading up to your death is your purpose. What you want to be remembered for is your purpose.
Are you living the life that lets you fulfill this purpose? If not, write down everything you envisioned. Refer back to it on the days that you feel like you could be doing more with your life. Even if you are doing the things that let you feel as though you are fulfilling your life purpose, write everything down. Use it to keep you on track. You have the ultimate control over what you do with your life. Not your parents, your spouse, or your children. You.