Can thinking about death really improve your life?

Normally, thinking about death sort of creeps me out. But I’ve been approaching it differently lately, and it’s having an surprisingly positive effect on my life, especially on my time with my family.

Anyway, that’s what I talk about in this week’s post.

And don’t worry. It’s not creepy at all. :-) If fact, I think you’ll find it pretty inspiring.

Enjoy!

P.S. Back to live video for this one. Why not? (Actually, I’m shooting videos for my new Raise Your Inner Game ACADEMY this week. So I was already set up for it. :-)) But I’m super excited about the program. Hope to announce in a couple weeks. Stay tuned …

SUMMARY

  • A counter-intuitive method live more fully.
  • A great new tool to help you focus on the important things.
  • The critical difference between “sometime” and “tomorrow.”
  • How to connect with loved ones at a much deeper level.
  • The problem with asking the “big questions.”
  • Watch/listen to get the full message.

ENJOY THE PODCAST

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[ transcript ]
Hey, it’s David Levin. Author of Raise Your Inner Game, co-author of QBQ The Question Behind the Question. Founder of Raise Your Inner Game Academy.

This might sound like a strange question, but how often do you think about death?

I’ve been doing it a lot lately, and I can’t believe how much I’m loving it.

Why have I been thinking about death? Have I had a health scare, lost someone close to me, getting old? Nope. None of that.

And to be clear, I’m not thinking about actually dying, like Oh My God I’m going to die. It’s not that, thankfully. That would be horrifying. This is thinking about potentially dying, like, I could die tomorrow. This could be my last day. And that has been incredibly helpful.

It all started when I came across the “Memento Mori” medallion that the author Ryan Holiday sells on his Daily Stoic store online.

It’s beautiful bronze medallion with Memento Mori printed on it along with a sort of disturbing image of a skull and some other items. I never like that kind of imagery. I find it creepy and morbid. But that’s not at all what this is about.

Memento Mori means “remember that you die” and the idea is to just let the reality of that, the fact that this really could be your last day, to use that to change how you’re living right now, in this moment—and it really works. Or at least it has been working for me.

The biggest effect I notice is when I’m with my family. It’s just incredible the difference it makes.

So, I sort of bring the idea into my mind. Something happens tomorrow. My life is ending, and I know it’s coming. So, given that, is this right now how I would want to have been on my last day? Is this how I would want them to remember me?

And the fascinating thing is that the answer is almost always no. I want to be more present and engaged and appreciative and just fun to be with than I am. And it’s not a huge difference, necessarily, but there’s always some gap between how I’m being and how I’d like to be. But the cool thing is, I can change it. As soon as the awareness comes into my mind, I can click into that higher state. And it feels great. I get so much more out of the moment. It’s really something.

Now, there’s one distinction I want to make. In the past, when I’ve thought about this idea that we all die sometime, it makes me think about bigger picture questions. Sort of mid-life crisis, meaning and purpose questions: Is this the work I want to do, am I making a big enough difference in the world. And honestly, that’s not all that helpful. Those questions put an unrealistic burden on our daily lives. They’re not really fair.
Life is hard enough by itself, no matter what we’re doing. And most of our lives are not spent doing things that rise to that level. They’re just not, and that’s okay. That’s life. So those questions really sort of just pull the joy and the pride out of what we’re doing, and again, I just think they’re not helpful.

But this is different. When I think about dying tomorrow rather than just someday, it doesn’t get me thinking about big picture stuff. It gets me thinking about small stuff—here and now. Am I truly present my family right now? Can they feel in my attention and my energy how great I think they are, how much they mean to me? If I left this life tomorrow would they absolutely know those things were true, not from my words but from how I’m being with them right now? That’s what this makes me think about, and the best part is that it also helps me make sure the answer is yes. That’s a beautiful thing.

But here’s another big lesson in this: This happens every time. Every time I ask the question, Is this how I want to be right now?, the answer is no. Not really. There’s always at least some shift to be made.

So, the lesson is that being the person I want to be requires intentional action from one moment to the next. Left to my natural instincts I will live in a way that I will regret. That’s powerful.

I’ve talked about this general idea a lot, that to be our best self, we have to engage with our inner game on an on-going basis. You don’t just learn it and be done. You have to live it day to day. But this really brought it home for me—seeing that even when it was on my mind in general, in a particular moment, I still wasn’t naturally where I wanted to be. I had to check myself and pick myself up. So, awareness, tools, and doing the work. That is always what it takes.

Anyway, that’s what I wanted to share with you today. I have been loving what this Memento Mori idea has been doing for me. Check it out, see what you think.
You don’t necessarily have to get the coin, by the way. It’s great, but there are many ways you could remind yourself of this. But just starting to think about this—this could be your last day. If it were, are you being the person you’d want to be? It’s powerful.

All right, that’s it for this week. If you’re hearing this somewhere other than on my site, come on over, davidlevin.com, put your name on my newsletter list so I can send you the free report, “Three Things You Can Do Right Now To Start Loving Your Work (And Life) Again” and I can let you know about other posts and trainings when they come out.

If you’d rather get these posts in your podcast player, you can subscribe to the podcast, The David Levin Show. Just go to iTunes, Google Play, search for that. If you do subscribe, please take moment to give it a rating and tell your friends. That’s very helpful.

Otherwise, thank you. Keep up the good work. I’ll talk to you next time.

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