I have a confession to make.
There’s something that I do that tends to scare people and makes some people worry about my mental stability. I genuinely appreciate the concerns that are expressed when individuals discover this, but I want to make the case tonight in defense of this action.
So what is it?
When I’m overwhelmed with this world and have too many thoughts racing through my mind that I become (metaphorically) paralyzed and I cannot focus on what I should do, I pause and imagine I am on my deathbed.
Yes you read that correctly: I imagine I am dying.
In that moment, I ask myself “What does the scene look like? Where am I? How old am I? How did I get to that moment? Who do I want by my side? Would they be sad to see me go? How will I be remembered? And if this was a movie, what would be the music that completes the story?”
Why do I do this? Too many times in life we read about individuals who are not ready to die but must face the inevitable sooner than they had hoped. It is from these moments that we hear stories of individuals lamenting that they lived their life with regret. They say “I don’t want to go because _____.” For some, their regret may be based upon something they haven’t said to someone that they wish they now had the time to say or to make amends. For others, it may be the wish to see a part of the world before they go, or to return to a place that shaped who they became as a person. And yet for some, it may be for not having the courage to take a leap of faith into the unknown.
These individuals meet death while being flustered. They realize they have been living a discontented, perhaps shallow life that only bitter regret knows.
I don’t want this. AT. ALL! Instead, I want to die in a glowing peace, without regrets, and with confidence knowing that I did the best with the cards that were dealt to me.
And so, I choose to be odd in how I live my life. Instead of looking directly forward, I choose to first start by looking backwards, from the end of my life. I ask myself the series of questions I mentioned earlier, not to bring down my spirits to a depressing state, but rather to lead up to this overall question:
“If I know how I want to die, then how do I need to live my life now so that I can get to that point in the future?”
Somewhere along the line, society set milestones for our lives and then associated an appropriate age that mankind should accomplish that feat. How old a child must be to begin attending school. How many years we make our children study in school before they can enter into the workforce. How old a normal young adult is when they graduate High School, University, or Graduate / Doctoral programs. How old a normal person is before they get married. How many years you must work before you are eligible for a job promotion. How old a normal person is when they buy a home, or when they decide to retire. The list goes on.
Here’s my beef: Why do we say and believe any of that? Why do we limit ourselves based upon time and construct barriers based solely on numbers? Why don’t we focus more on our abilities or strengths? Because the moment that we accept such presuppositions, we set ourselves up for failure, for a life full of regrets. We become complacent in thinking “Well I just have to wait until a certain amount of time goes by and then one night while I’m sleeping, something will magically change and I will be able to finally do / receive that one thing I’ve waited for.” And before we know it, the focus of our existence here in this world shifts to one of waiting.
I cannot accept that as the fate for my life. I’m present, I’m active, and I’m a doer. Looking backwards on my life allows me to keep a fresh perspective and greater focus on what I need to accomplish as I move forward in life to get to that moment. Anything that doesn’t align with the trajectory to get me to that point is wasteful and gets cut out.
This technique may not work for you. Regardless, I hope you are able to find what you need in order to live your life without any regrets.