Because life is short. Yup. It’s true. And it’s scary.
One day, a day that could be as soon as today or decades away, it will inevitably happen.
So far as history and science have shown us, our physical bodies will return to the earth. It’s a terrifying thought, but it’s also an enabling one.
In fact, the Stoics — some of the most prolific philosophical thinkers in ancient history — used to reflect on their death as a way to appreciate their life, as a way to deepen their love and gratitude for the present moment.
This notion has been echoed by modern thinkers like David Brooks and Steve Jobs, who famously 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.”
In The Tools, Phil Stutz and Barry Michels share that the willpower that enables nearly every outcome in our lives is most effectively triggered by imagining ourselves on our deathbed, thinking back to the regrets we might have in life.
Sometimes you need to start by thinking about the end.