You get in the taxi and tell the driver your destination, he looks at you and says
“I can’t take you there, there’s been an accident.”
You feel shudder go through your body as you realize that a simple decision to take a nap, may have been the difference between being able to write this post or being dead.
Last week, I was in Bangkok and the accident he was referring to the bombing at the Erawan Shrine that killed 20 people in a popular tourist area.
As he said that, my mind raced with thoughts of how fortunate that decision was and how the difference between life and death, can sometimes be just a chance occurrence.
As I reflect on the tragic nature of this event, it struck me that both us and the victims of the Bangkok bombing and us had one thing in common…
We both thought tomorrow was going to happen.
Nobody expects to die, but we all will. It’s inevitable and my hope is that you’re able to use it as a motivator to become the best version of yourself.
The driver agrees to take me to a train station near my destination and as we’re driving, he pulls out his phone and shows me pictures. They’re from the bombing site and are gruesome, dismembered bodies, blood everywhere, images that once you see them, unfortunately you cannot forget.
While it may seem like a dark topic to be discussing death, it’s something that I often think about, but not from a standpoint of fear, I view it as a motivator to avoid pain at the end of my life.
We’ve become conditioned to expect that tomorrow we will wake up and have a full day, but what if you didn’t. What if today was your last day on earth, would you die satisfied or would there be things you’d regret?
Exercise: Write out what you would do if today was your last day and what you’d regret not having accomplished in your life.
What death means to me
When I think about death, the reason that it doesn’t frighten me is because I view it from the standpoint of legacy. This motivates my daily actions as my focus is on answering the question: “If I died today, how would I be remembered?”
This simple question provides focus on being true to myself, to leaving something of impact for generations, to inspire others to achieve their greatness. There’s many ways you can do this, what legacy will you leave with your family, friends, community, etc?
We only have 1 chance, make it count
In Thailand, I was at an elephant sanctuary, and chatting with a guy from Australia, who worked in government, was 32 years old, and hated his job. He was detailing how unhappy he was and how he dreaded going back. He was intrigued with starting his own business and as he asked me questions on the best ways to get started, he made one statement that resonated:
“It’s like most people don’t realize they only have one chance at life.”
He said this when I asked him why he would leave a comfortable job for pursuing self-employment with the uncertainty that it brings. It was this perspective that gave him the push to pursue something that he really wanted to do, instead of spending the next 30 years working in a job that was making him unhappy.
While it’s easy to think about leaving your job and choosing a new path, there’s often resistance that prevents people from making this transition. Some of the reasons why many people continue to stay in jobs, relationships, situations, they not only hate, but also has negative health consequences include:
*Fear of failure and what other people will say if you don’t succeed
*The allure of steady income and being comfortable, which often leads to complacency
*Lack of support from family and friends
*Fear of success (Yes, as odd as it may sound, this is often a big one)
*Lack of belief in themselves or having the skills needed to succeed
When setbacks are good
I’ll often have a client tell me about a struggle that they went through ranging from job loss, to losing a loved one, to hitting rock bottom in their personal life.
While it is a challenging time for them, often this is exactly the shake up they needed to get them ready to make positive changes in their lives. As I write this, I’m think of the story of a water skier that had a life full of drugs and alcohol, until he had an accident that broke his back, became a quadriplegic and then cleaned his life up. Watching his story, he spoke about how he had many people throughout the years tell him that he should clean up his life, but it took something of this tragic nature to be strong enough to be his wake up call.
In my case, I struggled with anxiety and panic attacks for 15 years until a job layoff, spun me into a cycle of depression, frequent panic attacks and getting into a state where the days became a blur, where I would wake up, have panic attacks, sleep, then feel depressed and lose my will to live. After 15 years of struggling with anxiety and panic attacks, it was this situation that was the catalyst for me to feel enough pain to get past the embarrassment and shame I felt and finally seek the help that I needed.
Why making friends with the Angel of Death is essential
Mark Twain stated:
“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
Death is a subject that many try to ignore, push away thinking that it is in the distant future and is best not discussed, but what if that was doing you a disservice?
When it comes to death, we have three options:
1. Pretend like it will not happen
2. Be fearful of death and shut down
3. Embrace the fact that death is inevitable and use it as motivation
Reversal of perspective: Instead of having death make us live in fear, let’s use this as motivation to accomplish the goals we desire.
Of these choices, I embrace option #3 because the reality is that every day we live, is one day closer to the end and the time when you will sit back and reflect on the life you’ve had.
My greatest fear is dying with regrets. To be sitting in a hospital bed and having my mind think of all the things “I should have done.”
Let’s move past the “should have’s” and start taking action to live the life we truly want.
The most common regrets of dying people
There’s an excellent article by a palliative care nurse that asked her patients that were going to die, what their regrets were. Article link, click here
Here’s their top 5 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.
*Reflection: Which of these regrets resonate with you?
Of these top 5 regrets, the first one, to “have the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me,” this one most resonates with me.
It’s so easy to be labelled, put in a box of expectations of what you’re supposed to do and not necessarily what you actually want to do.
If you feel that certain elements of your life are being lived according to other people’s expectations and this is draining, this could be your catalyst to make a change.
It’s time to make a commitment to live fully
What does “living fully” mean to you?
There’s many ways you can live fully, so I will list of few examples I’ve received from clients:
*I want to get in better shape/lose xxx pounds
*I want to be more assertive/a better leader at work
*I want to cut out people that drain energy from my life
*I want to have the courage to ask someone out of a date or find my soulmate
*I want to have more freedom in my life. That could be time, financial, or being more action-oriented.
My intention with this article is for you to bring to the forefront that while our time seems infinite, it’s not. As I reflect on the funerals I’ve attended, they’re a powerful reality check that the time for change is now.
Review your list from the exercise of reflecting on what you would do if today was your last day and use it as motivation to decide which changes you will make.
In my Communicate With Confidence workshops, with the supportive environment we create, participants often have breakthroughs and make new decisions to pursue their new bold life. It’s common that what holds people back from putting themselves out there for everyone to see their skills is a fear of public speaking and lack of confidence.
If you would like to learn more about our program, click this link: Workshop Info
I wish you success and happiness in your new decisions. This can be the beginning of you following the path you desire, with the authenticity that makes you feel satisfied, which will lead to no regrets and to fully live.
If you any questions, please comment below.