“What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” ~ Mary Oliver
We only get one. It’s not as long as we wish. We don’t know when it will end.
You look around and sense a tug in your heart. You love your life. It’s not all you dreamed of, but it’s still pretty fantastic if you’d say so yourself. You think about your family and career and achievements and feel nostalgia when you recall the hard journey you’ve overcome to reach where you are today.
It might not be perfect—but your life is awesome nonetheless. You don’t want all this to disappear.
You aren’t ready to say goodbye.
You know life is short. Those motivational quotes on Facebook and Pinterest are constant reminders. Yet, you don’t feel it. Right now, it’s as if you have at least 103 years left.
At the same time, Friday becomes Monday, and March becomes May, and this year becomes the next in the blink of an eye. You’re left chasing the days, hoping for more time to achieve X or spend time with Y.
We need a way to stop time and make the most out of every moment, every day, and every week.
What do you experience when you have a deadline 3 days away and you haven’t even started?
You unleash a new you that you didn’t even know existed and put together a decent, completed masterpiece in record time.
Deadlines create a sense of urgency. They rearrange your priorities. From the moment the pressure kicks in until the task is done, you can think of nothing other than finishing on time and avoiding the consequences of late submissions.
Memento mori is a similar concept.
It’s a Latin phrase that means “Remember you must die”.
Enslaved people would whisper this phrase to their commanders on the battlefield, preventing them from being consumed by pride and self-confidence.
Morbid, yes, but also quite motivating.
Many thinkers and philosophers have used this term to remind themselves to take advantage of every moment because, one day, life will end.
Seneca said, “Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.”
Marcus Aurelius wrote in his journal, “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
No one enjoys thinking about death. It’s scary. But, once you realize that you might not be here next week, you give every day your all. You pay attention to what really matters. You don’t fuss over little annoyances. You have bigger issues to handle.
If you were to die tomorrow, what would you do differently today?
Memento mori also means an object which reminds of death.
To remind yourself to snap out of your auto-routine and remember that life has a deadline, you can use a memento mori. Carry a picture that reminds you in your wallet. Hang a picture on your wall. Put your reminder somewhere where you’ll encounter it regularly and remember what it stands for.
The Big Picture: What To Focus On?
There are two ways memento mori can enhance your life. The first is by directing your focus to the important things in life.
Often, you get lost in day-to-day life, fretting over things that don’t matter, like the way your neighbor’s tree is two inches over the fence. These everyday nuisances disturb your inner peace. In the big picture of life, these worries are minuscule.
You get all worked up, complain to anyone who will listen, and your neighbor doesn’t care. You waste your time, energy, and peace and reap no benefit from it.
What should you pay attention to?
The aspects of your life that you cherish as well as the legacy you wish to leave behind.
Let’s do a thought exercise.
Imagine you were dead. Your spirit is sitting on a cloud, reflecting on the life you lived. You can see your family and friends grieving you below.
You hear a voice asking you, “Are you happy with the life you lived?”.
I hope you answered with a ‘HECK YEAH!’, but if not, let’s dig deeper.
What life aspects are you happy with? Are you satisfied with your relationships, your career, and your daily life? Is there any way to improve your performance in these areas?
The Life Audit Workbook helps you reflect on each of your life aspects and assign them ratings. It allows you to ponder what you are doing and devise a plan to improve. Try it yourself!
Next, pinpoint the aspects you aren’t satisfied with. Ask yourself, “why aren’t I happy with them?”. What can you do to change your attitude toward them?
Finally, what regrets would you have?
Would you regret not going after what you wanted or not speaking up for what you cared about?
Become conscious of your regrets now while you still have the opportunity to reconcile them.
You and I both know that the moment you are done reading this, your reflections will be forgotten. Grab a pen and paper, and write down your life aspects, what you’re happy with, and what you want to improve. Or work through the Life Audit Workbook.
The Little Things: Making the Most Of Every Day
Memento mori changes the way you live every day. Once you’re conscious of the fact that today could be your last day, you fully leverage the time you have.
Here are 10 ways you can do that:
1. Be Present
Our days are a blur. We live by a routine, moving from one duty to the next. We fantasize through the boring parts and give half our focus to the important occasions. We live on autopilot.
You don’t plan for your entire life to be like this. You’ll escape the hamster wheel one day.
What was that?
With memento mori in mind, you understand that one day isn’t an option. That one day may never come.
You miss out on life when you’re in your head inside of engaged in what you are doing. Carry out every activity like it’s the last time you will ever do it. Be present, and be mindful.
If you were blacked out during a movie, you can’t say you watched it. The same goes for life. If you weren’t paying attention as it happened, you can’t experience it to its fullest.
2. Avoid Negativity
How angry do you get when someone forgets to replace the toilet paper roll?
While you half-jump, half-walk to the closet, you are fuming.
Your entire day is ruined. You angrily scribble a note to hang on the bathroom door saying, “REPLACE TOILET PAPER WHEN IT’S OVER”. Then, you complain to Julia about it. You are devoted to holding those responsible accountable.
You see where this is going, right?
You spent an enormous amount of energy on this issue. It made you angry and rightfully so. Yet, do you really want to carry these negative emotions around all day?
Is there any benefit from them?
Of course not!
You squander your precious day because of someone’s mistake.
Let it go.
3. Do Activities You Enjoy
Most of us spend all day in the office. At home, we are consumed by chores and have little free time. Our weekends are spent catching up on to-dos or lying around the house with the TV playing in the background.
When do you spend time on the good stuff?
You aren’t a work machine, so don’t act like it. You deserve to spend time on activities that bring you joy. Practice a hobby, visit on old friend, or take a road trip.
Life is too short to spend it all on work. Set aside time in your schedule to do something fascinating.
4. Cherish Every Moment
Haven’t you noticed that tedious moments last forever, whereas the priceless ones are over in a heartbeat?
You don’t appreciate the importance of the moment while it’s happening. Only when you look back do you realize that you hadn’t treasured it as you should have. You took pictures & posted them on your social networks. You got lost in thought about a problem you had that morning.
You wish you could go back and relive the event.
Unfortunately, that’s not possible. You’ll have to settle for the next best thing.
Starting today, live every moment. When you’re around people you love, give them all your attention. When working on your goal, no matter how frustrating it gets, value the journey.
These are the moments you will remember. Don’t walk away with a vague memory of what happened.
5. Spend Time with People Who Inspire You
Do you know what the most important predictor of life satisfaction is?
It’s the quality of your relationships. (1)
It’s not your money, your profession, or how many countries you’ve traveled to; your social circle is what makes you happy.
We know we should spend more time with our loved ones. At the same time, they are the first to be sacrificed when we are career-oriented.
We take them for granted and assume they will always be there. You aren’t here forever, so ensure the ones you value feel your appreciation for them.
Share your life not only with people you love but also those who inspire you and push you to fulfill your potential.
But that’s not all.
Spending more time with such people mandates that you spend less with the put-downers.
You know who these people are.
They are the ones who complain about every little incident. They back-bite for a living. To put it simply, they spread negativity, rubbing it all over your sunshine. Their logic is that if they feel bad, you have to feel it, too.
6. Don’t Waste Your Time
Time is what life is made of. If you waste your time, you waste your life.
By remembering your time on earth is limited, you think twice before you spend twenty minutes on Instagram, an hour on the latest Tik Tok trends, and 3 hours on YouTube cat videos.
These activities add no value to your life. The clock is ticking; spend your precious minutes on creating your legacy.
Invest your time in crafting your success. Bring your vision board to life. Make your dreams your reality.
We complain about not having enough time, but in reality, we do have time. We spend it on the wrong things.
7. Create Opportunities
This might be shocking to you, but Ellen DeGeneres isn’t going to call you anytime soon.
Yeah, I know—you’ve been waiting for the call for years. You uploaded all your funny moments in hopes that you’d make it on her show.
So now what?
Create opportunities instead of waiting for them to come to you. Be proactive. If you want something, go after it. Don’t wait for someone to talk to you, start the conversation for yourself.
Once-in-a-lifetime events don’t happen often and they don’t happen to everyone. Now that you acknowledge that you might not be here next year, it’s time to ensure you attain the success you seek.
The fact is if you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never get it.
8. Live with Purpose
Who do you think will score the highest points in a treasure hunt: the person who knows what she’s looking for or the person who is wandering around picking up whatever looks odd?
Definitely the person who knows what she’s after.
Living with purpose does wonders for your well-being and your life satisfaction. You have a reason to wake up in the morning and strive for success. You feel like the work you do makes a difference.
To live with purpose means that you know what you want to do, what you enjoy doing, and go after it. It’s your contribution to the world.
Spend your time on activities that light your soul on fire. Leave a legacy behind you.
You only get one life, so give it meaning.
9. Take Risks
What holds you back from chasing your inclinations?
We like certainty. It’s safe and cozy. It’s like sitting next to a fireplace and sipping hot chocolate, knowing nothing bad will ever happen.
Risks, on the other hand, are scary. What if something goes wrong and you lose everything?
You look for stable jobs and guaranteed satisfaction, but all the excitement lies behind risks. As Paulo Coelho said, “You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen.”
Remember death, and don’t let fear hold you back from having some extraordinary experiences.
10. Be Authentic
Who are you? What is your unique perspective on matters?
Other people are terrifying—with their judgements and all. As humans, we want to be liked and included. There’s only one way you can accomplish that:
Follow the standards. Do what everyone else does. Don’t stand out.
We are trained to follow a set of rules. Do this. Don’t do that. Self-expression is unprofessional. Laughing too loud is rude.
There’s only one of you, and you only get one lifetime to display your uniqueness. Why hide yourself?
To live your life to its fullest, you must stop cowering and disguising your true self. If you’re passionate about something, let it show. If you have an opinion, don’t keep it inside.
You Only Have One Life. Live It Well.
Too often, we forget that our life is limited, so we dump our time into insignificant endeavors.
Live as if you will die tomorrow. Live every moment to its fullest.
Focus on what makes you happy. Be present. Cherish moments. Create a life of purpose and meaning.