Just take time to reflect upon this ancient Roman stoic philosophical admonition:” Memento mori.”
Translation: Remember, you must die.
On the surface it’s not the cheeriest piece of advice I’ve ever considered, but it’s certainly the most sobering. And interesting to contemplate.
Counter-intuitive as it may seem, this admonition accentuates the most profound contrast in all in human existence. Life versus death.
And it’s by remembering this most extreme contrast that you can ignite the joy and gratitude you can feel just by being alive. All this even before you even take time to count your blessings.
Reflecting upon the inevitability of death can actually sharpen your appreciation for life.
Throughout human history, people from all cultures and religious beliefs discovered this useful concept.
If you wish to find the joy and gratitude in today, consider the inevitability of your own mortality.
This will help you decide, intentionally, to make the best of today.
No other thought provides this electrifying perspective. It can ignite just the motivation you need to appreciate what you have and strive fearlessly for what you want.
Nothing is more absolute in life than the certainty of death.
Gulp. Double gulp. However…
Actually contemplating one’s own death can become a catalyst for motivation and productivity each and every day. It can diminish the lure of procrastination.
And, it’s message can jolt us into the appreciation of the joy and gratitude we feel for both the grand and the sublime aspects of our lives.
For kindness and compassion.
It can unlock a hardened heart.
Stoic philosophers of ancient Rome used the phrase Memento Mori as a call to invigorate life.
To infuse living with a precious sense of urgency and meaning.
In Meditations, Marcus Aurelius, one of the most famous of all the Stoic philosophers, wrote “You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.”
Musing on the length of one’s life, the stoic philosopher Senca reminds us, “So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it.”
Seneca realized even then that we are prone to frittering away our lives, to making it feel short by our own doing.
In today’s world, we spend endless hours wasting our lives away by buffering with food, alcohol, drugs, social media, TV, shopping, gambling. We procrastinate, ruminate, spin in overwhelm, doubt and confusion.
We’re very good a finding myriad ways to distract ourselves from fulfilling our highest potential as human beings.
We avoid or resist what we perceive as difficult in favor of what we perceive as easy or easier. The path of least resistance is, too often, the path chosen. But when we avoid and resist are we actualizing our potential?
Yes, it’s hard to make decisions and choices that challenge and change the status quo. Pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones requires intentional choices and determination.
Every second, we lose to laziness, procrastination, or fear is a sacrifice on the alter of our mortality. Those moments are gone forever as we move ever closer to our eventual demise.
Putting off till tomorrow what we could do today is a risky choice.
Tomorrow is nothing more than a thought.
It’s an assumption of an uncertain future time and place we are making in the present. But tomorrow is not assured. Nor is it promised.
Make today matter.
Considering Memento Mori isn’t intended to sap your motivation or drive you into a depression.
Just because your brain might offer up thoughts like these doesn’t mean you have to accept this kind of default thinking:
- Why bother doing anything, we’re only going to die one day anyway.
- I might as well live it up while I can.
- What’s the point of doing anything difficult or that I don’t like?
When thoughts like these surface, you can respond to their presence by becoming the watcher. Notice them. Allow them. Sit with them. Let them come and go, drifting through your mind like clouds through the blue sky on a breezy day.
Remind yourself you’re here on earth to fulfill your human potential. Whether large or small, you have gifts to share with the world that only you can offer.
It’s possible to create purposeful action with a sense of urgency that Memento Mori inspires. Let your actions arise from a place of empathy, compassion and knowing that this day, this hour, this moment is all we have.
What is the impact you want to make in your lifetime?
Epictetus admonishes us to be firm in our convictions:“Settle on the type of person you want to be and stick to it, whether alone or in company.”
While we can be sure that death comes to everyone, there’s no point worrying about when or how it will come.
The most uncertain part of life is how we choose to live it. Use that thought as inspiration to take action.
Consider this Stoic idea:”A society grows great when we plant trees whose shade we know we shall never sit in.”
The consequences of our choices live on in the world and affect the generations that come after us.
This knowledge should not prevent us from planting “trees” in our lifetime, but encourage us to act now.
What aspects of your life you want to act upon now?
Time will pass whether you begin today or not. But just image what you could start today that a year from now would make you glad you did.
Let’s explore together.
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