At one time or another, every single one of us has pondered on the prospect
of our own death, though most will navigate through life pretending it will never
happen to them. Does that ring familiar to you?
**Scroll down if you want to go straight into the 3 forward ways to overcome
your fear of death.**
If you are still up here, you’re in for a good one…
I’d like to make you think before I give you a list.
I’ve thought of death for as long as I can remember, and according to my mom,
even before then. When I was three years old I told a great aunt whose husband had
just passed that she had no reason to be sad, for her husband was outside
flying with the birds.
Mind you, I have no recollection of this Zen-like attitude toward death.
Until I was about seven, I cried myself to sleep at least twice a week because
I didn’t want to die. At about age nine I wrote a fairytale about a little prince
who managed to kidnap death for a few decades, until he understood that it was
a necessity in the cycle of life.
I believe this story was the beginning of my resolve to stop being so scared at all times.
Do you recall the last time you truly feared death?
Before I continue, I’d like to quote Richard Dawkins, from the start of
his book, The Blind Watchmaker in hopes of pushing you toward a lighter
mindset when thinking about the often-avoided subject.
Richard wrote: ‘We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones.
Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.
The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never
see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts
include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this
because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of
actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our
ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against
all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state
from which the vast majority have never stirred?’
Oh snap! – Of course, you may be thinking, easier said than done, as did I when
I read the passage. I didn’t steer away from my fear of death by thinking, how dare I
be afraid, nor is that the way I want you to go about it. On the contrary, be afraid
if you must, it’s only human to experience all kinds of fear.
Just allow this fear be one that propels you, not one that paralyzes you …
I learned from Tony Robbins, the notion that our minds are not generators of thoughts,
but rather radios that tune into streams and waves of consciousness that have existed for
hundreds of thousands of years.
One thing that Tony always repeats, that I personally love, is that most people
spend their lives fighting the dark in their heads, when in a matter of seconds,
they could turn on a light.
A fear of death is in a multitude of cases in fact, a fear of not reaching our full potential,
an anxiety of finding ourselves in a deathbed of regrets. It is in this explanation of our fear
that I find one of the best answers for it:
If you wish to not be afraid of death, go out and live a life worth living.
This may sound to you like romantic rhetoric, but when I say a life worth living, I do
not in any way mean a life of massive adrenaline, or mad accumulation of money,
(those are only tools), I mean a choice that you can make right now, the choice
of becoming a memory collector, a manufacturer of little special moments.
There is a choice you can make right now, of becoming a
memory collector, a manufacturer of little special moments.
I wonder … do you know your purpose in this life?
You must become the creator of a life of purpose and meaning. Purpose is key
for the domestication of fear. We each have a purpose ingrained in our guts
hidden in plain sight by our lousy questions. It was formed at the same time as us,
if not possibly way before, but that’s a different topic.
You must figure out the main source of your fear. Are you afraid that you will cease
to exist? That you are not living up to your own ideals? Or it is more of a logistics
matter, what will be of my spouse when I pass? Will my grand children be able to
attend college? Either way, understand that lousy questions always generate
lousy answers, so at every turn, your answers will fuel your fear.
So how can you flip these fearful questions into ones that
will propel you into actively participating in your life?
…You find questions that can align with the search of purpose.
‘Am I good enough? Why doesn’t she/he like me? How can I make them happy?’
These are all highly lousy questions. Our purpose is radically simple at its core,
and becoming aware of it eases the fear of life passing unnoticed by the window.
When you wonder what your purpose might be, strip it of rules or categories that may
make it seem distant and impossible. Try to keep it, at least for now, along the lines of:
To be creative, to love, to share joy, to inspire, to manifest meaningful moments,
to ensure my spouse’s safety. Pick a few and say them out loud, and see what comes
to mind, then come up with your new question: ‘How can I make my relationships better?
How can I express my creativity today? What can I do today to ensure the safety
of my family after I’m gone?’
Do these questions feel better? … I thought so! – When we live our lives in the pursuit
of purpose, fear becomes a fuel of sorts, and ceases to push on our lives’ brakes.
If you are passionate about the subject I’m sharing with you, I highly recommend you go
read one of the most interesting books I read in 2015, Man’s Search For Meaning, from
which I drew a ton of inspiration in overcoming my own fear.
So … along the lines of finding meaning and stirring away from the fear of
death, I want to leave you with three straight-forward things you can do,
that have been proven to help people master their fears not only of death, but
also of life and failure in a bundle.
Exercise – I can’t stretch this one enough. Motion is emotion, so any time you
find yourself paralyzed by all the possible ways in which you or anyone you love
may drop dead at any second, remember to get up and move.
It doesn’t mean you have to go run a marathon. Blasting a song on your headphones
and jumping around like no one is watching will do the trick. While you are at it,
give a try to mocking those nasty thoughts that are shaking you up, after all,
they are not yours, you are just tuning to them, so see them go by, and continue
with your life. Don’t fall for the mind’s good old trickery of catching a thought,
believing it is yours and feeling guilty about it.
I know this sounds overly simplistic, but simple ideas are often not only the best, but the hardest to come up with, so don’t dismiss them!
Be true to yourself – This may be another fear all on its own, but chances are, if you
are spending too much timewondering why/how/when you or anyone you love will kick
the bucket, you are not spending enough time being your true self. Remember that you
are the creator of your experience, not the manager … Be what you wish to be.
You get to choose what you believe, so be conscious of which voice in your head you buy into.
Find gratefulness – It is impossible to live in fear when you live in gratitude.
Consider saying thank you out loud for the most minimal of experiences. You had the
chance to help an old lady across the street? … Say thank you.
A fart escaped your pants in that last bench press and your workout buddy didn’t
notice? … Say thank you. The smaller the thing you can be thankful for, the more
fearless your life experience will become.
Above all, as Tony charmingly says,
stop fighting the dark, and turn on the light.
Step into that choice and enjoy your life.
With nothing but love,