Checking in With Death
The title may sound morbid, but it can be a powerful personal growth practice to pause and ask yourself now and then:
Am I ready to die yet?
If I’m not ready to die today, what’s missing? What feels incomplete?
Then give some real thought to these questions, such as by journaling about them.
What will it take to feel that you’ve finished this life? What more do you need to do, say, achieve, or experience?
These questions can point you in the direction of meaningful goals. They can help you align the flow of your life with what really matters to you. They can prevent deep regrets too.
When I ask these questions of myself today, I actually do feel ready to die in some ways. I feel like I’ve done more than enough in terms of expressing myself creatively and doing purposeful work that serves the world.
I also feel like I’ve stretched myself a lot. I’ve faced fears. I developed many interesting skills. I’ve been in love multiple times. I exercised a lot and got good mileage from my body. I wrote and recorded lots of material to help others that can outlive me.
So I don’t feel like I’d be dying too soon in terms of these dimensions of life. I feel that career-wise I’ve contributed more than my fair share already. If death claims me today, I don’t think I’d feel like I missed out on anything critical there. I can always do more, but it doesn’t feel essential to do more or to create more in order to feel like I’m finished life in these areas.
Mainly I feel that I want to soak up more experiences – more travel to new places and more connections with interesting people. I feel that in order to finish life, I still need to see and experience more of the world, especially outside of the USA. I feel that I haven’t explored enough different modes of living yet.
I also think it would be great to spend some time living outside the USA, not just visiting places. When I check in with death, I sense that it would be wise to experience more variety in where I live and how I live. I don’t have a specific place in mind, but the idea has grown increasingly appealing during the past few years.
You may think that life in the USA is becoming too tumultuous, but actually the way I experience it is that it’s a bit predictable. Even with all the tumult, it’s remarkable how much sameness there is in the experience of living here.
You may get completely different answers, but that’s what comes up for me. I think that if I died today, my biggest regret would be that I didn’t spend enough time living and experiencing different places and connecting with different people in those places. I would love to remedy that in the years I have left.
What you learn from checking in with death may not feel urgent. It may generate some of those someday/maybe back burner desires. That’s okay. Just keep those desires in mind now and then. Keep reconnecting with them. Let them stand as open invitations, and say yes to them when you’re ready. And remain aware that the clock is ticking.