Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.
"Thinking about death will clarify your life." -- Candy Chang
It's true that in today's world it's frowned upon to think or talk about death... after all, it's such a morbid and negative topic. I, like Chang, believe that if more people took the time to think about the fact that one day we all die, they'd be living completely different lives.
I'm one of those people that lives with a hyper awareness of death. For some, that would mean living in a constant state of fear, stress or depression. For me, it means living with a strong sense of urgency to live out my purpose, connect deeply and not waste time on things that don't matter.
Many people lack this valuable sense of urgency.
Instead of spending time with the people they love and cultivating deep, meaningful connections, they worry about what other people think, spend hours in front of the TV or prioritize external obligations over the people that really matter to them.
Instead of finding their passions and building a life around it, they spend years working for someone else, doing something that drains them, all for the sole purpose of paying for things they may not really need or want, but feel they should have.
They put things off until "later" and save the fine china and fancy dresses for "special occasions" that they're not guaranteed.
Living without this sense of urgency causes people to mentally check out of life in the present and focus time and energy on things that they perceive are important, but when they take a step back and reevaluate, have no true value to life.
To be fair, I'm not immune to getting caught up in less important things from time to time. After all, the bills must get paid and certain things just need to be done as long as I'm alive and choosing to run a business and live the life I've created for myself.
The difference is, I'm aware that my time is limited. Every time I leave the house I'm aware that it may be the last time I'm able to kiss my cats on the head or give my boyfriend a hug and say "I love you." This makes my moments far more present and meaningful. It prompts me to pause and take the time to connect and express myself.
More importantly, accepting and becoming aware of the inevitable means that instead of fearing it, I fear wasting the limited time I have by not living out my purpose.
Living with a sense of urgency creates a life of purpose which, in turn, leads to a happier, healthier and more fulfilled individual.
Throughout my life, I've stopped to ask myself many important questions.
If this was my last day, would I still want to do what I'm about to do? If I only had a month left to live, are these the people I would want to be spending that time with?
For me, the question, "what do I want to do before I die?" is more about creating a legacy and having a positive impact on the world. It's not about crossing skydiving or running a marathon off a bucket list... while those things would be fun, it's more about making sure that I live my purpose.
I want to teach and inspire personal responsibility in as many people as possible before I die. I believe, wholeheartedly, that personal responsibility has the power to change the world. This is my passion and my purpose. Therefore, I make sure that everything I do serves that purpose. I also want to create something that continues beyond me and further positively impacts the world.
There's no right answer to the question, what do you want to do before you die? The only thing that matters is that you answer honestly and make yourself aware of the fact that you may not have "later" to carry it out. Learn to shift the fear of death to a sense of healthy urgency. Let that urgency fuel actions that lead to deeper connections, purpose, passion, joy and making whatever impact you want to make before you go.
Stephenie Zamora is the founder of www.stepheniezamora.com, a full-service, life-purpose development, design and branding boutique.
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