Nothing is more certain to awaken us to our priorities than a brush with life or death.
A new baby.
A serious health scare.
When pressure points like these are pushed, our framework for what matters abruptly exposes itself even if we think we have never consciously formed it.
This is perhaps because living is something we’re all hardwired to understand. It’s in our DNA to want to thrive – when this part of our code is not firing, it’s tragic, and we know something is very wrong. So though we can often be oblivious to the question of our priorities, the event of a life or death encounter can quickly rectify that.
On reflection, it seems in some ways we – those of enjoying the comfort of developed economies – are the poorer for this awareness being something we are not more cognisant of. Many of us almost have to rely on a sudden jolt in order to ever have the chance to appreciate just how delicate and beautiful the balance between life and death really is (and the priorities they bring for each of us).
Fear and dread are the likely culprits that hinder any real going contemplation of it. However, if we were able to move past these barriers, even embrace the reality of life coming to an end, then thinking of our mortality more (and that of those we care about) could actually make us stronger. Rather than diminish our options, it stands to grow our resolve to make better decisions for our lives.
Consider, for a second, the following:
If the next interaction were to be my last engagement with a person, how would I want it to go?
This would be an exhausting question to put in front of ourselves for every person we meet. However, perhaps thinking on it – and questions like it – more frequently than never, will grow our understanding that while our connections in life may be momentary, the impressions we make don’t have to be.
If we challenged ourselves a little more with the thought of our greatest limitation – our mortality – it may just serve as the inspiration we need to drop the erroneous and embrace the vital instead. At its best, living in a more aware state will allow us to better define who we are and capture the best of what we have to give.