Dying Before You Die
Updated: Jan 27
Life is a series of losses. And gains too, but in this post I want to talk about the losses, and how to live in such a way that you do not find yourself overwhelmed by them, since losses accumulate as you get older.
The fact is, as you age, you will lose (partially or completely, some, most, or all of) the following...
Hair. Health. Mobility. Beauty. Manual dexterity. Hearing. Eyesight. Friends. Family. Sexy body. Ability to perform sexually. Ability to drive. Ability to walk unassisted. Independence. Career.
Need I go on?
Honestly -- I'm not trying to depress you here. In fact, I want to tell you a secret about how you can get through the inevitable losses life brings better than you might think.
The secret is to die before you die.
Dying before you die is actually a way of living. Dying before you die is what author Stephen Covey might have called beginning with the end in mind. In other words, knowing that you will rack up more and more losses as you get older and progress through life, how do you live in such a way as to be able to expect to get through those losses with some amount of grace and peace?
Before I tell you the answer, there's something you need to know about dying that will show you why what I'm talking about here is urgent and why you must think about it right now. You see, people pretty much die the way they lived. People who were arrogant most of their lives will usually continue to be arrogant while they die. People who ignored their emotions all their lives will usually keep ignoring their emotions as they are dying. People who were positive and upbeat most of their lives will usually continue being positive and upbeat in their final months and weeks. People with a good sense of humor when they were younger will usually display that sense of humor even on their death bed.
With few exceptions, people die basically the way they lived.
When you know that, you can see why it's critical for you to pay attention to what I'm saying right now -- while you're still young (somewhat!) and healthy, while you're very specifically not dying, before the inevitable losses in life begin to accumulate. If you spend your life ignoring your emotions, building your identity around what you do instead of who you love, valuing money and the things it brings, and cultivating a false image of yourself so you only show the best side of yourself to the public, then when the time comes and you start accumulating losses, you will be too stuck in that identity to change it. Those losses will begin stripping away pieces of you bit by bit, and you will find yourself clinging fearfully to life as it ebbs away, unable to accept this very natural process that is happening to you. Scary? Hell yes. But it doesn't have to be that way.
That's why you must die before you die. Starting right now. You must, starting right now, begin investing more of your identity into your relationships than you invest in your activities. You must learn to deal honestly with your emotions. You must learn how to cry and be vulnerable, because as you get older, the fact of your vulnerability is going to get harder and harder to conceal anyway. You must get your value as a producer into proper perspective, because you won't always be able to produce. You want to be sure that you're not depending too much on your good looks or great body for happiness, because they'll be gone before you know it.
There's almost nothing sadder than a person moving into the twilight of their life, clinging ever more desperately to it. Happy is the person who has learned well before this moment to let go, to be open and honest with themselves and others, to take joy not in what they do but in who they love, to let others love them back, and to hold very loosely to the things in life that are not meant to remain.
That is dying before you die. Learn this and you will not only age better and ultimately die with a great deal more peace, but you will live each moment between now and then as a happier and more peaceful person. Like getting out of debt, it pays off not just at the end when you make the last payment, but with each payment you make, because you are getting "richer," and becoming "freer" as you go along.
So that one day soon, you can honestly and earnestly pray the prayer of Shawnee Indian Chief Tecumseh, which has long been one of my favorites. I've taken up enough space in this post, but I highly encourage you to read it, because you'll see that Tecumseh was learning to die before he died and how that preparation prepared him not just for death, but for the best life he could have had. That is what I want for you and for all my clients -- the best life you can have, and a more peaceful twilight season than you could have ever imagined.
No one blog post can capture everything that needs to be said on a topic. To write anything at all, you must assume a perspective, and doing that will rule out valuable contributions from other perspectives. This piece brings necessary balance to what I'm writing here and hopefully will help make sure fewer people misinterpret what I'm saying.