How the idea of Death can improve your planning

Chalfont St Giles Churchphoto © 2005 Timo Newton-Syms | more info (via: Wylio)


Every man dies – Not every man really lives. –William Ross Wallace

Most of us are very particular about what we do. We like to plan our lives well and in advance. In spite of this seriousness, I feel a lot of us forget, or purposefully avoid, putting one very important thing into this equation. That thing is, this life is finite and is going to end some day, maybe even very soon.

Death can happen anytime, bringing an abrupt halt to the execution of our plans. Uncomfortable and frightening though it may seem, it is going to happen. Though we cannot escape it, we can make friends with it. As a friend, Death can help us, and our planning, in a lot of ways.

Here is how I use the idea of Death to help decide the direction of my life, I ask myself a simple question. ‘The day I die, would I be proud of what I am doing now?‘ This question made me leave the job of software development I held at an Investment Bank and get into helping people make positive changes in their lives. I decided to write a very inspiring novel to motivate people into acting towards personal growth.

If I am not sure about the action that I am currrently taking, there is another question I ask myself before taking it – ‘If I die tomorrow, will I be able to look back at this action and feel I did the best I could?‘ This question helped me in moving from novel writing to blogging because I understood this allows for more regular, frequent and direct interaction with my readers. I felt blogging is more effective in helping others make positive changes in their lives than writing a poisitive and inspiring story.

Death and The Parkinson’s Law

Parkinson’s Law : This Law states that Work expands to fill the time available for it’s completion.

How many of you have experieced this? – When you are used to doing something in a given amount of time, and suddenly there is an urgency to finish it quicker this while, you become more focussed. You may feel a heightened sense of alertness, liveliness and purpose doing it. Boredom and listlessness just don’t occur in such situations. Your work becomes more exciting and, most often, you are able to finish it quickly too. Finishing the work this way also gives you a sense of accomplishment that you don’t get otherwise.

This is what the idea of death can do to us, it can create a sense of healthy urgency. A lot of us live in a sort of stupor, never thinking that life is passing by. If we keep ourselves aware that our time here is finite, it will bring us out of this stupor. Keeping death in mind can keep you more focussed and alive. It can take away the three big problems many of those people face who live a comfortable life, oblivious of impending death – lack of focus, boredom and slow productivity.

Now imagine you do something with a team. You all do your tasks separately and in a given amount of time. Suddenly, a similar emergency as above arises and you all need to finish your work quickly. All of you get down to it and feel the same things mentioned above. Over and above these feelings, you feel a certain sense of comraderie and connectedness with each other that you don’t otherwise feel. Suddenly, all previous complaints against each other seem trivial and everyone appears to be a genuine well wisher and friend.

The idea of death also shows the futility in fretting over trivial differences. It strengthens the idea of living together in harmony and working together towards common goals. It, ironical as it may seem, gives you a heightened sense of happiness!

A bad Omen?

A lot of people here in India don’t like the mention of it, it is considered rude. They won’t consider it in their plans because it is a bad omen. There is this, fairly common scene in Indian movies where the hero is singing and says something like, ‘Tomorrow, if I die then…’

Before he can complete, the heroine puts a hand to his mouth to stop him from making the mention. All fights end at this moment and she goes readily into his arms… (I wish I could conveniently end all fights with my wife this way but alas! these things don’t work on her :()

Jokes apart, I don’t think it helps to ignore or avoid the only certainty in our lives. We are all going to die some day. This adventure/game called life that we are playing, has a time limit. It is up to us to decide whether we want to spend it trying to keep away from trouble, or to take on the most interesting challenges we find so that, at the end of it all, we have a feeling of having enjoyed it fully and having played to our full potential.

One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure its worth watching. –Gerard Way


  • prateek
    April 21, 2011 - 4:13 pm | Permalink

    the hero is singing and says something like, ‘Tomorrow, if I die then…’
    Before he can complete, the heroine puts a hand to his mouth to stop him from making the mention.
    😀 case in point
    on a more sober note ancient Greek historian Herodotus writes about an interesting custom practiced by ancient Egyptian at there grandest feast.
    when revellers were at there most exuberant,there thoughts focused on power and pleasure the servants would pass between the tables carrying a skeleton on stretcher.
    the ritual was designed to remind party goers of there mortality.

    • Rahul
      April 21, 2011 - 4:40 pm | Permalink

      I had this exact song in mind when I wrote those lines!! :)
      Interesting custom you mention here. I believe if we can have our mortality in mind when we are enjoying life, we cannot be taken by surprise when Death visits unannounced in our scheme of things.

  • Sandeep Aulakh
    April 22, 2011 - 9:16 pm | Permalink

    Rahul – Nicely written as always with an edge of innovative thoughtful thinking. Death can come to anyone at anytime and we spend our quality time planning for the future, without knowing the fact that we are loosing on what we have in hand now. I think we over complicate things way too much. We think too much about what happened in the past and what will happen in future. Life is more fun if we keep it simple and stay in present.

    It may sound weird but in this week, I read a FB status of my friend ‘We want everything permanent in a temporary life’, a dear friend of mine passed away in Australia and now I’m reading this article. Hope this is not a bad omen either

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