When Death Surprises Us

It is always remembered as that definitive moment in time. That very instance in which bad news was learned. Before the news, life seemed normal. After the news life seemed forever tinged. Very few things in life bother us more than an unexpected death; the death of a person whose time should not have come. When death surprises us it is one of the most shocking and disorienting moments of our existence. We see our lives as journeys that have some sort of predictive storyline: go to school, get married, have kids, move up the ladder, travel, retire, die of old age. When this plot suddenly falls off the tracks, we tend to pause in befuddlement – questioning our destiny. Usually, we try to rationalize an unexpected death. We convince ourselves that there was a “cause.” We try to put order to a thing that just seems random. Death caused by something is better than death caused by nothing. Randomness is scary and we quickly rush for explanations to help us rationalize our control on life. It’s like watching a scary movie and saying that we don’t live in that haunted house so we couldn’t possibly be killed.

Of course, there are sensical things to be done to avoid death. We know not to stand in the middle of the road, play with venomous snakes, smoke 10 packs of cigarettes a day. Along with the obvious, there are daily health habits which can help a person reach old age: eat fruits and vegetables, exercise, limit stress, etc. In general, people tend to live longer and healthier lives than past generations. It is for these reasons that we tend to forget about the inevitable – death. We think that if we follow a formula that the outcome will be fireside chats with grandkids and a peaceful death at the ripe age of 95. More than ever we believe that our “own” choices can dictate our future. Unfortunately, we have absolutely no control of the future. Sure, we can do our best to live healthy lives in the “hope” of old age, but there are no guarantees. This may sound fatalistic, but it is the truth – we have zero control over the future. Our lust for control is why unexpected death always sends us into an internal panic. We reassess our goals and look at our loved ones in a new light. It is this mindfulness that is always so fleeting but yet so vital to our existence.

A very special co-worker of mine died this weekend, and I feel almost frozen with questions of why. Why did she have to die so young? Why did God take someone so smart and amazing? Why did it seem so random? Grief is a complicated beast, and I had to write this post to tweeze through a lot of my thoughts. I miss my friend, and I do believe she is in heaven. Life teaches us to never take for granted the present. What we have today is not guaranteed tomorrow. It is ok to make plans for the future but never rush through your days trying to get there. We can’t escape death, and we can’t control our futures. Love deeply whenever you can because you may never get a second chance.

 

Small Steps = Big Success

Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.

-Jim Rohn

What is the key to accomplishing all your goals in life? It is simple, small steps repeated day in and day out leads to success. Whatever you wish to accomplish can be achieved by just small actions on a regular basis. Think about your goal. Is it to lose weight? Become stronger? Write more? Master the guitar? Learn something knew? Be more social? Be less material? Whatever the goal, there are usually things we do to set ourselves up for failure. Below are the top 3 reasons we fail at our goals.

  1. Wrong motivation: We take up a goal not for the betterment of ourselves but for bettering people’s image of ourselves. The motivation should come from intrinsic desires not extrinsic. Ask yourself this one question: Would I still pursue this goal if no one but me could see/acknowledge its completion? For example, would you still want to hike the Appalachian Trail if you had to keep it a secret for the rest of your life?
  2. Too grandiose: Do you have a weird pear shape and think that you can workout enough to look like a celebrity? Are you extremely introverted and want to have 20 close friends? Sometimes we need to be realistic with our goals and not set the bar too high. It is always good to better ourselves but don’t forget that we are all unique and do not possess all the same abilities and talents. The perfect goal is one that pushes us enough to progress and shoot for the stars that are realistically within our reach.
  3. Too impatient: It is easy for us to expect results from our goals immediately. I remember picking up weights for the first time and after a week wondering why I didn’t look like Arnold Schwarzenegger. Make intermittent-measurable steps for your goals so that small wins can snowball into big victories overtime. There is a reason why most people are overweight-uneducated-couch potatoes; it is easy. Bettering yourself is hard and it takes a crap ton of time. Don’t expect quick results, look at all your goals as marathons-not sprints.

So what are your goals? Did you make some goals back in January that are currently gathering dust? Whatever you wish to accomplish try these three steps.

  1. Spend at least 30 minutes a day towards your goal.
  2. Write your goal down and place it somewhere you and others can read it.
  3. Make a small event that can measure your progress

So what does this look like? I am trying to play my guitar again and it is not easy. I love  it when I have mastered a song but the process of learning chords and notes is painful. Hence, I have made the goal of playing at least 30 minutes a day, writing down the song I am currently learning, and setting a date for recording it on my video camera. I am far from perfect in achieving my goals but writing about them helps me and will hopefully help you also.