Living with the end in mind

At first, this title makes us feel like we’re entering a dark room. But I promise this darkness won’t stay for long, and by the end of the article, as our mind understands and gets comfortable with this truth of life, we will see bursts of light.

Living with the end in mind is perhaps the fullest, most real way to live life because the only thing guaranteed to happen to each one of us is our end. At first when we read this sentence, it may not feel good – but it is the ultimate truth. Let’s read it again, slower this time – the only thing guaranteed to happen to each one of us is our end. As we feel at home with this statement, it becomes really comforting. What if we can live with the consciousness that this life in indeed finite? What if we worked our life, our mindset, our bodies around this?

Day in and out, we find ourselves in unpleasant situations, not just with people we don’t care about, but on the contrary, more so, with people we care. What if the next time you find yourself in the middle of such a scenario and ask – what if today was all there was to life?, what if tomorrow never comes? How would I then respond to the situation? I bet it would be very very different. There won’t be too many sorrows or regrets we’d want to keep, there won’t be too many hearts we’d like to leave weak.

Stephen Covey, the author of highly acclaimed The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, lists this as one of the most important habits for people to cultivate. He refers to it as ‘Begin with the End in Mind’. The chapter that highlights this in the book begins with asking us to imagine we’re at a funeral. But not any old funeral, our funeral! In its most basic form, the ‘Begin with the End in Mind’ maxim refers to always having the end of our life as our frame of reference to evaluate everything else. It’s about doing things with a clear idea of our destination, so that the steps we take are always in the right direction.

It’s like when we work, we take up jobs, one of our goals is to save for retirement, old age. We work with the end in mind, because we want to be comfortable in the end.

Sadhguru, an Indian yogi, mystic and New York Times bestselling author, speaks of this in one of his talks. He says, ‘This is not a morbid message, it is a life-oriented message. You will be truly life-oriented only if you know that life is a very limited amount of time. You have time and room for unpleasantness only because you think you are immortal. If you think you will be here forever, you will ignore life completely. But suppose you knew you are going to die in the next one hour, you will notice every little bit of life – you will not miss anything.’

While this kind of thinking may not fit into every scenario, I think it’s a great tool that comes very handy in most situations, especially where decision making is involved. For instance – should I stay in this job that makes me feel sick every single day? Should I book this holiday? Should I stay for longer at work today or go do something productive for myself? See how taking decisions feels easier, obvious, when we take them with the end in mind?

Here are the top five benefits (there are plenty more!) one can reap when we are conscious of about the end in mind:

  • It becomes far easier to prioritize our time, our life. It becomes easier to say no to things that feel out of our alignment.
  • We begin to truly value life, celebrate and enjoy most moments because we are aware we will run out of it one day.
  • We’re driven, we make goals, we work towards turning our desires and dreams into reality.
  • Our relationships improve – we no longer want to get into silly arguments, or raise our vocal chords for trivial matters or hold grudges.
  • Our screen time reduces – after all who wants to be sitting behind a device(s) when the end seems near!

I would like to sum up this article with these very important words by Marcel Proust, a French novelist, critic, and essayist, translated by C.K. Scott Moncrieff. They speak of how important it is to be aware that the end could just be around the corner, and life deserves to be lived with more love and gratitude.

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