“Think of yourself as dead. You have lived your life. Now, take what’s left and live it properly. What doesn’t transmit light creates its own darkness.”
This thought-provoking quote from Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius’ famous meditations encourages imagining you’re at life’s end looking back to gain urgent perspective on how to live more purposefully now.
Contemplating mortality may sound morbid, but it can shock us out of complacency. Visualizing life slipping away ignites motivation to quit procrastinating on dreams and cherish each day. Let’s explore this uncommon but empowering mindset shift.
A Little More Context Before That
Marcus Aurelius was one of the most influential Stoic philosophers who ever lived. During his reign, he wrote extensive meditations on living ethically, facing hardship with resilience, and squeezing meaning from each moment before time runs out.
His quote urges us to vividly picture looking back on our lives from its end so we can align our priorities and start living more deliberately while we have the gift of being alive.
About Marcus Aurelius
Before becoming Roman emperor in 161 AD, Marcus Aurelius immersed himself in philosophy and self-discipline. He became a follower of Stoicism, a school of thought teaching mental toughness, virtue, and calmness when facing adversity.
As emperor battling war, disease, and political headaches, Aurelius spent time reflecting and writing. His meditations recorded key Stoic principles for finding meaning and leading with integrity. They later became an invaluable philosophical work called Meditations.
The Meaning of the Quote, “Think of Yourself as Dead”
This particular quote argues that envisioning yourself at the end of your life and looking back creates constructive urgency to live purposefully now without delay or hesitation.
Contemplating your mortality puts priorities into sharp focus. You realize time is fleeting, and you must determine if you’re spending it as you truly want.
What Does It Really Mean to Embrace This Mindset?
Truly taking Aurelius’ advice means doing a theoretical life review from your deathbed, assessing all you did and didn’t do. Imagine the end has come and clearly see if priorities aligned with values and if you expressed yourself fully.
The goal of this sobering visualization is deciding what changes so that when your real end comes, you have minimal regrets and lived true to yourself.
Reject Complacency and Fear-Based Thinking
Picture your theoretical last days motivating you to finally pursue long-held dreams rather than clinging to safety and routine.
Visualize how you’d feel if obligations prevented expressing your full potential and talents while you were alive. Let this urge you to live boldly now.
Make Your Relationships a Priority
Looking back from your deathbed would highlight how trivial so many daily stresses were compared to nurturing relationships. Don’t take loved ones for granted – make quality time together a priority now.
Express appreciation, give your presence, and really cherish your moments together, knowing they are finite.
Live According to Your Values
Assess your daily decisions against what provides you profound meaning. Don’t betray your ethics just to gain acceptance, status, or temporary pleasure.
Stay grounded in your values, even when inconvenient. Living authentically keeps your inner light shining bright.
Leave Your Unique Mark on the World
Picturing your legacy makes you consider what positive difference you want to make through your gifts. Your own life is short, but how will you touch others’ lives meaningfully?
Use the time that remains to leave your unique, indelible, but fleeting mark on the world. Make it count.
Be Present in Each Moment
Thinking of life’s end shifts perspective to appreciate the blessings in each moment versus always seeking more. Don’t sleepwalk waiting for “real living” someday.
Engage your senses fully right now – notice details, embrace spontaneity, give thanks. Fully feel this moment before it escapes.
The unavoidable truth is we all have limited time before life moves on without us. How differently would you live if you deeply felt your days numbered? Let that urgency ignite you to mindfully experience each irreplaceable moment.
Spend your energy on what resonates with your spirit – especially sharing life fully with loved ones. Don’t put off purpose and dreams for some fictional future day. Visualize the end has come and choose to live vibrantly now.