Remember Death: The Best Intervention?

This is How Positive Change Happens…

Remember Death: The Best Intervention?

I worked with a client who was having difficulty sleeping because their mind and heart began to get intensely preoccupied with that fact that they were going die. This person did not have an illness and they were not in any real danger. They were going to die…like all of us.

They expressed this preoccupation with their impeding death (eventually) as a bad thing they were doing and that needed to be shut down at once. To their initial surprise, with curiosity, I asked, “If there was some wisdom in these death thoughts, what might that be?”. My client paused and perhaps, thought I was a little crazy. But then, the wisdom came. As they shared more, it became clear that a part of them, let’s call it “Remember Death”, was telling them to live more. Every day they were spending a significant amount of time surfing the internet and checking social media sites. As compelling as that was for another more superficial part, the deep Remember Death part knew that they were getting lost and wasting their life.

Remember Death could hear the yearning for far more meaningful, challenging, and vibrant experiences and knew that continuing to postpone them was a very risky game to play. As this wisdom was revealed, a sense of relief washed over them and even an appreciation for the fact that they had been going through this whole seemingly weird death obsession. They could feel their own brilliance. And better yet, they were now inspired to live more.

I asked them to tell me more about what they yearned for and as they did, they began to shine and smile. Then, I asked, “What’s one action you can commit to doing today or tomorrow to listen to your friend, Remember Death, and start living more?”. Immediately, they had a completely doable and wonderful plan. They did not delay and that night, the death thoughts stopped. Its work was done and life was revived.

Death doesn’t always have to be only scary and therefore, ignored or silenced. Paradoxically, it can be the best intervention we have to really live. Most of us have heard stuff like this before. But how many of us really use Death as the powerful and effective intervention it is?

A few months ago, I watched Steve Jobs speech at Stanford in 2005 on YouTube. I was blown away. It was practical and deep. At one point, he shared a tool he used daily for years:

If today was the last day of my life, would I want to do what I’m about to do?

Jobs said if he got “No” several times in a row, he knew something had to change for the better.

I encourage you to write that question (or your version of it) on a card and post it on your bathroom mirror. Try it for a month. Notice what happens to your life when you remember death.

If you need some support along the way, talk to a good friend or book an appointment with me.

Use Death to Live


Short Version (1min 53 sec) of Steve Jobs Stanford Speech, 2005

Full Version (14 min 34 sec) of Steve Jobs Stanford Speech, 2005

The Death Cafe, an international movement “to increase awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives’ ”