One of the most simple yet effective ways of living a responsible life is to approach each day from the perspective of an unknown, future death point. We can do this by asking ourselves daily, "How shall I live this day so that I am at peace with myself when I am looking back from the point of my death?"
The inescapable reality of life is that none of us escapes it alive. But I do not see this as a reason to fret or bemoan past mistakes or worry about a future that is not guaranteed to any of us. Instead, I see this reality as an invitation to be courageous - to develop the ability and practice of living life according to one's own values, vision, and choices until life comes to an end.
True courage cannot be taught or merely theoretically conceptualized; it must be practiced in our every day lives. As with most things, the more we practice, the more adept be become at living courageously by behaving in courageous ways.
It is precisely because our future is uncertain that we must not procrastinate the development of our personal courage muscles. If we seek to possess courage at those times when we will require it the most, we must start practicing now and we must practice even in those times when we feel that we cannot. As the popular phrase goes, "feel the fear and do it anyway" (when the "doing" serves your values and vision, of course!).
You might be wondering how to go about practicing courage, how begin this practice. At the risk of sounding facetious, I would simply submit that practicing courage boils down to being the best selves we can be - one day and one moment at a time.
If you're still feeling unsure of what I am talking about, here are some examples of everyday courage. Remember, however, that courage is very personal and your acts of courage should reflect your best self - not someone else's reality.
Examples of courage:
1. A person who disagrees out loud when gossiping is taking place or a racist joke is told.
2. A businessperson who admits his mistakes and refuses to compromise his ethics even when he faces financial fears and other potential consequences.
3. A personal who decides to leave an abusive relationship even though she is afraid about how to make ends meet and support herself and her children.
4. A physically handicapped child who goes to school every day even though he faces other children's lack of understanding.
5. An individual from a minority group who does not allow ignorance or prejudice get in the way of her pursuing her dream.
- Have you known somebody who has faced the inevitability of death? What did this person teach you about courage?
- What are your fears related to your inevitable death and mortality? What is your greatest fear in this regard?
- What pieces of your personal history can you use to remind yourself about the importance of courage? What are your simplest reminders?
- What are some of the ways in which you have practiced courage in the past?
- In what one way would you like to show up courageously in your life right now?