Picture this, after a successful Roman triumph the army would return home and the crowds would gather to celebrate their victory. For the majority most of the public would have their gazes firmly fixed upon the victorious general and not necessarily give much attention to the aide directly behind the general, whispering into his ear “memento mori” which translates as remember your mortality.

At first glance this may seem like an odd and melancholic phrase for a general in the height of his glory to have someone whispering into his ear.

However for the Roman general it actually had a stabilising effect and would keep him grounded and focused. To remain humble even in the midst of such accolade. Remembering at all times, the fragility of life.

I dare-say to most, this sounds like an awful idea. Who wants to think about death? But what if instead of being scared and unwilling to acknowledge this truth we did the opposite? Simply by reflecting on that fact we discover it is the key to living life to the fullest?

I came across the words memento mori in the book The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday when I first started out on my own personal development journey and have written memento mori every day in my journal ever since.

These two words encapsulated the very thing I was awakened to at the time and it has served as a daily reminder for me ever since.

You see, the reason I started to look at implementing changes in my own life and really began self development was because I had a real awakening after my Dad’s death.

My Dad was in his sixties, he had worked hard all his life and was meant to be winding down into retirement. However his ‘part time’ consultancy work proved to be very popular and instead of slowing down he was working full tilt.

He adopted the philosophy to work hard for the time being and once he was ready, he could wind it all up and retire, enjoying a comfortable retirement. As such instead of taking it easier, he was working long days, travelling around the country for work and feeling pretty worn out.

Since he was so busy and tired after the full on week, he had to put things off, unable to take those little breaks away, or connect with family and friends, even indulging in his passion for motor racing got put on hold during his ‘final push’ before retirement.

Sadly life didn’t go according to plan, after a few months of not feeling quite right and numerous trips to the doctors he was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer which had metastasised to his liver.

His diagnosis came out of the blue, I actually saw him the very day he was diagnosed and sat with him whilst he called my brothers and told them the awful news. It was such an awful time for us all as a family, and the following three and half months before his death, were an emotional roller coaster.

I remember when we went to the hospital one day and they told him his cancer was terminal and now it was the time to make the most of the time he had left.

I was inspired by his relentless bravery and how he did not dwell on his own misfortune and was only ever concerned about how is diagnosis was impacting those he loved, but I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him for all the things he was going to miss out on. All those things he had put off for his retirement, which we now knew was never going to come.

This feeling of regret for what my Dad missed out upon, didn’t leave me, in fact it sat very heavily with me. The realisation of how fragile life really is. It woke me up, looking at my own life, I too was living life in a way where I was putting things off to the future. I knew I had to learn from Dad’s death and to no longer put things off which could bring me more pleasure, joy and meaning to my life.

Please don’t think I am saying we should all live a hedonistic life where we should be only concerned with chasing pleasures in the here-and-now and not worry about tomorrow. This is far from the message I am trying pass on.

I am a huge advocate of visualising the future and working towards goals to enrich our journey through life. In my opinion, we should all have a life plan to ensure we live our lives in a way that is congruent to our true authentic selves, but in my opinion, this should not become our sole focus, as we can miss so much going on around us whilst we are striving towards that moment in the future.

I also acknowledge we all have numerous responsibilities and commitments in our lives and things have a tendency to take priority. However I assure you it is possible to design your life, where you can optimise your time to ensure you have the opportunity to meet your obligations and still be able to find and appreciate the moments in life which will bring you happiness and joy.

These things don’t need to be 5-star luxury holidays around the world or winning the lottery, it could simply be appreciating seeing a loved one’s smile, a heartfelt hug, spending a few more minutes really listening and engaging with a friend, or watching your little one’s sporting event or musical recital. It’s these kinds of experiences which bring a real lasting sense of joy to our lives and our brains will lock in as memories for us to recall whenever we desire. But at the same time, these moments are the easiest to miss, if we are all caught up about getting to that place somewhere in the future.

The Top Five Regrets of the Dying

My Dad’s experience is by no means isolated, in her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware, one of the most common regrets of those she spoke to whilst working in palliative care was “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”

Let’s just look at that, one of the top five regrets of people in the final moments, is that they did not allow themselves to experience as much happiness as they could have. How does that make you feel? Does it resonate with you at all? It certainly did with me.

I have to say, memento mori, came on the horizon just at the right moment for me in my own life, those wise words have unlocked so much in my life I could have potentially missed as I rushed through my life.

How coaching can help with loss

I hope that by sharing my experience around the loss of a loved one and highlighting a tendency at times to put things off to a time in the future may serve to bring awareness to you should you need it. So you too can start to live your life to the most every day going forwards, and, when that final day comes, as it will for all of us, you can say I lived a life where I took every opportunity to embrace happiness.

When you lose someone or something you love, it can feel like the world is ending. You lose the desire to do the things that used to make you happy, and you often can’t find the motivation to take on more challenging tasks. Dealing with grief can be a difficult experience for us all, however, you can’t hide away from the world. You have to face your fears and learn how to cope with this loss.

Although you can’t replace your loved one or whatever it is you have lost, such as a  pet, a job or a long-term relationship you can learn how to combat the suffering. It is possible to decide that you want to feel joyful each day, instead of living in pain.

Should you wish to know more about how coaching could assist you why not book a discovery call to find out more?