A few thoughts, starting with my two biggest fears:
BE AFRAID OF MEANINGLESSNESS
Remember the old TV program where you had 10 minutes in a supermarket to grab whatever you could? The woman was running up and down the aisles, looking for what is most valuable. She didn’t want to end up with a cartload of soap suds.
That show is a metaphor for life. There are eternal consequences. Each moment can be lived to the fullest — or wasted into nothingness. Life is serious business.
The ultimate human fear is to live without meaning. We all want to have an impact, to help others, to change the world. Try saying the words: “I’m happy being mediocre.” You can’t say it!
Remember the time you asked yourself, “What does it all add up to?” We have this moment of clarity, and then what do we do? We run for the ostrich hole, start playing tennis, put on the music, call up a friend.
Don’t run for the ostrich hole. Be afraid of being mediocre. Be afraid of not having self-respect. Be afraid of waking up one morning and saying to yourself: “What did I do with my life?”
Use this fear to inspire you to figure out what counts most in life. Then go get it.
FEAR OF MORTALITY
Each of us knows we will die one day. But we fool ourselves into thinking that those who die belong to a separate sector of humanity. “They are the mortal ones. We are immortal.” Underneath it all, we have this illusion.
Did you ever have a friend who died? Maybe he was 17 and got killed in a motorcycle accident. How did you react? “But I just talked to him yesterday! He can’t really be dead. He was so full of life!”
What does that mean — “It can’t be”? What we’re really saying is that it’s too close for comfort. I’m not in the mortal group. And now my friend is dead. That’s too close. It can’t be.
Realize that each of us can be dead in one minute. You don’t need an airplane crashing through the ceiling. You don’t need a heart condition. All it takes is one blood clot and … bang! These are the facts of life. But we don’t feel like looking at it. “I am immortal. Other people get mugged, other people die. Not me!”
When someone we know dies unexpectedly, we feel our own sense of vulnerability. It makes us think, “Am I using my time efficiently?”
Take a close look at your life history. Trace the years back, and see how well you’ve used your time. Often our past is a blur, and as you get older, this becomes even more pronounced.
We all have a clock ticking and don’t know how long it’s going to run. How many years do you figure you have left? Don’t think it’s open-ended. Someday you will have only one year left. And someday you will have only one day left. So plan for it now. As the Sages say: “Put your life on track one day before you die.”
Some Jews have the custom of visiting their future burial plots once a year, usually before Rosh Hashana. Why? It’s not morbidity. It makes the point clear: “I am mortal, and this is where I’ll end up. So what do I want written on my tombstone?”
Live every day as if it’s your last — because one day it will be. Tick, tick, tick..
Oddly enough, I’ve never used either fear to motivate me to do anything. Pushing them out of my head has always been much easier. However, it has recently been brought to my attention that a fear of failure has a bigger grip on me than I originally thought. This fear of failing is what’s caused me to achieve nothing more than mediocrity, and only now am I realizing this. I’m not sure what’s next for me in this life, but there are a few things I can take from this article (have I mentioned how much I dig Rabbi Noah Weinberg?):
Walk with a constant awareness of God. Everything is recorded on videotape. Are we maximizing life’s opportunity, or are we wasting it? One day we’ll have to answer for our actions.
That fear can motivate you to greatness.
And, of course, the article summary:
- Fear helps you do what’s right, not what society thinks is right.
- Fear gets you in touch with your own mortality; death is the most potent fear.
- Fear is an exercise in free will.
- Be afraid of a meaningless old age. If you live as though there will always be a tomorrow, then you’ll never make much of today.
- Fear is not restricting. Fear is power and freedom.
- With fear, you can feel the thrill of life 100 percent of the time.
Basically, I need to get to a point where my fears of insignificance and mortality are at the forefront of my mind to motivate me, not somewhere pushed to the back where I can ignore them. The later leads to mediocrity, and who wants that?
You know what the worst part of my recent introspection is? I’ve reached a point in life where there’s a country song I can relate to. If that isn’t rock bottom, then I hope to never reach the real thing!