How Living With a Death Clock Has Changed Me — and How It Can Change You Too

Learning how to live by learning how to die.

Photo by Andy Kerr on Unsplash
You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.
— Marcus Aurelius

Are you lacking a sense of urgency and purpose?

Do your priorities feel out of whack?

Have you struggled to figure out how to get more out of your time and efforts?

A death clock — a clock that’s counting down to the (theoretical) end of your life — could provide the answers you’re looking for and more.

Because it has for me.

This video explains how, but if you’re unable to watch, its transcript is below…


Learning How to Live by Learning How to Die

As I’m recording this, I’ve been living with the death countdown clock for a couple months or so, and I thought this would be a good time to share some initial thoughts, feelings and experiences I’ve had so far.

I figure not only is this a good way for me to reflect on what’s been going on, but it could also help you decide if a countdown clock might work for you.

What follows are four of the biggest lessons I’ve learned…

Lesson 1: There Was an Immediate Shift in Urgency

As I mentioned in a previous video, “To Overcome Your Fears, You First Must Own Up to Them,” one of my biggest worries was that I wouldn’t have a positive reaction to the countdown clock.

I’d either be unaffected by it, or I’d be too affected by it.

And either way, I’d end up feeling bad about myself.

Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case.

The moment I started the clock, there was a positive shift. And that was due to the descending seconds.

That was the first thing I noticed — those seconds ticking off, one by one.

I don’t know…I felt this flutter, this nervous energy. But it was a good thing.

For the first time, maybe ever, I had a sense of urgency.

Obviously, I’ve always understood that, at some point, I’m going to die. And I’ve understood that I’m always getting closer to that point.

But it’s not something that ever felt real, or that fully registered. It was more of this abstract concept.

But not anymore.

With the countdown clock, when it comes to understanding that my time is limited, seeing truly is believing.

Lesson 2: I Don’t Have THAT Much Time Left

I started my countdown by entering my birthday into the Google Chrome extension, the Death Clock.

For awhile, I didn’t bother figuring out what my projected date of death was. Because again, I was so moved by those decreasing seconds.

Finally, though, I decided to do the math to see what day it was predicting.

Oct. 2, 2054.

I’ll be 77 years old.

It’s weird, because when I think about it, so much of that feels like a long ways away.

The year 2054 feels like a long ways away.

Being 77 feels like a long ways away.

But 37?

Thinking I’ll only be around for 37 more years?

That struck a nerve with me.

Maybe it’s because I’ve already been alive for more than 37 years, so I know what 37 years feels like.

Or maybe it’s because it means I’m past the halfway point. I’m over the hill, but didn’t know it.

Don’t get me wrong, I know I’m getting older. I see my gray hair on the floor at the barber, and I notice the aches and pains after my workouts — or after coughing.

But I don’t feel old. I don’t feel like I’m a few years into my second half, into my back nine.

For so long, it seemed like my whole life was out in front of me. And now the majority of it could be behind me.

That’s scary, because I didn’t do that much with my first 37 years.

But my hope is that this will prove to be inspirational, so I’ll do what I have to do to make the most of my last 37.

Lesson 3: My Priorities Were (Way) Out of Whack

Not long after I started the clock, during one of my morning meditations, my mind drifted away from my mantra in two vastly different directions:

To this video series, and to my fantasy football team.

One of those clearly should take priority over the other. But unfortunately, I haven’t always been clear as to which.

I may talk a good game about wanting to be productive and to work my way up in the world, but too often my actions say something different.

Whenever I have a few free minutes, I’m much more likely to get on Twitter than I am to work on anything creative.

But thankfully, the countdown clock has made me reassess my priorities.

More and more, before diving headfirst into a mindless activity, I’ve found myself asking, “What’s the best use of my time?”

That’s the question that popped into my head when I came out of that meditation session.

And while I did still check something for my fantasy football team, I did it only after I’d jotted down the idea I had for this video series.

Lesson 4: This Isn’t for Everyone — and That’s OK

My wife, Emily, and I are alike in so many ways.

We have the same values, and the same sense of humor.

We enjoy the same movies and TV shows.

We share the same belief that popcorn isn’t complete unless it’s mixed with M&Ms.

But when it comes to the countdown clock, we are worlds apart.

While Emily understands why I’m doing it, she’s not wild about this experiment.

She doesn’t want to think about that, at some point, I’m going to die. It gives her anxiety. It’s too hard for her and stresses her out.

Which, I guess, in a way, is flattering for me.

But it was also a reminder that the countdown clock isn’t for everyone.

Not everyone wants or needs to think about the end. Doing so might seem silly or unnecessary to them.

Or it might scare them, or depress them, or put too much pressure on them.

And I get that. I get that we all need something different.

Fortunately, living with a countdown clock has helped me in countless ways. It’s helped get me moving, and rethink my priorities, and start taking steps to get the most out of my life.

And the only thing that matters is that you find what does the same for you.

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Originally published at The Mission.