You get one death bed point whenever you do something that you believe will still be valuable and meaningful to you when you’re on your death bed.

Toss out your goals, toss out your desire to change. Step back for a moment with me. Believe me, it’s not easy for me to say this. I built 43things.com because I believed then that managing goals was the best way to live life. I built healthmonth.com because I believed then that answering the question “How do we change ourselves?” was the single most important question we could ask ourselves during this life.

I’m strongly considering an alternative to this way of thinking. Follow this train of thought with me for a bit.


Start here.

Remember, you will die.

Your loved ones will die. Your friends, your family, everyone you know, will die. I know, nobody really appreciates when I bring this up, it’s a total buzzkill.

Mortigo is that sensation of falling that I get when I strongly consider my mortality. When I truly grasp, in the moment, that my life and everything I’ve known will blink away in a matter of decades, if not years, if not hours, and I will cease to exist.

Nick Crocker mentioned to me the other day that in his startup, Sessions, which helps people get healthy with the support of a coach, he can often tell when someone’s going to succeed if they’ve recently had a strong “mortality moment”. Either someone close to them died, or they had a close call themselves, or they recently had a child and realized that they need to stay healthy for them, etc. Without that mortality moment, many of us want to change, but don’t actually have enough reason to do it.

These mortality moments, these moments of mortigo, are an untapped source of sustainable, renewable, long-term motivation. Can you self-induce a moment of mortigo in yourself? Right now?

If you can, consider that motivation in the context of:

  1. Gaining insight into the things that are most important to you, that you want others to understand about yourself. Basically, quality alone time.
  2. Spending more quality time with your favorite people. The people you live for. Who are they?
  3. Working on projects related to your deepest interests. The passions you live for. What are they?

Spend quality time with yourself, your favorite people, and your strongest interests. Wholeheartedly dive into these relationships and projects, and contribute your true self to them.

Which relationships and projects are thriving?

Which ones are being neglected?


Top 5 regrets of the dying [link]
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself not the life others expected of me.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
5. I wish I had let myself be happier.

Turn that around and play this game, let’s call it the Death Bed Game.


Rules of the Game

Give yourself 1 point when you do something that counter acts one of these regrets of the dying.

  1. 1 point when you get quality alone time, diving into your own unfiltered, real self.
  2. 1 point when you spend quality time with your favorite people.
  3. 1 point when you get in the flow working on something you’re really interested in.

I track them with my SMS private journal, Peabrain. But you could share them verbally, just think about them before bed, put them on your calendar, write them in a book, post them to Twitter or Facebook… do whatever you want that works.

I’ve been doing this for a couple weeks and I get about 5 points a week. It has shifted how I think about the day.

I don’t take time to myself for granted.I don’t go to work without thinking about how I can do my most meaningful work. I don’t come home without thinking about how I can have the best quality time with my wife and son. I don’t go out with friends without thinking about how I can connect and share with them on a real level.

I’m still pretty bad at this game, though. The point of writing it out is make it a little more real to my brain. And I guess to see what others think about it. [hint: leave comments!]

Making goals and changing my habits might naturally emerge from the people and interests, as a way to increase the quality of my relationships and interests, but they are not the end in themselves.

My world is turned a bit upside down by this line of thinking. It might very well be obvious to everyone else.

On my death bed, these are the things I imagine finding valuable and meaningful about my life. It might be different for you. Think about it, find out what those things are and consider trying to get more of them.

Before it’s too late. Dun dun DUN.


Let me know what you think of this in the comments or on Twitter. I’m @buster.