Using “Memento Mori” To Stop Holding Yourself Back

memento mori to stop holding yourself back

Memento Mori is a principle from stoicism that translates from Latin as “remember that you have to die” or “remember you must die“.

It sounds grim, and it sounds morbid, but it actually has helped me a lot with a couple of big decisions I’ve had to make.

So can you also try using Memento Mori to stop letting yourself be held back?

How Using Memento Mori Helped Me

Two things that did for me are:

  • it took away the significance of my fear of failure.
  • it also enhanced the worry about regret.

And let me explain that with a couple of examples.

Starting This Blog

I wanted to start putting out content at the start of lockdowns back in early 2020, but I kept getting nervous and anxious in front of the camera. And I kept feeling nauseated when I heard my own voice back on a recording.

To be fair that hasn’t gone away as much as I hoped it would.

And I also worried about what others would think. And that also hasn’t gone away.

And I haven’t explicitly told anyone I know in person that I started this site.

So if I do know you in person, congratulations on finding this little project of mine.

There were a couple of big blockers for me in terms of actually starting getting this blog off the ground.

But when I started looking into stoicism and I started using Memento Mori and realised, I’m going to die one day anyway, and I’ll take my failures with me if this bombs (which at the moment does seem more than likely).

And while I still carry those fears and anxieties, and that nausea from listening to my own voice with me, they don’t bother me anywhere near as much, because I know that in the grand scheme of things, they’re not important.

And I also started to realise if I don’t at least try, I’ll spend the rest of my life wondering what would have happened if I did try.

No More Wondering “What If”

Next up Memento Mori helped me make a very big decision recently. Depending on when this is reaching you, it may have already happened or it may be about to happen. And it’s something that I’ll cover in future content.

But it’s something that I’ve been thinking about for years. And it’s something that has always scared me and given me anxiety. And the thought of the process kept putting me off – I would get anxious as soon as I thought about it.

Memento Mori snuck up on me one day.

And reminded me that I’m going to die one day anyway. To quote Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, “all we can do is decide how to handle the time that’s given to us”.

And I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering “what if”, instead of living the experience.

So remembering that I’m going to die one day, taking all my failures with me, meant not wanting to spend the rest of my life wondering or with regret. So that was a big part of my decision-making process.

Using Memento Mori To Overcome Your Fears

Applying this principle does take some practice, but it’s worth thinking about if there’s anything in your life that you’ve been putting off because you’re scared of doing it, but you feel like you should do it, because you know you’re going to regret if you don’t do it.

A really good example is if you’re out there somewhere and you’re scared of setting foot in the gym because you’re worried about being made fun of or something like that.

And the question is, will you regret not taking that step of moving towards an active lifestyle if you don’t set foot in the gym?

We’re all just biding until death anyway.

So does the perceived idea of someone making fun of you – I chose those words carefully – perceived idea, so this hasn’t happened yet. This isn’t an actual real individual either. Just the idea in your head.

But does that perceived idea warrant the importance of you living a life where you have this regret hanging over you? As a side note, if someone is actually making fun of you, that’s a whole separate topic. There’s probably some protocol in place in the gym itself.

And if not, there should be.

But that’s just one example.

Are there any other decisions that you’re holding off because of fear that you know, that you’re going to regret not doing in future?

Taking Action Vs Being Reckless

It’s also worth remembering that Memento Mori does not mean being reckless. Definitely not.

Or you might be “Mori”-ing much more quickly than you thought.

What I’m saying is to apply it to stop letting fear be a factor in your decision-making process and to stop letting it hold you back, so that you don’t have to live with regret.

Deciding To Not Act

And lastly, remember that that also doesn’t mean that you have to act.

Being able to think something through, without that fear hanging over you and then deciding that it’s not the right course for you is also still applying that for you.

That means that you thought it through and you’ve decided that the potential regret doesn’t outweigh the opportunity that you’re looking at.

So that is Memento Mori in a nutshell.

memento mori to stop holding yourself back

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