What we say matters.
But what we say isn't just a reflection of what we think -- in turn, what we say can actually shape the way we think, the way we feel, the way we respond to certain situations... what we say, to ourselves, matters.
That's one of the underlying premises of Stoicism, a practical philosophy that says while we can't control everything that happens, we can control how we respond to things that happen.
How you decide to respond, to whatever happens around you and to you, is up to you -- and responding the right way is a lot easier when you say the right things, especially to yourself.
Granted that's a little hard to do when you need to mentally respond to an alert on your phone that says, "When you look at a corpse you can always sense your own breath better."
Then again, I get plenty of practice.
WeCroak is an app that sends me five alerts a day at random times. The idea is based on a Butanese folk saying that in order to be happy you must contemplate death five times a day.
"You are encouraged to take one moment for contemplation, conscious breathing or meditation when WeCroak notifications arrive," the WeCroak folks say. "We find that a regular practice of contemplating mortality helps spur needed change, accept what we must, let go of things that don't matter and honor things that do."
That sounds like a lot for a 99-cent app to accomplish. But if you can look past some of the creepier quotes ("The other side of the 'sacred' is the sight of your beloved in the underworld, dripping with maggots" is a prime example), you might start to welcome those moments of mindfulness.
For example, I was about to ignore a request for advice (one of the 20 or so I get every day) when my phone dinged. "Remember that when you leave this earth, you can take with you nothing that you have received -- only what you have given: A full heart, enriched by honest service, love, sacrifice and courage." Yep. St. Francis of Assisi shamed me into responding.
Another time I had just written an email to send to the booker for an extremely popular podcast host (Hi Chris Hardwicke!) in hopes of doing his show to help promote my new book. I was about to delete it, though, since while I've done a number of great podcasts, the top echelon (at least in terms of popularity, not necessarily quality) have eluded me. It's hard to keep going in the face of rejection.
Then my phone dinged, almost on cue. "He who loses wealth loses much; he who loses a friend loses more; but he that loses his courage loses all." Cervantes is right, I said to myself. Boom. Sent.
A day later I was thinking about going for a bike ride. But it was really cold outside. And little damp. And I hadn't slept well the night before. And... and yeah. I had already put my gear back in the closet when my phone dinged. Victor Hugo: "It is nothing to die. It is frightful not to live."
Five minutes later I was out the door. And within minutes I was glad I had made myself go for a ride.
Steve Jobs said, "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life."
Lao Tzu said, "Your own positive future begins right in this moment. All you have is right here. Every goal is possible from here."
An app that reminds me that life is short in duration yet also limitless in potential is definitely worth the 99 cents.