Reaper Repellant Part 1: How to Keep the Grim Reaper at Bay

Let’s be clear from the get-go: the Grim Reaper is coming for you. No spoiler alert is required for that bit of juicy gossip! Yeah, you’ve got about 4,000 Mondays in this lifetime and chances are you’ve used up a hefty sum of them already. (I’ve used up more than half of my Mondays, so you’re not the only one on a downhill slope to the morgue.)

Grim is out there, watching you, licking his lips every time a piece of you dies inside. Picture chum thrown into shark-infested water. He comes circling for you when your life starts to get a little necrotic, my friend. When you slip into autopilot (a.k.a.: when your existence starts to feel a little lackluster, boring, ho-hum, humdrum, sleepy, dull, disenchanting—I could go on with more synonyms, but life is too short and WE ARE ALL DYING) . . . it whets the Reaper’s appetite and once he’s smelled blood, well, you’d might as well start digging your own grave.

But the good news is that I am here to help you avoid get snuffed out by Grim!

Wake the F Up to Life Before You Die!That’s not totally true. Quick fact check moment: I cannot prevent you from dying. I am not a vampire, even though I have a penchant for wearing black and garlic upsets my digestive system. I am overly educated in positive psychology, alarmingly immersed in death studies (yes, that’s a thing), and personally acquainted with what it takes to squander our time (been there, done that) vs. live a life worth living (definitely worth it). Because it’s my life’s mission to wake us the fuck up to life while we’re lucky enough to be above ground (check out my new fancy doodle!), I have decided to assemble some of the best research together for you on living the liveliest version of your life.

Here are the first three ways (in a three-part series) to piss the Grim Reaper off, which in turn will help you like your life so very much more . . . until he shows up on your doorstep.

Reaper Repellant #1:
Get new parents (or, take happiness into your own hands).

Your genetics are responsible for 50% of your subjective life satisfaction, which means that your miserable mom and your downer dad have, in fact, dealt you a shit card in the Game of Life. If you can time travel back in a DeLorean, un-do history, and pick happier parents (and slimmer ones, while you’re at it), definitely do that.

But if you can’t, research indicates that we don’t have to fold our cards and remain disenchanted with life. A full 40% of our capacity to be happy is within our control, and we can juice up our experience of being alive by deliberately turning the dial up on positive emotions. Said way better: we can rig our happiness! (If you’ve been sitting around waiting for happiness to happen to you, well, that explains a lot, doesn’t it? I too resent that we have to work at creating “the good life,” but them’s the breaks.)


  • Accept that you are the boss of your Happiness Quotient. Awareness is the precursor to change . . . this acceptance might just motivate you to take joy by the reins?
  • Pick a positive emotion to pursue this week (e.g.: love, inspiration, interest, pride, joy, serenity, laughter, etc.) and intentionally go after it. Make a list of 10 ways to feel that emotion and go live that list. Yes, it can be that simple.
  • Read more in my Are You Letting Yourself Be Happy article, where I served you a slice of the happiness pie.
  • Read more of psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky’s work on the How’s of Happiness.

Reaper Repellant #2:
Pull the plug on your dead-end job.

Your life is too short to spend 80,000 of your valuable hours in a job that makes you feel anything less than alive.

If you’re in a dead-end job, you must summon up the courage to end it before it ends you (yes, in a potentially life-ending sort of way). The Reaper salivates when you settle and tolerate a job that stabs your soul, because the unfunny thing about a relentlessly crappy job is that it leaks over into other parts of your life and pollutes them, too. Don’t let your lousy job make the Reaper’s job infinitely better, because that just feels sad all around, doesn’t it?


  • Read more about this hefty topic in the article where I talked about When Work Is Killing You.
  • Draw a pie chart with three pieces of pie: allocate one piece for whatever percent of your time your job deenergizes you, one piece for the amount of time your job is a neutral force in your life, and the third piece for how much time your job energizes you. If that third piece isn’t massive, then ask yourself if you need to change, your job needs to change, or both. (You may then eat the pie.)
  • Ask yourself what you’d do if every job paid the same. I know it’s hokey, but could you arrange your life to do that, even if it meant making less money? What is your happiness worth to you? (You die a little bit inside every time you say you’re “stuck in this job for the money,” FYI.)
  • Reach out to a career coach. I know amazing ones if you have zero clue where to start; use the contact form on this website and send me an SOS! It feels so much better to run to an exciting new job than to run from a job that’s killing you slowly but surely.

Reaper Repellant #3:
Put a fork in Parkinson’s Law.

The Grim Reaper gets all giddy when you drag things out to fit the time you believe you have to complete the task at hand.

You know you do this: you have two weeks to put a proposal together at work, and instead of putting your head down and hammering it out over a couple of days, you chip away at it over 14 excruciating days, belaboring it, overthinking it, inefficiently dragging it out while ruining your life in the process. That’s Parkinson’s Law . . . score one for the Grim Reaper!

Parkinson’s Law can apply to the way you approach life, not just the tasky bits on your to-do list. Are you dragging out the things you say you want to do, because you believe you have countless Mondays left to write your novella . . . to travel to Tofino . . . to go back to school . . . run that 10k, etc.? Drive a stake into the heart of this Law and approach your life with a heightened sense of urgency.


  • Count your remaining Mondays (if math makes you feel dead inside, it’s okay—there’s a calculator at the top of this page). This scarcity exercise can help light a fire underneath you to prioritize and take action on the things you long to do.
  • Read more in my How to Stop Parkinson’s Law from Wrecking Your Life article, where I came down rather harshly on this topic of delaying our lives.
  • Read even more in my Are You Waiting to Live Time is ticking and we can’t have that novella stuck inside your head when the Reaper snuffs the life out of you.

Reaper RepellantCheers to staying alive until next Monday for Part Two! (And don’t just “hang in there” for the week— that makes you Reaper bait. Look alive out there!)

Jodi Wellman

P.S.: A bonus way to fend off the Grim Reaper is to connect with me on Instagram.

P.P.S.: Oh and just in case you missed it… I’d love you forever if you took 16 minutes out of your life to watch my TEDx talk!


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