freemindOne of my favorite writers coined a phrase I find to be deceptively simple:

“Death the high cost of living.”

While I don’t think it’s healthy for people to have on their radars their imminent death, I do think that sometimes we forget just how easy it is to run out the clock, and to let life flow to its inevitable conclusion. It’s heart-breaking to see people waste their lives, but for me one of the greatest tragedies (in the developed world) is watching others with fantastic potential and genius allow themselves to die the slow Death by 1,000 Cuts.

What do I mean by that?

When life is uncomfortable enough, it spurs us to action and we feel compelled to make changes. Namely, to remove ourselves from an unbearable situation. However, when things are subtle, when the cuts and bruises are small, we believe we have to ‘grin and bear it’, ‘that’s life’, and our mettle is shown by how we well we take it on the chin.

While perseverance and long-suffering can be values, in one particular scenario this behavior hurts us beyond words: when we do not understand ourselves, when we are not understood by others, and when we think this is normal, unchangeable, and ‘just how life is’.

Each time we put ourselves in a situation that feels wrong for us but we don’t think we have permission to change it, that’s a cut. When we work a job that is clearly not meant for us, or we stay in a relationship with another person who fundamentally misunderstands us… these are all cuts. By themselves, they are survivable. As they stack, however, they break our spirit and our will and we ask – who is this person I’ve become? What life did I choose for myself? Do I even have control over my decisions anymore, or am I perpetually on auto-pilot? And if I took control, would I even know what to do with the wheel?

We see this Death by 1,000 Cuts play out over and over and over again. Now, usually the solution to this issue is called the ‘purpose of life’ – to “know thyself.” That is, to spend a lifetime getting to know who you are. And while that’s a great mission, we have a slightly different take on this.

To get from New York, NY to Los Angeles, CA you can either walk or take a jet plane. Both will get you there, but one does so with enough speed and efficiency that it affords you the opportunity to do far more traveling, all over the world in a lifetime if you’d like. This is one of the reasons why personality psychology is so amazing and truly helpful, not just a rainy day curiosity. It’s the jet plane strategy of “knowing thyself,” being able to put language to things that are so unconsciously natural to you they otherwise take a lifetime to figure out.

On top of that, having language to understand how your mind works gives you the ability to explain it to other people. So, not only can you “know thyself,” others can know you on a profound (and profoundly helpful!) level.

Think about how many “cuts” that prevents. Think about the increase in the quality of your life. Not just ‘taking it on the chin’, not just being on auto-pilot, but grabbing the wheel and knowing what to do with it.

This is why Personality Hacker is so dedicated to personality psychology. The power of knowing who you are frees up the mental real estate you’ve been applying to surviving life, and unleashes potential that may go unrecognized even by yourself.

Death may be the “high cost of living,” but Death by 1,000 Cuts is the high cost of not understanding yourself. Live your full potential, know your Genius, and live the highest quality of life a person can before ending this ‘mortal coil’.

What’s your opinion on this?


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  • Leonard
    • Leonard
    • August 14, 2014 at 11:46 pm

    “Death [is] the high cost of living.” – Maybe we should have this on our radar a bit more? It sure brings perspective in a society that would rather keep us distracted and perhaps even fearful. Life can be incredibly short.

    Your line " when things are subtle, when the cuts and bruises are small, we believe we have to ‘grin and bear it’, ‘that’s life’, and our mettle is shown by how we well we take it on the chin." sure struck a chord.

    For me those small cuts are insidious because I allow them to build to an enormous extent before taking action to fix things, far more than I would a larger single incident.

    You are right, personality psychology is a great tool to start making more effective, faster decisions and actions.

    A great post Antonia.

  • Barbara
    • Barbara
    • March 10, 2013 at 6:00 pm

    This is so beautifully profound. Never has the world been so thirsty for this information. Thank you for this gift of a less painful life!

  • Antonia Dodge
    • Antonia Dodge
    • April 21, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for the comment, Riesah.

    I totally agree that these cuts are self-mutilation, and that it’s up to the individual to make changes. They are usually bad choices we’ve brought upon ourselves… but since they are the choices we made, at the time we chose them they were what made the most sense. So… WHY were they the ones that made the most sense at the time? If they ultimately led to unhappiness, then clearly we didn’t have the tools or know-how to follow a path that would have been better for us. This post isn’t to absolve people from the responsibility of making better choices, but rather to point out 1) the cuts we give to ourselves aren’t a necessary part of life, and 2) there are tools and resources to heal them and prevent future ones.

    Can you be more specific about what examples you believe are exaggerated?


  • Riesah Prock
    • Riesah Prock
    • April 21, 2012 at 5:19 am

    Dear Antonia,

    I like your choice of subject here; however, what I feel called to say is this: reading your thoughts makes me think of self-mutilation, which in some of your examples, feel a bit exaggerated. From my personal and professional experience, these “cuts” originate more often than not from making poor choices. To make changes one needs to be willing and open to making better ones, through practice, through modelling oneself on others one admires perhaps, through experimentation. I changed some patterned behaviours by observing myself closely and then doing a 180, i.e. doing the opposite and discovering that such actions produced wonderful results for me. I encourage my clients to do the same.

    To make change requires one to come into a fuller state of consciousness, instead of being on autopilot, zoned out, distracted by everything and everyone. Coming into presence requires commitment, focus, willingness and a real kind of curiosity, along with lovingkindness for oneself.

    I think your personality work is great and recommend it. With all respect, I’m just not completely onside with the examples you’re citing here or how you’ve framed it.

  • Paul Counsel
    • Paul Counsel
    • April 18, 2012 at 3:58 am

    Greetings Antonia

    Totally agree with the sentiments you’ve expressed in this post and in my line of work I see exactly what you’re saying almost on a daily basis. The analogy between the “walk” to Los Angeles and the “jet plane” to LA is a good one… however many of the 1,000 Cuts revolve around the lifetime conditioning in of three money mindsets based on “earn”, “spend”, and “borrow”.

    Once these three money mindsets are conditioned in, the “cuts” keep coming which keeps people trapped into a lifetime of cuts because they can’t afford the fuel for the jet!

    In my world, helping people afford the fuel is mission critical to accessing the “jet”… and then living with more fulfilment and ease.

    Thanks for sharing your insights and wisdom once again


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