I promise, this is an uplifting post. Part of the Radical Humans Series
The fastest way to determine what you truly value is to be confronted with death. We see it all the time in movies and in fantastical stories of near death experiences. People waking up to the fact that they are mortal and all of a sudden making drastic changes in their careers, lives, relationships, the works.
But I’d rather that you didn’t have to get in a near fatal car crash, or have a friend commit suicide, or be diagnosed with terminal cancer in order to get the kind of clarity that they portray these characters having in the movies.
The next best thing that I know of is a simple yet profound exercise from Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective people. And it goes like this. Write the eulogy that you hope will someday be given at your funeral. And really imagine the ceremony as if you were there, with the people saying the things you hope they’ll say.
That’s really all there is to this exercise. It will illuminate quickly what you truly care about.
The real work starts after you’ve clarified who you want to be - or what impact you want to have on others - because at this point you get to determine whether you’re living that right now. If you are, congratulations. You’re living on purpose in a way that few achieve. If you’re not, no worries, you can start right now.
If your eulogy says you were kind, but in the present moment you’re bitter, now would be a good time to do some grieving and get a tune up for your life. If your eulogy says you always had time for your loved ones, but right now you’re working late hours at the office, time to look at your beliefs. And if your eulogy says you were courageous in the face of adversity but right now you’d rather just watch Netflix, it’s time to do some change and deconditioning work.
You can revisit this practice from time to time to do a quick check up with my centering question. Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and ask yourself “if I knew I was going to die tomorrow, what would I do today?” Sometimes I think we should all ask ourselves this question every morning. Because the world needs people to go on living, but not in the same dreary day to day lives as always. The world needs people to go on living lit up and on fire about how amazing it all is. I hope you’ll join me as one of those torch bearers. Lighting the way for others with your inspiration and passion.