7 Steps to Live Your Ideal Eulogy

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Lara Blair of The Extraordinary, Simple Life.

eulogy

We’ve all heard it before:

We don’t sit on our deathbeds wishing we’d spent more time at the office. We don’t get to the end wishing we’d bought more stuff. 

Yet, why do we pay more attention to our résumé, our status, our possessions and portfolios than we do to the legacy we leave here during our short time on this planet?

What if you took a few minutes today to write an ideal eulogy for your own funeral?

Go ahead. You can picture yourself super old with more life experiences than you ever thought imaginable. You can envision a happy, yet sniffling, crowd who knows you lived an incredible, full life. You can even visualize multiple pews of family members crying happy tears because you fulfilled your life’s dreams.

But what would the words being spoken about you say?

I think the answer to this question is best answered by a quote from Margaret Young:

Often people attempt to live their lives backwards, they try to have more things or more money in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are. Then do what you need to do in order to have what you want.

Being who you really are and doing what you were put on this earth to do is what makes an amazing eulogy. With that said, I believe that an ideal eulogy-worthy life is more attainable when we choose simplicity.

Because the days are long and the years are short, we often lose sight of how this journey will look when we reflect at the end. We don’t recognize that our daily choices will greatly affect the big picture we’re painting with our life.

One of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff, has a poignant section in his book Start called “The Plane Crash”. He talks about creating a pretend, life-ending disaster in your head and asking yourself the question, “If I died today, what would I regret not being able to do?” A little morbid, but effective.

Of course, the real question that comes out of this exercise is “Are those the things I’m doing right now?” Near-death experiences can have that effect on us. I have watched a dear friend come back from advanced breast cancer and the changes she’s made in her life have been amazing to watch. But the good news is we don’t have to go down these scary roads to live a life worthy of the best darn eulogy imaginable. We can make those changes today.

Personally, I have been thinking a lot about what my eulogy would say. And I’ve been noticing some serious room for improvement.

Consider this list of 7 steps for all of us to live our ideal eulogy:

1. Be intentional, mindful and vigilant about daily choices.

This is especially true when it comes to relationship investment and use of time. Life on purpose doesn’t happen when social media is the dominant form of connection or when stuff accumulation/organization takes up more time than family adventures and bonding over meals. Fighting habits that breed stagnation can be one of the best things you ever do for a happy looking-back-picture of life.

2. Love loudly, deeply and fully.

I’ve never had regrets about ambushing my reluctant teens with bear hugs, nor have I wished away all those love notes discovered in lunch boxes. I’ve tried with success and failure to love the people in my life according to their love languages. I don’t want anyone in my life to question just how much I appreciate what their presence has done for me in my journey. This is the most true of my husband—a person who brings so much joy to our lives. It’s imperative that the most important person in our world understands the magnitude of our devotion and appreciation. Isn’t this what the whole deal is about? Relationships? Invest massive amounts in them.

3. Give without hesitation or regret.

Looking back, I can honestly say that the moments my heart felt the lightest and most full was when I was giving out of sacrifice. There’s something that happens inside a person when you’ve done something for another human simply because you want to see him/her/them happy and thrive. I honestly wish that sacrificial giving came easy to me and that there wasn’t a day that went by where I wasn’t lovingly offering what I had to someone else. I know that this is one of the biggest answers to the questions in regards to life’s meaning, yet it doesn’t take enough precedence in my day to day.

4. Acknowledge that downtime is important and schedule it diligently.

We’re busy by default. The good news is we have a great deal of control of what enters our life and 100% authority on how we react to it. We could learn a lot from rose-smelling cultures in other countries. How many episodes of Caribbean Life must I watch to incorporate some island time into my Northwest suburban world? The influential presence of a fishermen perched on the edge of the shore is not required for me to take an hour to sit in a hammock with the hub to do a crossword puzzle. We are people who pencil things in over here. There is all kinds of right in the act of scheduling time to simply be.

5. Choose an attitude of optimism and hope.

The aforementioned 100% authority over our reactions applies here. It’s so easy to react, yet responding to circumstance with a hopeful heart takes work. I’ve actually had to learn to reprogram my thought process when dealing with the unexpected. Sunshine and roses is not my default, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to let the hand-wringing tendencies win. There are some awesome expect-the-best people in my life and I look to them when adversity strikes. They set the example and I’m willing to be their apprentice.

6. Invest in experiences to create lasting memories with loved ones.

I don’t recommend an Airstream purchase to everyone, but I have to say it has done wonders for our quest for intentional family bonding. Trips (with or without trailer) have proven to provide adventure and intentional communication. My first choice would have been to travel the country for a year in this metal tube, but it wasn’t in the cards. The next best thing for us has been scheming a get-away as often as we can—especially when we’re witnessing our schedules and device usage getting in the way of family communication.

7. Run my own race.

How many times has there been added stress to our lives because we incessantly look side to side during our jog to the metaphorical finish line? The internet is a wonderful thing. You wouldn’t be inside my head right now reading these thoughts if it ceased to exist. Yet, there are far too many opportunities to jaunt over and see what Susie/Joe/The Jones’ are up to on their site/blog/FB page. Steven Furtick said it best: “We’re comparing our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.” Facebook is the ultimate breeding ground to manifest insecurity for me. It was a total distraction, so I had to turn it off in order to run my own race. Part of owning our own fantastically complicated, unique story is creating it without distraction from the cheap seats.

Here’s the best news: It’s never too late to redesign a life that leaves a legacy. What will the somber person at the podium say about how you lived your life?

***

Lara Blair blogs at The Extraordinary, Simple Life where she encourages others to make every day count. You can also find her on Twitter.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. Liz says

    Just a big thank you for the guest posts. It’s great, every few days there is a fresh story with perspectives that are diverse. Thanks Joshua.

  2. says

    Incredibly well written. It’s unfortunate that any times it takes an unfortunate event to remind us what is important in our lives. Many times, those changes we apply go away quickly as the event or situation distances itself. The words intentional and deliberate are my constant reminders not to jump off track. Great post.

  3. says

    Very well written. Thank you.

    3. Give without hesitation or regret.
    If I may add: …or “Strings”. Expect nothing in return and do not make the recipient feel pain for needing help.

    • Nancy says

      Our pastor explained this as “Offer grace – Demand nothing in return”. This is a humbling experience for both sides but also gives joy to both!

    • says

      Excellent point, Jim. I will add that to my own list. It’s so true that many give with an expectation in mind from another. I have been guilty of this at times and I really try not to have this mindset. Thank you for the reminder!

  4. says

    This is such an interesting perspective and one that those of us in our twenties don’t really take time to consider. I especially love number 6. It is a goal of mine to make/create experiences for myself and my family in order to live a more intentional life.

    • says

      Thank you, Steven. I totally agree that my environment reflects what’s going on in my head. For instance, I can’t be creative in the kitchen if there’s a ton of dishes on the sink, stuff on the island. It’s all about white space for me.

  5. says

    Thinking about your death daily to live life more fully is a Buddhist philosophy that I am a big proponent of. If you lived life as if it were your last day on this planet, you would live it in a really different manner. Thank you for the post.

    • says

      One of my favorite quotes: “Was what you did today worth trading a day of your life for?” Because if you really think about it–we’re all one day down when we put our heads on the pillow. Was it live-my-life-well day? Thanks for your kind words.

  6. says

    Lara,

    Great insight! I recently had a similar epiphany when I asked the question, “what would my 80-year old self advise me to do in this situation?”

    It is a great perspective to help us to make choices for what really matters in this life.

    blessings,
    John
    http://www.thehillofbeans.com

  7. says

    Hmmm, Eulogy…

    There was a time when a friend died. Everyone was moody. Later, my on-and-off girlfriend back then slipped to my side and said to me, ” I was thinking to myself, ‘ If I died now, how would [Tope] feel?'”

    The Truth is, I am thinking something similar. But I was thinking much deeper. Like, how many people would miss me? What would I be remembered for? And more…

    I still shudder sometimes when such thoughts come to mind.

    Definitely, there is still a lot to be done.

    And I’d better start now.

    • says

      Now is the best time, isn’t it Tope? We really never know and that’s a scary thing. Just today the custodian at my school’s husband was t-boned in a very small car. We’re not sure how it’s going to end. Why not be put yourself in the shoes of people who would miss you? It puts everything into perspective. Thanks for reading—I hope the starting part is easy for you. :)

  8. says

    I believe the reason we focus on accomplishments of all sorts is because we have been raised thinking that’s what matters. It’s hard to detangle oneself from those beliefs.

    Scheduling downtime is the one habit I still need to work on.

    Thank you for this nice post!

    • says

      That one is my hardest step also. I feel guilt when I have hammock time and just read. Especially when other members of my family (who shall remain nameless) are buzzing around the yard like a whirling dervish with a weed wacker. Downtime is a right, not a privilege, yes?! We all need it. We could learn so much from other countries along this line. Whenever I got to Italy it somehow becomes part of me (with no guilt, funny enough) and I relish every second. The trick is bringing a little Italy home with me in the overhead bin :) Thanks for reading!

  9. says

    Still cannot comprehend why so much attention/time is spent on social media and sharing what one does with their time. Are they bragging or what? From what I’ve read, they need to read this book and find a life worth living and loose the electronics.

    As far as what people do remember about me? Hopefully, that I was the best wife, mother, and friend possible, with a sincere smile/laugh, possessed integrity and ambition, and an asset to everyone and everything my life touched. I have no plans for a celebration of life upon my death as I celebrate life each day! Why wait until then? My life has been lived gracefully, fully and without self-promotion or regret. I’ve been blessed.

    • says

      “I have no plans for a celebration of life upon my death as I celebrate life each day! Why wait until then?”
      Beautifully said, Susan. It shouldn’t all come at the end, after we’re gone–you’re right. It should be reflected in the hearts of the people who are interacting with you RIGHT NOW. You sound like a woman who dwells in gratitude. That’s a beautiful place to be. Best to you!

  10. Melissa says

    Josh,

    I love your blog and the guest posts, too. But I must comment that the quote Lara has attributed to someone named Margaret Young is actually straight out of Shakti Gawain’s book, Creative Visualization, p. 36.

    Thanks!

    • says

      Goodness! Don’t believe everything you read on the internet, right? Thanks for clarifying that, Melissa. ‘Appreciate it.

  11. joan says

    I so wish that in many posts like this, the authors didn’t assume everyone had living family members or other close loved ones to love, hug, leave notes for etc. I’m sorta going along, happily enough, and then read posts like this re spending more time with loved ones …bonk, don’t have. Will die lonely is the implication.

    Joan, age 73, retired Diplomat, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer etc.

    • says

      Joan,
      Point taken. My writing naturally dwells in the place that I am in life. I do want to say that anyone who has devoted their life to service with a career as a diplomat and Peace Corps volunteer leaves a legacy so much bigger than any one room could hold. What you’ve given of yourself resides in the hearts/lives of the recipients in the now and beyond. In my opinion, that’s the best kind of gift you can leave on this earth.

  12. Ann says

    Read this at exactly the right time, I’m away from my 45 hour a week grind in the corporate world for some time off. The first time off for more than a weekend in about 9 months. This was such a necessary read for me this week, taking it to heart.

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