Editor’s Note: This is a guest post from Lara Blair.
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?