The reality of my own mortality has played on my mind for a long time and in wanting to raise my level of thinking on a rather sobering subject, I’m looking inwardly hoping to learn something about how I can change my life for the better before my hopefully timely exit from this planet!
In Stephen Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People he states begin with an end in mind, and this resonated quietly with me. Our life is designed by us, and Nancy Kline pioneered the development of The Thinking Environment stating that to take time to think is to gain time to live.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Can you at least vaguely remember being asked this in school? Whilst this may have been asked with the very best intentions, imagine if instead we encourage children to take pride in their individuality, inspire them to think deeply and empower them to solve problems that matter to them.
Some socially conscious souls are already communicating with children through books that celebrate diversity, and parents and teachers alike are being more mindful of the language they use day to day. The jobs all of us think we might want to do now are not only skewed by societal expectations but with advances in automation and AI, may in any case not exist in the same way they do now in the future.
As Covey succinctly puts it are you today who you want to be, doing the things you want to do?
Tackling the who again in my late twenties I realize I am not a product of my environment or my decisions, and it’s time for me to dissect my character and principals a little further. Am I living with a healthy perspective? Can beliefs be limiting? How often do you think about the way you think? Isn’t it the case that it seems like little changes day to day but when you look back everything is different?Self-awareness is key.
Why is your reality the way it is now?
The philosophy of Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Sanskrit text of the Mahabharata, asks you to know the reality of the word you live in, and know you are your true self, not your body, and not your mind.
From 1946 until 1982 health was defined as a state of physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity by the World Health Organization. Spiritual health was recognized and only incorporated in this definition 1983 and is now well considered an important aspect of well-being.
The notion of Ikigai is a combination of ikiru, that means to live, and kai, the realization of what one hopes for. It is a valuable concept in Japanese culture meaning a reason for being. In Costa Rica the saying plan de vida describes a lifelong sense of purpose and is similar to the French expression raison d’être. Dan Buettner in his TED Talk gives the idea that social integration and a sense of purpose can actually help us live longer.
What do you want your legacy to look like?
You might not have considered what the answer to this question might look and sound like until now, but starting with your own funeral or, the Eulogy Exercise, will help you create greater perspective, understand your key long-term life goals and I promise it will be emotionally liberating.
Keep it to two paragraphs, the first being the Eulogy of a life of mediocrity, a continuation of a life you may be living now and another that addresses fulfillment, freedom and the relationships that matter to you the most.
Have the courage to create this, read it over again, let it register and notice the changes in you.
Characteristic of Victor Frankl’s pithy words in his deeply touching Man’s Search for Meaning he says,
Live as if you were living already for the second time and as if you had acted the first time as wrongly as you are about to act now!
Guided transcendental meditation is a holistic experience that anyone, any age, any religion can practice. Incorporate this technique with meditative mantras into your daily routine and let it bring about self discovery and peace. Journal the changes in you and notice what does surface.
Are you living true to yourself?
Acknowledge and honor your own truth by being the person you are. I want my nearest and dearest to say I was full of piss and vinegar, that my laugh reverberated around the room at every gathering and that I stood for causes higher than I once thought possible. From today I will make it my priority to live it.
I’ll take the opportunity to pay tribute to a man who lived his life so well, my father, Mark. It’s fair to say that in his case, regretfully death met denial. I wish he’d seen so many of his friends and family spilling out of the crematorium the day of his funeral, paying their respects to a wonderful young man who fought hard against a debilitating illness with great courage and an absence of fuss.
If you want to live fully and understand that difficult conversations are sometimes the most liberating, have dinner and talk about death and see what end of life care really matters to you.
Live your dash and enjoy the ride!