Last week I wrote a blog post about living the life you want, by crafting the ending first. I followed that up with a post identifying six questions to ask to ensure your life matters.
I went through my own exercise, answering each of the six questions, in order to define the ending I want for my life’s story. It was hard–really hard.
My answers revealed to me that how I am currently living my life will not achieve the ending I want.
Here is how I answered my questions:
If I found out I were going to die in one hour, what would be my regrets?
I prioritized these, in descending order.
1. I am not connected with Mary the way I want. I want to be best friends. I want to support and encourage her. I want connection, and vulnerability, and to dream together. Even on my best days, I fall very (very) short.
2. I am not as encouraging and positive with my daughters as I want to be. I want to be quick to point out the things they do right, and very (very) slow to point out what they do wrong. I’m better at this, but still have a long way to go.
3. I have wasted too much time trying to find meaning, value and significance. I have defined myself in terms of my accomplishments, seeking to derive value from what I have to offer the world.
How many people do I want at my funeral?
I want a small, but intimate funeral. I want people who know me deeply, and who have done life together with me. I don’t want a big mass of strangers at my funeral. I don’t like big crowds while I’m living, so this one seems like a no-brainer (yet I was still surprised by my answer).
What emotions do I want people to feel at my funeral?
After the sadness that I will no longer be around and a part of people’s lives, I want people to feel delighted, happy and excited as they tell stories and remember my life. I want them to remember the love and connectedness they felt with me. I want them to feel excited, challenged, and inspired, as they remember my life.
What do I most want people to miss about me?
I want people to miss the authentic connection they had with me.
What stories do I want people to tell at my funeral?
I want stories to be told of the adventures I went on, by the people who experienced them with me. I want my family to recall the whimsy we experienced on a regular basis. For the most part, these stories have yet to be lived. I tend to play it safe, and avoid risk and whimsy.
What accomplishments do I want people to remember?
My work with Gambella is definitely something I am proud of, as is the volunteer work that I do with a men’s organization I am involved with. Before doing this exercise, I thought I wanted to be remembered for my work with poor villages, and for leading and challenging others to make a difference in their worlds too. I thought maybe I would build this blog readership up, or even write a book, and inspire many people.
What I found though, after answering these questions, is that none of these accomplishments are what I really want to be remembered for. I want to be remembered for having the courage to look my fears in the face, and for forging deep connections with my wife, kids, and a few close friends.
I feel sick
I can’t think of anything worse than getting to the end of your life, and realizing you have wasted it–that’s how I started my post outlining these six questions to ask yourself to ensure you live a life that matters.
After answering my own questions, I can clearly see that if I were to die today, I would feel like I had wasted my life–and it is an awful feeling.
I have some hope though. I am not writing this from my death bed, but I have been afforded a look back at my life as though I were. These questions have allowed me to see that the ending I have been writing, is not one that I really want–just the one I thought I wanted. I still have time to change the ending.
How do I create a middle, that leads to the end I have just identified? I’m not sure yet, but I will be working on it. I will need to cut out some things that don’t lead to the ending I want, and replace them with things that do. I don’t know what that looks like right now, but this blog may be one of the things that get cut.
Have you answered these questions for your own life? Were you as surprised by the results as I was? Share your thoughts in the comments section.