“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.”
- Henry David Thoreau
In the end, what really matters? That’s what Richard Leider, author of The Power of Purpose, wanted to know. He spent over twenty years interviewing people in the final years of their lives asking them: If you could live your life over again, what would you change? From this research 3 Universal Truths emerged:
1. They would have paid more attention to the big picture. They spent so much time being busy that life just seemed to pass them by.
2. They would have taken more risks. They wish they’d found work that was more meaningful to them, and the courage to be better friends, parents, sons and daughters.
3. They would have left a legacy. They wish they had made more of a difference.
Fortunately we don’t have to wait until our sunset years to make these discoveries. But, tragically many of us make these realizations closer to the back end of our lives rather than the front end.
In the seminal book Man’s Search for Meaning, Psychiatrist Viktor E. Frankl made some profound discoveries about the human condition while enduring years of unspeakable horror in Nazi death camps. He discovered that one’s fulfillment was determined largely by internal rather than external measures. At the core of his theories is the belief that man’s primary motivational force is his search for meaning. Does your life have purpose? Is it going in the right direction? Do you feel complete?
Many of us have grown up with a great deal of pressure to do, to accomplish, and to make a name for ourselves all in an effort to feel worthy in one way or another. At some point in our lives we may find ourselves asking what is the point of all this busyness, of all this striving, what race am I trying to win? Am I accomplishing all this stuff so I can receive some pats on the back or public recognition? Am I walking the path that aligns with my higher true self, does this fit who I really am, does it bring my joy?
Your 80th Birthday Party
So what kind of legacy do you want to leave behind? What is your soul’s higher purpose? Have you thought much about these questions? If not, here’s a fun exercise to help get inspiration flowing: Imagine it’s your 80th birthday party with all your loved ones, friends, and colleagues gathered around to celebrate with you. One by one they stand and give you a tribute. What would you hope to hear? Take a few minutes and write down some tribute statements that you would love to hear at the twilight of your life. This is a great, thought provoking exercise that can help you become more aware of what is truly important to you, to help you tap into the deep desires of your soul and to realize the kind of legacy you want to leave behind.
To help with the development of your tribute statements consider the following questions:
1) What activities energize me? What do I enjoy doing? How can I incorporate more of these kinds of activities into my life?
2) What activities can I let go of that deaden my spirit?
3) Is my ladder leaning against the wrong wall? Is it time for a career change in my life?
4) What relationships do I need to change and how I can I improve them?
5) How can I help those I love to be more in alignment with their soul’s purpose?
6) How can I make a difference in people’s lives? How can I make a difference in this world?
Taking the first step on this pilgrimage takes some courage, and it requires some faith to continue with the transformation process. But, for those sojourners who travel inward to the heart center and learn to hear and follow the inner guidance of their soul, they will find at the twilight of their lives that their regrets will be few and their joy will be great. And if you happen to be thinking that it is too late for you, remember, if you are still living my friend, it is never too late to tune into the wisdom of your heart.
(Excerpt from my book Thriving in Turbulent Times)
John's passion is in helping people get unstuck so they can experience their true potential. Before starting his own practice he spent 16 years coaching, consulting, and presenting to Fortune 500 companies, teams, and individuals on how to breakthrough their barriers and magnify their talents.