Most of us go about our lives on cruise control. Days turn into months and into years and we keep doing either the same kinds of things or variations of the same. The desire for more money, bigger homes, slicker toys and fancier vacations consume our existence and by extension our actions. Our desire to materialistically make the most out of our own lives and maybe those of our immediate family becomes the mainstay of our existence. At some point though, we’re all going to get to the point where we confront the last stage of this lifetime. That’s when the thoughts of how we will be remembered start cropping up and we realize there is so much more that we could have accomplished in this lifetime, especially as it pertains to doing something that’s much bigger than ourselves. So, here’s a question for you…what will the first line of your eulogy be?
The point here is not about what others think of us and by extension write in a eulogy for us. The point here is also not about being dissatisfied with our lives and complaining about not having more, but rather it is about aspiring to live our lives to our fullest potential (won’t say God-given...universe-given might be safer). As we self-assess our potential, we get caught up in our own perceived limitations. These perceived limitations start with our daily lives and keep magnifying as they consume our aspirations, dreams and life in general. On the daily front, it includes “I’m not a morning person” or “I can’t function properly without my morning coffee” and then the “I can’t” bleeds into our broader lives. There was a story in one of the earliest Chicken Soup For The Soul books that always stuck with me. An elementary school teacher (first or second grade) asked her students to write down on a piece of paper all the things that they believed they couldn’t do. Once everyone was done, she asked them to fold the pieces of paper and put them into a tin can. The class then went to the school yard, dug a hole and buried the tin can. She then told them that they had just buried all the things they couldn’t do in life, so everything that was left were ones they could do. What an incredibly powerful message for young, impressionable minds to embrace and internalize.
There is a perspective that people in near-death experiences have found themselves stopping short of a comprehensive and non-judgmental life review. The first question in that life review is “what did you do in this lifetime to improve the lives of others”? How would you respond to that question? If the quality of this lifetime is judged by the positive impact we have on others’ lives, what grade would we give ourselves? We are quick to give others a grade in this respect, because if we truly try answering this question we’re probably not going to be too happy with the grade we give ourselves. If you are an introspective kind of person and the question about the first line of your eulogy resonates with you, then the time to focus on this isn’t next year or next month or next week or even tomorrow, but right now. Life is too unpredictable to wait. All we can control is the effort we put into it and not the outcome, but the effort by itself is markedly more meaningful than not doing anything.