I’ve had quite a bit of bad news in the past week; the kind of news that shakes your world like a snow-globe and as you watch the pieces settle, you realise that nothing is quite the same.
One of the most useful lessons I’ve learned when it comes to the pursuit of happiness is that sometimes crap happens and there’s nothing you can do to stop it.
Sometimes you can’t ‘affirm’ or ‘positive think’ your way out of sadness or pain.
And you shouldn’t try to.
That’s been the lesson for me: That the best way through pain is to let pain be.
So, in the spirit of letting it all be, I created a little cocoon for myself this morning. Cancelled appointments. Built a stack of poetry books. Filled my cupboards with comfort food. And created an inspirational playlist to watch on YouTube.
As I was watching the first of the videos on the list – an interview with the writer Brendon Buchard – he said something that stopped me right in my tear-streaked tracks.
The interviewer was wrapping things up and he asked Buchard if he had one piece of over-arching advice on how to live a fulfilling life.
Buchard replied that he would advise people to imagine themselves on their deathbeds, reflecting back on their lives.
‘What questions would you ask yourself on your deathbed to figure out whether or not you’d lived a good life?’ he said.
I grabbed a notebook and pen and pictured myself, hopefully many years from now, looking back on the life I’d lived. And I allowed myself to write completely freely.
Some of my questions really surprised me – but they immediately gave me a renewed sense of focus and purpose. And this is the whole point of the exercise. Buchard argues that having a deathbed perspective can actually help us live far more purposefully.
The questions that popped out from my deathbed-self were these:
- Did I give love enough of a chance? Did I chase after it, fearlessly?
- Did I give my all to the cause I feel most passionately about? Did I help people find inner freedom and peace by sharing all of the spiritual lessons I’ve learned?
- Did I mother my son fearlessly?
- Did I get to see all of the places I long to visit?
- Did I meet my soulmate – and did I put enough effort into finding him? (This one really surprised me as, after one failed marriage and one failed almost marriage, I truly believed I was happy being single!)
- Did I have the maximum amount of joy and fun and wonder?
- Did I let go of the negative stories from my past?
- Did I finally put down roots and buy a home that could be a secure base for my family?
- Did I have enough adventures?!
As I look at these questions now, I see that they form a great manifesto for living. So much so that I’m going to print them out and get them framed. To remind myself of what a precious gift this life is and how we owe it to ourselves and others to live it to the fullest.
If you do this exercise I’d love to hear the questions you come up with.
Were there any surprises like mine?
Have they prompted you to make any changes to your life?
Let me know in the comments…