At the end of the day, people may ask what you got done… You may even stop to evaluate it yourself.
But at the end of your life, nobody will ask you what you got done, they won’t judge you for the unfinished to-do list.
They’ll think about themselves and their relationship with you.
They’ll evaluate how much time and presence they enjoyed with you.
They’ll be grateful for those moments no matter how many or few.
And they will always wish they had more… more time with you.
They’ll recount their favorite memories with you. They won’t remember your work, your to-do list or what you got done that day.
They’ll remember how you made them feel.
They’ll take at least one thing from you and the way you lived your life and vow to live that way because that’s what we do when we lose someone. It’s the great blessing of the loss of someone we love. We promise to live better, we quit jobs and relationships that don’t feed our souls and we hope to leave our mark in the world.
While we know this logically, so often we put the to-do list before the things that actually matter. Most of us are lucky enough for a second chance when we do choose out of habit, ego or fear. Other times we don’t and sadly, sometimes we don’t catch on until tragedy hits us smack in the face.
This is not something that we should have to learn when we’re old or nearing the end of our lives… when we can’t do much about it.
I think though that we have a challenge… The challenge is that we must live now in the present while also looking ahead…
When I’m making a big decision or evaluating my life, my work and my relationships and overall how I spend my days, I often stop and fast forward myself to 70, 80, 90, 100+ years old and based on where I am now, I ask myself:
What will be your favorite stories to tell about your life, your love, your work, your family?
What will you have wished you did that you haven’t yet?
What do you want to be known for?
What will you want more of?
What will people remember most about you?
What will you have done that you wished you hadn’t?
Really picture it. Sit down and write it if that helps you. Do it now and write it out whenever you have a decision to make, a priority or opportunity to weigh and be honest with yourself. Picture yourself at those ages, with those abilities at that age… 70, 80, 90, 100… Begin to tell the story of your life as you have lived it… Let it flow. You’ll notice that some of the stories you tell have happened, while others are adventures, events, opportunities, relationships or love that you want for yourself. That’s okay, let it come to you. Let the stories of what you have lived dance with the stories you wish to live moving forward today in the years between now and these future ages of reflection.
Life is good… it’s full of so much to breathe in, to enjoy, to bask in the goodness of. I want it all. Lately in the midst of mountains of client work, I’ve been thinking a lot about why… why we do what we do, what’s really important and how we choose to live. I’m continually evaluating how my work lights me up, what parts are more rewarding than others, how to better serve, and what’s worth spending my life doing.
Everyday we wake up and choose to spend our lives working toward something. Ask yourself: Does it make me happy? Does it matter? Does it light me up? Is it worth trading the only day I have for?
I’m a recovering workaholic… I drowned my worries, existential ponderings, my true legacy that was too scared to make happen and insecurities in work… I ran my life on to-do lists and approval… I had a good day if my to-do’s were complete. But, of course, they never were. There’s always more… I did it because if I was “busy” I didn’t have to face life, I didn’t have time to think about meaning and purpose and reason, I didn’t have to think about what I really wanted for myself, my life, my career and how I wasn’t doing it… and Then I pretty much became a robot and soon became bitter, burnt out and quit. Yep. Done. Just like that — because the meaning, the purpose, the relationship, the connection was gone.
Today I really wanted to go visit with my Dad. My Mom is away visiting friends and I don’t always get much one-on-one time with Dad so I wanted to make it happen. I’m learning to take action and make things happen that I want rather than waiting for it to happen, waiting for him to call, waiting for friends to get together a trip to the beach or waiting for my partner to plan a date. It’s time we listen to what we wish for and then take action to DO it.
I literally had to sit in the car for 5 minutes and talk myself through the reason why I wanted to either go see my Dad or go home and — wait for it — work… on a Saturday, because “work is busy right now.” You know, “It’s crunch time,” I tell myself. My clients are important. I only work with people whose mission and passion and work in the world I believe in. That’s the way it will always be. And while I say that, my life, my family, my partner, my own passions and desires, my health, happiness and quality of life are everything.
So I did it, I took action:
I drove to my Dad’s house 30 minutes away and found him in the backyard mowing the yard — he always does his “domestics” as he called them on Saturday. We talked for about 45 minutes in the garage, he pumped up the tires on my car when he noticed they were low to keep me safe and chatted with me for a bit. I thanked him, hugged him and hopped back into my car for the 30 minute drive back home. I’ll always be glad I did that… Never for a moment will I ever wish I didn’t do that.
So when we stop and look forward and back at our lives, at the stories we share, the moments we love the most and the things we wish we had done more or done without, let us use this as a guide. Let us tell the stories of who we truly are, of adventure, of love and laughter, of friendships and most proud moments (which are often the most scary… so keep going if you realize that you’ve got some scary stuff that you’re about to take action on as a result of this future self process).
I know that I’ve got my own reflections to do after this busy season. A lot of my own fears already come up as I think about what I REALLY want to do in the next few years. As they do, I remind myself that no, it’s not too late, yes you are just the person for that message, people need what you have to give and to live my life designed by the answers from my future self. This is the way we live without regret. It is the way we feel most connected, grateful, present, loving and loved.
What will you do today knowing what you now know about your future self?
PS – as I close this post, you must know that the Star Wars theme song just came on my Pandora radio station. It’s a sign… Go forth, my friends. Be incredible you.