Are you unsure about what to do with your life? If you died tomorrow would you be satisfied with your legacy? Are you still in search of your purpose? There is a simple exercise you can do which can help you to clarify for yourself why you are here, what you really want out of life and how you want to be remembered: you can write your own eulogy.
How would you feel if you flipped the page in the newspaper and stumbled upon your own obituary? That is what happened to Alfred Nobel. Chances are you have heard of him. What is he famous for? The Nobel Prize of course! However, his name was not always associated with something so positive. And it was seeing what was written in his own eulogy that transformed Nobel.
Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite and other explosives. This helped him to amass a fortune. One day, when he was reading the newspaper, he was shocked to see his own obituary! It turns out that his brother, Ludvig, had died and several newspapers published obituaries of Alfred in error. One French newspaper said, “The merchant of death is dead.”
Seeing what was written about him and his life, Nobel had a wake-up call and realized that this was not how he wanted to be remembered. He ended up leaving most of his wealth in a trust which would fund the awards which became known as the Nobel Prizes. Today he is remembered as a humanitarian, rather than a bringer of death. As you can see in the picture of his tombstone, he is remembered for much more than blowing things up.
How Will You Be Remembered?
What will your legacy be? Perhaps you have asked yourself questions such as these: What will people say about me when I am gone? How many people will be at my funeral? What will I be remembered for? Have I lived well?
If you read your own eulogy right now, how would you feel about it? Someday, someone will write it. What would you like it to say?
My Own Transformation
Change occurs when we make a decision to take action. You can change your life in an instant and writing your own eulogy is a great way to give yourself a wake-up call. When I sat down and wrote my own eulogy it was a very moving and transformative experience. In fact, it brought me to tears; tears of joy because of how overwhelming it was to clarify what I really wanted out of my life.
First I wrote my eulogy as I thought it would appear now. Following that, I wrote it as I hope it will appear after I pass on. In fact, it was this exercise which prompted me to take action and create this blog. Here is the excerpt, from the self-eulogy I wrote, which was the seed that grew into this wesbite:
“Richard touched millions of lives with his writings. His works were practical. He did not write only theories, nor just for the sake of writing. He wrote only when he had a message and when he had lived out this message in his own life. He wrote when he knew he had something which could help others to transform their own lives.”
This exercise also led to breakthroughs in my teaching and coaching ability. I have since become much more effective at creating change in others. Here is what I wrote which helped me to clarify my purpose in teaching and coaching:
“Noticing the many ineffective and apathetic instructors out there, he decided to stop at nothing to make sure that every moment of instruction was a masterpiece. He fashioned himself into a tool in which he could, with such effective precision, not only inspire others and call them to action, but to also give them simple and effective methods for self betterment and advancement.”
Pretty lofty goal, right? Well, I still have a ways to go, however when I realized that I was not yet where I wanted to be, I was motivated to kick it into gear. I reflected deeply on how I could become a better guide and applied what I learned. I devoted more time and energy to ensuring that I could see things from the perspective of my students. In a short time, I have become a much more effective, and in demand, leader.
Write Your Own Eulogy and Transform Your Life
I guarantee, if you sit and take the 15 minutes or so to do this exercise, you will have a realization. I know it may sound a bit morbid and perhaps even somewhat scary, to write your own eulogy, but on any journey there are few things more important than knowing your goals. If you don’t know your destination, how can you get there?
Here is the exercise:
1. Quickly and briefly write out your own eulogy reflecting your life up to today. What would it say? What would you be remembered for? How would your life be summed up in a speech? If you want to have more objectivity, have someone else write it for you.
2. Devote more time to this second part. Next, write out your eulogy as you want it to be written. Leave nothing out and set your sights high. What do you really want your legacy to be? What effect do you want to have on the world and those you love? What goals did you achieve? What skills did you have and what did you learn to do? What did you create? How did you contribute? What words do people use to describe you? Remember, this is only an exercise, so don’t hold yourself back. Small dreams will not inspire you, it is only the great dreams which have the power to move your heart.
3. Read both versions of your eulogy and compare them. Whatever is in the second eulogy, but not in the first, is a clear summary of what you really want to do with the rest of your life. Take some action today, no matter how small (an email, a phone call), to move yourself one step closer to realizing the life you want to live. Get the ball rolling.
Please comment below and share your experiences with this exercise. You may not only transform your own life, but you may inspire someone else as well!