I used to LOVE making New Year’s resolutions. As January 1st neared, I had the feeling that I could hit the reset button for my life and start over.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t have a reset button. You can’t wipe the slate completely clean. You are still you and this is still your life, new year or not.
You know how they say that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again while expecting a different result. I now feel that way about the practice of making New Year’s resolutions. Have you ever had one that stuck? I haven’t.
Making any sort of habit or lifestyle change is challenging. You need to have a very clear and powerful reason—or reasons—why you’re going to even try. The beginning of a new year just isn’t enough.
But what about the end of your life?
Most Americans resist thinking seriously about their own deaths. It’s depressing, right? Actually, no. Research has shown that it can lead to elevated motivation and happiness. Why would this be so?
Because imagining your life from the perspective of its end can reveal powerful insights to how you’re living now.
The deathbed and funeral exercise
This is a very simple exercise. All you really need is some uninterrupted time and an openness to exploring what these scenarios bring up. Don’t resist what you think isn’t “right.” There are no rights or wrongs here. Allow any thoughts and feelings to just be.
You can do this exercise all in your head or you might find it helpful to write it out. Talking about it with someone you feel comfortable with is another option.
Are you ready?
Imagine that you’re on your deathbed (whatever that means to you). What is your cause of death? How are you facing it? Is this the way you’d actually like to die? Take a moment to consider these questions and wherever they may lead. You now have the opportunity to look back over your life. Certain things stand out—what are they? What were the highlights? The tragedies? Did you live in alignment with your dreams? Do you feel like you made the world a better place for being in it? Was it worth it in the end?
Next imagine that you’re dead and people are reminiscing about you. This can be at your funeral or elsewhere. You can think about what eulogies will be said, the contents of your obituary, etc. Because it’s your fantasy, you can picture anyone talking, even if you don’t know them (yet?) or they’re already deceased. What would you like people to say about you and your life? How would you like to be remembered? And whose opinions matter to you? Did these people see you as you hoped to be seen?
Bring it to life
You know how I said that this exercise can increase your motivation and make you happier. Here’s the caveat: At first you may feel very depressed.
You may have realized that you’ve been focusing on things that ultimately aren’t important to you and you regret the time you’ve wasted. It can be sad to see that you’re not living in alignment with your deepest dreams. You may even be a bit scared by some of the revelations you’ve had.
That’s okay, Actually it’s better than okay. This is a wonderful opportunity you’ve been given. You’re not dead yet! You can do things differently.
Yes, you are still you and your life is still your life, but you have the ability to shift your experience. The insights you gleaned from this exercise can be powerful motivators to begin taking steps towards your desired path. Learning what’s actually important to you as you did clears the way.
You’ll notice that I’ve kept this exercise brief. That’s because I don’t want you to get hung up on details, words, or phrases that mean one thing to me but something else to you. Hold the way I described the exercise and the questions I presented loosely. Let your imagination take you where it needs to go.
If this exercise reveals that you want to spend more time on your health, wellness, and wonderfulness, you know what to do—reach out and let’s talk!