If you had to write your own obituary, how would it read?
Would it describe the life that you always wanted to have? Would it read like the obituaries of people that you admired? Would it contain a long list of great achievements?
Or would it be a different version? A mediocre version. The version that some may be heading for — an ordinary life with ordinary results.
Writing your own obituary can be a great reality check and a way to ask yourself that big life question – why am I here and what do I want to be able to say (and not say) about my life?
It can provide an incentive to not waste valuable time. For example, staying in a job you hate or a relationship that’s not working.
More than one person has been shocked into evaluating what their own obituary will say after accidentally seeing them in print – most famously, the Swedish inventor and engineer Alfred Nobel.
When Nobel’s brother, Ludvig, died in 1888, a French newspaper accidently published an obituary about Alfred, who was best known at the time for having invented dynamite. The headline read: ‘The merchant of death is dead’. It is believed this prompted Nobel to found the Nobel Peace Prize.
Coming out of low income and striking out on my own as a young man, I wanted to live a life free from the shackles of being financially dependent. As a result, I developed a rabid sense of ambition. At a young age, I determined that my life was going to be different. Instead of accepting the outcome of others around me, I decided to write my own story.
You know that feeling you have after a big meal? Where you’re so full that you really don’t want anything more?
Ever wonder what that would feel like in other parts of your life? What if you had enough money to become financially free? What would you do then? What would you stop doing?
Our bank balance is a number, but it’s also a story and possibly a symptom. We tell ourselves a story about how we got that money, what it says about us, and what we’re going to do with it.
And those stories, those very powerful unwritten stories, impact just about everything else we do.
Alongside every dollar, there’s a story.
And guess what? Once you change the story, the money changes too.
There are two stories we tell ourselves over and over again: Should and Must. And each time, we get to choose which story plays out in our lives.
The Should story is a safer story. It comes with little risk…and little reward. It’s the story of mediocrity. Should comes from the outside.
Must is different. Must comes from inside of us.
Must is who we are. What we believe. The life that we burn for. The demand that swells up from somewhere deep inside of us.
Must is what happens when we stop conforming to other people’s ideals and start connecting to our own. Because when we choose Must, we are no longer accepting ordinary. Instead, we are listening to our calling from within. We are living out our own story.
But if the Must story is so great, why doesn’t everyone choose it every day?
Must can be scary because you have to ask yourself difficult questions and make difficult choices. It also takes hard work. And sacrifice. And commitment. Choosing Must requires courage.
Here’s an exercise: Grab a piece of paper and write the numbers 1 thru 10 on the left side of the page. At the top, title it “Highlights Of My Story”. Line by line, list what will be the major accomplishments of your life. Have a conversation with yourself about each one. This is your story.
Mark Twain said, “the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
Would you be disappointed in your obituary? Here’s the good news: You can write your own story.
Now, here’s the even better news news: It’s not too late to write your own story.
Remember Ralph Waldo Emerson’s famous quote, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
And, what lies within us is our story. The beauty is, this becomes your CHOICE. Your demand. This is the first “D” in the formula for financial freedom and it’s directly tied to your ability to envision your future.
Envision a better future. Choose Must. Write your own story.