There are a million jokes that could be made with the above headline, half of them dirty. But this post isn’t one of them—it’s about what’s important in life, how you want to live, and how you want to die. It’s about living a life of purpose and being remembered well after you move on from this life.
To die happy, you must live life with that end in mind. Live a life of purpose.
That’s easier said than done, of course. In this post, I’ll look at a great way to find that purpose in your life, and to live every day with that purpose in mind, and to align your daily actions with that purpose.
1. First ask why.
But first, let’s ask the obvious question: “Why does this matter?”
Let’s consider for a moment the life that most of us lead: we get up in the morning, we do what we have to do for the day, if we’re lucky we get some time to relax or do something fun, if we’re even luckier we get some time to spend with loved ones. And this repeats itself in endless variations until we get old.
What happens then? We look back on our lives, and perhaps we wish we’d done stuff differently, or wish we’d accomplished something. But after a certain point, it’s a bit too late.
This post is about doing something about it now, about choosing to live differently before it’s too late.
Now let’s think about what’s important. At any given moment, whatever is in front of us is important. That assignment has to be done right away! That’s because we’re looking closely, at the details.
But if we pulled back, took a step away from our lives, those details become less important. Soon we can start to see the forest. Unless we pull back some more—and now we can see a continent. Pull back further, and we see the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy—and now nothing in our lives are important.
Obviously, you need to get the right amount of perspective.
The best tool for that, I’ve found, is a famous principle of Stephen Covey’s: begin with the end in mind. And here’s how he tells us to do that: by imagining what we’d like people to say about us at our funeral. Do we want them to say that we were kind-hearted, or charitable, or loving, or successful, or that we accomplished great things, or found a cure for cancer? However we want to be remembered, that’s how we should live our lives, every moment of every day, starting right now.
3. Live With Purpose — A How-to Guide
If you want to live a life of purpose, here’s a method for doing so (you were wondering when the list would come!):
Start by taking 10 minutes out of your life to find some quiet space, and to close your eyes, and to think. Ask yourself: How do I want to be remembered? What do I want people to say about me at my funeral? Think about that for 10 minutes, then write down your answers. There may be a few different things, or 10, or just one.
Write it down.
Put your purpose—how you want to be remembered—on a sheet of paper. Type it out, or write it lovingly with a Magic Marker—it doesn’t matter. Put it in nice, big letters. This is your life mission. Post it up somewhere visible, or make it your desktop background. Be reminded of it every day.
Every morning, rise with the sun (or at the crack of noon, it doesn’t matter), and look at your purpose. Read it out loud, and give it some thought. Ask yourself: what can I do today to help fulfill my purpose? Now write that down on your to-do list—even if it’s something simple, like “Smile at my co-workers” or “Give my kids a hug”.
Align your actions.
As much as possible, make your actions move you toward your purpose. Keep that purpose in mind throughout the day. If it helps, send yourself email reminders. After awhile, it’ll become a part of your nature.
Take a few minutes before you go to bed to look back on your day, on your actions, on what you accomplished. Perhaps write about it in a journal (this is best, but it’s up to you). Look at your purpose again, and think about how you could have lived today differently. Then figure out how you can live your purpose better tomorrow.
These simple actions aren’t that hard to do. They might take some energy and focus in the beginning to make it a habit, but with focus, you can make it happen. And your life will be filled with purpose, and you will live your life with happiness, and eventually, with a little luck, die happy. May your life be blessed.
Contributed: Leo Babauta, Zen Habits