View from your death bed

On your death bed, who will you want to have been?

Think of it as the flip side of “Who do you want to be when you grow up?” See, like it or not, you’re already grown up. And you have X years before you die. Who do you want to be between now and then? What mark do you want to leave? What do you want people to say about you at your funeral?

Let’s say your life is a movie, and you, on your death bed, are the critic — how many stars will you give it? What will you slam? What will you rave about?

Reminds me of one of my favorite movies: Albert Brooks’ “Defending Your Life.” The premise: a man dies in a car accident, then has to justify his fear-based life in front of two after-life judges.

On your death bed, who will you want to have been?

It’s said that when people are in their waning months, they often wish they’d challenged the stranglehold that fear exercised on their lives. Dying people seldom wish they’d finished one more report or cleared their inbox one more time.

It’s the relationships, stupid. And the good times. And the creativity. What dying people most regret is the time not spent living their values, their passions. The time spent living from fear, rather than from enthusiasm or from ethics.

Think of the folks you work with every day. For those of us who won’t have companies named after us, or memorials built to us, it’s the people we leave behind who will be our legacy. They alone will keep us alive after we’re gone. How will they tell your story?

Next time you’re curt with someone because what you’ve got to do is so freaking urgent; next time you think about deferring a dream one more year — think about what matters most in the long term. Think about what and who you’ll leave behind. Think about the movie of your life. You have future scenes to write, and others to leave on the cutting room floor.

“If you compromise your values or your vision, whatever you achieve won’t have been worth it.” Sage words of advice from … well, our book, The Leadership Platform.

YOUR PATH FORWARD: Imagine yourself on your 95th birthday. The end is near; your body is failing but your mind is still clear. Cast your memory over the arc of your adult life so far. For each period of your life (divide it into whatever segments make sense), review how you spent your time, what your priorities were, what you accomplished and what you neglected, the roads you chose and the roads left untraveled. Notice what fulfilled you, and what left you empty.

Now, what do you want to change about how you show up in life, so that when you’re really 95, you’ll be proud of the work of art you created — the one entitled “My Life.”

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About the Author

Steve Motenko
Steve Motenko is an executive coach, leadership trainer, and co-host of The Boss Show, a weekly podcast on workplace dynamics. Steve and his Boss Show co-host, Jim Hessler, are co-authors of Land On Your Feet, Not On Your Face: A Guide to Building Your Leadership Platform. Steve lives on Whidbey Island, Washington, with his wife and dog, whom he loves, and a cat he tolerates usually pretty well.

One thought on "View from your death bed"

  1. Hmmm nice. Inspiring for my life. thanks.

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