Have you noticed that when we die, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success?
It’s easy, in effect, to miss the real point of our lives even as we’re living them. Until we’re no longer alive. A eulogy is often the first formal marking down of what our lives were about—the foundational document of our legacy.
Our eulogies are always about the other stuff: what we gave, how we connected, how much we meant to our family and friends, small kindnesses, lifelong passions, and the things that made us laugh.
So why do we spend so much of our limited time on this earth focusing on all the things our eulogy will never cover?
“Eulogies aren’t résumés, they describe the person’s care, wisdom, truthfulness and courage. They describe the million little moral judgments that emanate from that inner region.”
– David Brooks
Even for those who die with amazing Wikipedia entries, whose lives were synonymous with accomplishment and achievement, their eulogies focus mostly on what they did when they weren’t achieving and succeeding. They aren’t bound by our current, broken definition of success….
Whether you believe in an afterlife—as I do—or not, by being fully present in your life and in the lives of those you love, you’re not just writing your own eulogy; you’re creating a very real version of your afterlife. It’s an invaluable lesson—one that has much more credence while we have the good fortune of being healthy and having the energy and freedom to create a life of purpose and meaning. The good news is that each and every one of us still has time to live up to the best version of our eulogy.
“the keys to longevity are diet, exercise, finding a purpose in life (an ikigai), and forming strong social ties—that is, having a broad circle of friends and good family relations.”
A Sense of Meaning
One of the most inspirational people I have ever known is Viktor Frankl, the Austrian psychiatrist who was imprisoned in the death camps of Nazi Germany in World War II. He was a scientist. He was terribly inquisitive and understood scientific methodology, and he wondered what enabled some of the prisoners who were subject to such terrible treatment in the death camps to survive. He studied the survivors and attempted to understand what enabled these people to survive, unlike the hundreds of thousands who perished. Was it their physical health? He found physical health to be secondary. Was it their survival skills? Secondary. Was it their intelligence? Secondary. He explored every alternative hypothesis. He finally concluded they were all secondary factors.
What is my life’s purpose? How do I find my purpose? These two questions I get asked most frequently from people who have got everything going well in their lives.
When your tummy is as full as your bank balance and you can’t fall asleep, you naturally sit back and wonder (or worry) about the purpose of your life. It almost seems as if we want to have things that help us remain pensive and introspective. Those battling with life threatening diseases, under heavy debt or busy fighting court cases have never asked me about the purpose of their life. They are too engrossed in dealing with its harsh realities. In the last six years at the ashram, no villager has ever asked me about the purpose of his or her life. Continue reading
“The song that I came to sing remains unsung to this day. I have spent my days in stringing and in unstringing my instrument. Continue reading