Not a very cheerful topic – certainly not British, we barely talk about money, never about sex and never in my experience about death. Yet death is something that will come to us all, sooner or later. I do remember my grandmother making it very clear that she saw funerals as a complete waste of money. My father definately had a plan to have his death fully celebrated in his local pub. I do know my husband has eyed up a large Oak tree on our land for his final resting place and was thrilled to know we can indeed (2 people only) be buried on our own land under the Laws of England and Wales. Not so sure whose going on top at this point.
Death is something of a taboo subject and something many of us avoid talking about yet I hear more and more occasions where those that have not prepared during their lives for death leave chaos and confusion, and often some pain for those they leave behind. Have you written a will? Inexcusable selfish not to have I suggest? Do you really want to become a hassle in the lives of those you love and whom you will leave to pick up pieces perhaps resenting the distraction when actually the sorting an advanced is not nearly as painful. You may not think you have much of value, you may be surprised how the smallest thing can be so value valued to another close to you. One of my favourite possessions is a scarf gifted to me from a wonderful gentleman, my grandfather, worthless to others, priceless to me.
Certainly, lots of people don’t plan for their death well enough. It’s possibly the biggest elephant in the room, in the western culture at least.
Unlike other difficult subjects, death is not something we can avoid – yet. It will happen to all of us, and not only this – we will see it happen to those around us too. Nobody is immune. Better then to stop avoiding it, and actually take the bull by the horns. Indeed better as the title says, not wait, better make the most of all the wonderful opportunities that the world serves us. We simply need to be brave enough to have a go.
Unless you are “getting on in years” or experiencing ill health in yourself or someone close to you, you probably don’t think about death much. We all think we have plenty of time, and many of us live under the delusion that perhaps, maybe, death will never come knocking for us. Actually I fear death as I never want my life to end, not whilst I am in charge of my faculties, not whilst I feel my body enables me to do whatever challenge I set myself? I get a kick out of setting myself ridiculous adventures, running up hillsides that most would not even dare. I love the exhileration that I get from small triumphs and achieving self-set fitness challenges. I celebrate anyone leading an interesting life, creating their own goals and making great memories. Whose to say I wont live till I choose?
I attended a lecture recently which got me thinking about death and how we deal with it, both as a society and as individuals. The lecture was enlightening and thought provoking and provided four main pieces of advice when it comes to death:
- Don’t come to death full of disappointment. It’s going to happen, whether you like it or not!
- Live better and come to death with the power of wonderment.
- Have a cup of tea with death instead…personally I think if I sweat a bit, put back into society, give with kindness, make people smile, (that costs me nothing and I always gain), then somehow I will lead and more interesting and better existence.
- Live fully. Death shows us what matters most – so think and plan early to have the time to activate your best endeavours.
Life’s uncertainty and fragility can give us a perspective. If you died tomorrow, how would you feel about the life you have lived? Have you spent quality time with friends and family, cared for yourself, achieved what you hoped for? Recognising how very lucky I am I recently spent time with my children whilst my husband is sailing in the Clipper Yacht race, somewhere in the Pacific. At the end of the holiday I asked my kids to give me just a few moments of time to see if they really knew what was important to me. I asked them to brainstorm what they thought I valued as actually bringing up decent children matters more to me than anything on earth and I constantly struggle with the fact that because I choose to lead a very full life I perhaps do not communicate the most important things to my children. To my utter delight my children seem to know well what I value most and they additionally astounded me in their astute understanding of the things that really matter most not being material belongings. Made my day and more.
So I ask you, are you leading the most exciting of lives?
Perhaps you are nutty enough to have started a life of Enterprise. I did but initially without a plan. It was harder than anyone could have warned me, but without question the most terrific learning curve any person could have dreamed of. More mistakes, more hurdles, more pain, heartache, but ultimately the outcomes has been extraordinary. Irrespective though I have also proven as I believed, money does not buy happiness. It takes a whole lot more than money to build a full and rewarding experience and I rarely even get this balance right. Annoying but as I was informed throughout my childhood, no-one is perfect.
Have you a life plan? I started one I think in 2003 and have always every year reviewed and tweaked how my priorities sit with me. I believe ultimately in order to lead a full life we need to be happy and well whilst making the most of the most valuable commodity in the world, time. My investment approach is all about stuff that improves lives and saves time. Whilst I am by no means a roaring success at investment and I continue to have to overcome endless new challenges I love what I do but I have to fight myself constantly to find the right mix of interests and experiences. This years quest is to have more holiday planned time and to really make the most of these different opportunities to share time and learn with and from my own children.
A false sense of time, the illusion of the young (that perhaps I am no longer..), that we are invincible and will live forever, can keep us in dead-end jobs we don’t enjoy, or allow us to waste time watching TV or playing video games instead of doing something that might bring us more fulfilment and happiness. If you knew you only had a couple of years left, you might be more inclined to follow your passions, to chase your dreams. I very rarely watch TV, select very carefully how I apportion my time and plan relentlessly to fit in the wellness and activity elements that I need to stay cheerful whilst not being exhausted.
Fall in love with your existence in life. Don’t live a life of obligation. We don’t often realise it, but life really is too short to be lived to someone else’s expectations. Be decent and kind to others, but ultimately if you want to meet death without too much disappointment and regret, you need to follow your own path.
Coach Brendon Burchard tells a story of a car crash he experienced when he was 19. He says that as he realised the car was going to crash, he asked himself three questions: Did I live? Did I love? Did I matter? He now urges people not to ask the same questions of themselves, but to figure out – what questions will you ask yourself, when you know you are going to die? Once you know what really matters to you, you can ensure you live the rest of your life intentionally and make sure that when death comes for you, and you ask yourself those questions, you can be happy with the answers.
To be human is an invitation to love and enjoy a conscious life. My question for you today is: are you living that conscious life, or do you have your fingers in your ears, pretending that one day, you won’t be on your death bed, asking yourself if you’ve lived a good life.