I received an email from author and entrepreneur MJ DeMarco this morning who described a pivotal moment in his life a few years ago.
He explained how he conducted this exercise and it worked to crystalize the type of life he wanted to live. From that point forward, he was able to make better decisions that would yield his best life that day and into the future.
MJ was a young man at the time, but it’s something all of us can do to help refine how we live today and determine the legacy we are going to leave, whether we like it or not.
“Fast forward to the hour before your imminent death. You lived to 85 or older, but your time is up. How would you answer these questions?” he wrote.
Here they are along with some of my insight:
- Will you regret the decisions you made? — If you would say yes today, then there is still time to do something to change the direction of your life to help reduce some of that regret. People will remember you more for what you did in the past six months than in the previous 20 years.
- Did you proactively decide to pursue your best life? — Too many of us use excuses to explain why our lives ended up the way they did. For years, I set no goals to pursue. So, why should I ever be surprised that I arrived totally unprepared at a destination I wasn’t expecting. To be honest, others told me what would happen if I stayed the course I was on, but I thought I was different. I wasn’t.
- Did you live BOLDLY, or did you take the safe, risk-less way out? — I did several things that others might not have done by taking risks to start my own businesses. But, I still managed to waste an inordinate amount of time in the past 40 years. Oh how my life would be different today, if I had turned off the TV or computer 20 years ago and really worked harder on a different path that was authentic to me. But, I won’t let that regret sway me from being proactive today.
- Did you do what OTHERS expected? Or what you expected? — I grew up in an environment of duty and obligation where you simply did what others expected of you all the time. It’s safer and less controversial, but when you pursue a course others set for you or expect from you, a little bit of you dies every day. The mythical “they” — as in “they say I should…” — will never be held accountable for the life you chose to live.
- Did you fall into the trap of cultural expectation and inertia? — That’s an easy trap to fall into. Many of us are pulled into multiple different directions throughout our lives, and sometimes the directions compete or conflict with the others. For example, do I grow a business or raise a family? Consequently, it may seem easier to do nothing than to challenge the status quo.
The good news is that if you’re 50, 60, 70 or even 80, and you’re still breathing, you have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.
Perhaps the absolute easiest way to leave a memorable legacy is by simply providing encouragement wherever you go. There is so much darkness in society today that any flicker of light will stand out, be noticed and appreciated.
Whether it is sending an email, card, letter or making a phone call just to check in without seeking anything in return, you can undoubtedly brighten someone else’s life today.
DO NOT wait around for people to reach out to you out of fear that you would be “bothering them” by taking the initiative to strengthen or even rekindle a relationship.
They’ll love that you thought enough about them to pick up a phone or jot them a note.
As T.A. Webb once said, “A burdened shared is a burden halved.” The corollary is also true, joy shared is multiplied. Reach out and offer encouragement to others who are struggling and to celebrate the key moments of their lives.
Don’t live with regret on your deathbed that you could have done more to make a difference in the lives of others. Step out of your comfort zone and take action today.
After closing his business and enduring several painful years of uncertainty regarding what to do with his life, Greg founded Forward From 50 to help men and women over 50 to live more purposeful lives by pursuing things they are passionate about. A Wisconsin native, Greg currently lives in Arizona.