Friday, November 14, 2014

The me I wish I was..

What's your epitaph?
Have you ever done that exercise where you have to write an epitaph for your own funeral? Perhaps it was in a slightly awkward team-building scenario you found yourself in. The idea is to get you to think about how you'd like to be remembered, and then working backwards to think about whether you need to make any changes to your life to work towards it.

I've done it once or twice, and in principle it's a really healthy thing to do although if I'm honest it probably felt a bit cringeworthy at the time. What do you want to be remembered for?

People often seem to share articles about common regrets people have on their deathbed. A friend shared one this week that I found interesting and which got me thinking. Among the themes that come up in these kinds of articles are:

  • Taking more risks, 
  • Having more baths (about giving yourself time to think), 
  • Not getting stuck on the work treadmill, 
  • Giving more time to your family, and 
  • Expressing your feelings more honestly. 

All things that I'm sure many of us would like to devote more time to. I certainly would.

It's easy to get stuck in a rut..
I don't want to be one of those people who is full of regrets on my deathbed, I'm sure you don't either, but there can be a tension between having a vision of who we aspire to be, and growing into that person! Life has this habit of creating ruts for us to get stuck in. Or we fall prey to that trick that we'll do something tomorrow, or when a slower day comes. Rob Parsons points this out in his excellent book "The 60 Minute Father". We kid ourselves into thinking a slower day is coming - but it's an illusion, it never comes.

One regret people had in the article above was about having the courage to live life true to ourselves, not the life others expect of us. This really does take daily courage - perhaps to leave the office on time, when the dominant culture is to stay late (arguably people work more effectively with a shorter working week anyway, like this company in Argentina found). It can be tough to challenge the status quo and face the "tuts" of your colleagues - although they're probably secretly wishing they were brave enough to leave on time too.
"What do you want to be remembered for?"
Maybe it's about saying no to voluntary commitments, at your sports club, church, scout pack or whatever your Third Place might be. I find it hard to say no sometimes to things people ask of me, especially when it's something I enjoy doing - but it's important to set up appropriate boundaries, to give ourselves space to be true to ourselves rather than being the person other people expect us to be. I don't mean this as an excuse not to contribute to our wider communities, just to make a point that we need to find a good balance at times. It's healthy to say no sometimes, and it can give others an opportunity to fill the space - none of us are indispensable, although we'd love to think we are!

Has your self image become distorted?
It's not just on our deathbeds that we face regrets. There are times when our view of ourselves can become distorted, like the mirrors at a funfair - memories of mistakes we've made or situations we didn't handle well can loom larger than life and warp our sense of who we are. If we're always looking backward, consumed by regrets or events in our past, then it's going to be hard for us to see where we're going. Conversely we can get too carried away with future plans that we miss the "now".

As the saying goes, in our competitive world the only person we need to be better than is the person we were yesterday. It's ok to make mistakes, in fact as my mum would say, failure is just another way of learning. Likewise loss, trauma, grief can really affect our view of ourselves, and can take time to heal.
"Let's take courageous action to use our gifts and talents well.."
It's easy to put on masks, to hide who we really are. And it's also easier to wish for a future that never comes, that we always put off taking steps towards. I believe we've all been made for a purpose by a loving God, and that embracing his plans for us is the best thing we can ever do - and the best place to start is with the things that we're passionate about and the things we're good at. We've all been given unique talents and gifts, and the challenge is to use them not bury them! As I wrote earlier this week, it's ok to start small and be a buzzard before we grow into an eagle!

So let's not be people full of deathbed regrets, pining for "the me I wish I was". Let's take more risks, have more baths, get off the treadmill, give more time to the ones we love and express ourselves more openly. I promise that life will be more of an adventure if we do!

Let's take courageous action to use our gifts and talents well, to be our true selves, and to live lives worthy of that epitaph.


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Unknown said...

This is a really good post, thank you. It can be difficult to confidently live a life in which we are true to our selves, and it can be a pretty sad thought that often, it can be easier to put on a mask rather than state how you truly feel without fear of judgement or, sometimes, rejection. Definitely more bath/thinking time needed! #AnythingGoes

Luke Strickland said...

Thanks Jennifer, I'm with you in that! Appreciate you taking the time to read and comment, Luke

Martyn Kitney said...

Great post. I don't know where I stand. I hide lots and know I where a mask. But I also know at times I'm exactly who I am. Thanks for linking up with us on the #bigfatlinky hope to see you there this week

Random Musings said...

I think if I was to have a regret in this area, it would be being too outspoken rather than hiding my opinions! I am rubbish at saying no to things I don't want to do though! I've never tried the writing my own epitaph things, might have to give it a go!
Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

Luke Strickland said...

I'm the same Martyn! See you on next week's #bigfatlinky

Luke Strickland said...

Hope the epitaph writing goes well then! See you on next week's #AnythingGoes!