What do you think would be said if your eulogy was read today? If you could attend your own funeral, today, what do you think the speaker would say about you? How would you be remembered?
This is actually an exercise in Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy’s book, Living Forward, and a very effective one when it comes to life planning and long-term goal setting.
“..it’s a fantastic way of becoming present to what our life really means to others. Who is saying what? Who is not saying what you would have hoped they could or would say? Look at those sitting in the front row. Notice their grief. What are they remembering, the highs and the lows?….If you are married what would your spouse say? How about your kids, siblings, parents, and closest friends? Now look at those sitting in the middle and back rows. How are they experiencing this moment?…”
It’s an effective experiment and one that helps to identify what sort of legacy we wish to leave behind. The authors actually encourage the reader to write it down….that is, what you think would be read as your eulogy.
As I thought about what might be said at my own funeral, it dawned on me that this also is an excellent exercise in bringing to light inconsistencies between how people see us and who we really are. And I say this for two reasons:
- The things people would most remember about us are most likely the things we would want them to think about us. Think about it this scenario:
John was a devoted Christian who sought to bring light to life’s situations and influence others for the love of neighbor and of God. He was married 43 years to his high school sweetheart and loved her faithfully and joyfully over their many years together. He had four children whom he helped raise to become successful adults and faithful Christians who themselves went on to marry into and establish families of their own. He worked hard as a leading salesman and always demonstrated his gift of leadership towards those he managed…….
This is how the speaker as well as much of the audience would remember John. This is essentially who John is. This is also how John would want people to remember him and how he demonstrated his life towards those looking on.
- But there is also a hidden part of John’s life that only a few would really know. For example, John’s wife had been with him through the ups and downs. Only she knows about the tough times and personal struggles with John that made it really hard. The children remember dad’s short temper as well as his lack of time available to help mom out or to read to them. They remember him complaining about his friends doing things he disagreed with. John’s wife, his children, his former employees, etc. have more knowledge about John than those on the middle rows and the back rows of his funeral. Essentially the real John was inconsistent compared to the John presented at the funeral.
An Accessible Inconsistency
What if John could have somehow listened to the reader in this life? What would he have thought?
You see, this exercise is beneficial to us now as we, by creating a mock eulogy, can instantly see those areas of life that we do not live up to. We want people to think we are “A” but we don’t live as “A.”
But this eulogy IS what you want people to think about you. This IS the legacy you want to leave, right?
Harkavy adds this:
“Here’s why this matters. By writing the eulogy as if it’s being delivered today, you may see some gaps between what people would say and what you would like them to say. That can be unsettling for some people, but news flash: You’re still alive and have the power to change….”
- Do you not serve your wife and children the way people think you do?
- Do people think you are a family man but you find yourself overworking and neglecting time with your family?
- Do you whine and complain when you neighbor calls you for help in moving furniture, yet they think you are always willing and cheerful to help others because you show up with a smile?
The Treatable Inconsistency
What inconsistencies do you see? Do you need to be more like you?
Well I do. I want those things said at my funeral to be truthful. When someone says “his family is just delightful,” I want it to me true in private as well.
So today being January 2, why not give this exercise a shot?
Write out what you think would be said about you at your funeral. Then look back through it and underline the things that just don’t add up. Those are your weak points. Strengthen them in 2018. Realign your priorities.
In 2018, aim to be like you!!