A few months ago I shared twelve pieces of wisdom my grandmother left behind for me after she passed. This wisdom was written in an old leather-bound journal she aptly named her ‘Inspiration Journal.’ Today I want to discuss seven questions she had written at the bottom of her final entry. Although my grandmother never wrote down her answers to these questions, the questions alone are extremely thought provoking. I’ve listed them below and shared some of my own thoughts about each one. I hope what I’ve shared here inspires you to live boldly and honestly, so that you can answer each question someday with a sense of peace and fulfillment.
1. Am I proud of how I lived?
If you don’t express the passion inside you – the ideas and deeds that make you feel alive – you will die one moment at a time without ever having lived.
Don’t be scared of death. Be scared of leaving too much of your life unlived. Be scared of leading a tedious daily existence that doesn’t empower you to be your best self. A fear of death is simply a fear that you haven’t yet accomplished what you were born to do. When you live a fulfilling life that’s abundant in meaning the thought of dying becomes less worrisome, because your mind isn’t focused on it. Instead, it’s consumed with living passionately in the present moment and embracing all the beauty life has to offer.
Someday inevitability will take place and your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s a spectacle worth watching – one you’re proud to have been a part of. Read 1,000 Little Things.
2. What did I discover?
Some of the best discoveries in life come when you least expect them, in places you never even thought to look. What you were not looking for can end up being more than you ever hoped to find. So seek your goals and dreams diligently, but do not become so obsessed that you develop tunnel vision. Do not blind yourself from all the unpredictable wonders and opportunities passing in your periphery.
Life’s greatest beauty is found in its surprises. Its dynamic nature continually renews the possibilities before you; you honestly never can be certain when the next gust of wind will arrive and what it will blow in your direction. Open yourself to these surprises. Many of them will bring goodness you never knew you were missing.
Remember, you are never too old, too young, too busy, or too educated to find value and joy in new, unexpected opportunities. So stay on the lookout, because with each step down the road of life you take, a fresh supply arrives.
3. How well did I play the hand I was dealt?
Everything in life is gamble. It’s either a daring, rewarding venture, or nothing at all. You never know beforehand what you are capable of; you have to wait, practice and give it time.
It’s time and experience that controls your eventual destiny. Time is like the deck of cards the dealer at a casino is pulling from; it holds all the possibilities. When you sit down at the table, you can’t control the cards you are dealt, but you can control how you play each hand. The more hands you play, the more experienced you get at playing the game.
You shouldn’t bet the farm, but you shouldn’t be overly conservative either. Your bets are just learning experiments. The more experiments you make, the better. Read The Last Lecture.
4. Did I take enough responsibility?
Not every event in your life is your fault, but they are all your responsibility. A combination of your decisions and external factors for which you had no control brought you to where you are in the world today. Negatively blaming yourself, someone else, or some other force will change nothing. Positively taking full responsibility for your situation and your path forward can change everything.
Leave the unchangeable past behind you as you diligently give yourself to the present moment. In this moment is every possibility you seek. Take responsibility for it, and bring these possibilities to life.
5. What struggles did I conquer?
Every worthwhile goal requires a struggle to get there. If your actions don’t take effort, you won’t make progress. Wanting success without sacrifice is like trying to run before you learn to walk. It’s like wanting a rainbow without the rain. It’s like wanting oxygen in your lungs without making an effort to breathe.
There is scarcely any love, passion or fulfillment in life without reasonable effort. Your struggle may be physical, it may be emotional, or it may be both. In all cases it is necessary and worth every bit of strength you can muster.
6. How sincerely did I live through love?
True love is not a fleeting feeling, it’s not an equation that can be solved, and it’s certainly not a fairytale. True love is the air you breathe, the ground you walk on, and the foundation for all human growth. It’s the path for everything worthwhile, an energy that’s within you always, regardless of where you are or where you’re headed.
How far should you go in the name of true love? Until you can’t physically take another breath. Read The Mastery of Love.
7. How much of my story did I actually write?
Don’t let anyone convince you that you aren’t strong enough. Your growth potential is as vast as your thinking. You are as powerful and capable as you know yourself to be.
If you give in and let other people’s negativity convince you of who you are, their madness will wither you away. You will morph into who they say you are, rather than living honestly as yourself. In this way, these people will steal your life from you. You will lose track of where their opinion ends and your reality begins. Their fiction will become your life’s story.
Stay strong. When someone tries to bully you, stand up for your truth and say, “Not so fast, buddy! Your delusion of superiority is your problem, not mine. I am holding the pen and I am writing my own life’s story.”
Photo by: Hartwig HKD
Great post and great questions. I love #7.
I don’t know how you guys do it. Seems like you know just how to motivate me. And it’s so authentic! Most self help advice seems to run together after awhile, saying the same thing in the same way. But your material really does come from the heart and is beautiful and relevant.
Vincent Nguyen says
Interesting, this is actually the third article I’ve read today that deals with the questions about nearing death.
I feel I’ve got points 1-5 down pretty well, but that thought may change in the future. James Altucher, I think, proposed an interesting idea of figuring out if your life up to this point would be able to fill up 30 chapters of an autobiography.
That’s a pretty cool way to gauge number seven because I’m assuming your autobiography would be about your strengths and how you turned your struggles into successes.
Inspiring Citizen Rafi says
You have the positivity in your genes and it is quite evident from the fact that your grandmother had thought about these things a few years back.
I believe her journal would be a treasure house full of knowledge and you can get real thought provoking insights from her life :)..Is she your inspiration? Just out of curiosity, I am asking this.
There is one more thing which I think people might ask.
– What did I give back to the world that gave me so much stuff.
– Why did I live on this earth?
It was an amazing energizer to start off my Friday:). I will ponder over these over the weekend and see what comes out.
Thank you once again Marc for your ever green wisdom :).
These are all inspiring questions to keep asking oneself. I also often ask myself whether I’m tolerating things in my life that are unnecessary burdens, as well as what do I have to celebrate right now and what am I looking forward to. From that point, I can smile and set up new goals to keep focusing on what would bring me to an even higher level of happiness.
Great article, I’m going to use this title and some of your thoughts for an up and coming speech. I will make sure to give mention to you both and to source your site. Keep up the great work!
This post will help me write a letter to a friend who is nearing the end and very consumed with guilt and anger over his life. I am going to used the questions and musings you’ve posted for an opportunity to point out from my point of view all of the inspiration and goodness he gave me during the close years of our relationship. I think it might help him to know his life had meaning to others – at least I hope it does. Thank you for sharing.
Great questions! I really like the part about taking responsibility. That´s a little insight for my Friday morning – to realize that even if it is not our fault, we have to own the life circumstances we find ourselves in and once we do, we accept them and are not victimized. Therefore can gain back our freedom to move from there on forward. But as long as we don´t take responsibility, we will continue to be stuck for as long as it takes to make that shift and accept.
These are great questions to ask now, especially if you feel your life has to to change. They could be the catalyst to move you you forward in life. When you’re on your deathbed, you can reflect on these questions and know you did your best and lived a full life.
Have a great Friday!
Robin Caltagirone says
I loved #7 too! I share Marc & Angel-ism’s with everyone I know.
Good questions and food for thought, but I think everyone might have slightly different questions to ask. I don’t think I would ask all of your grandmother’s questions. I might add/ask something similar to:
1. Did I spend enough time with my kids and teach them all the things i wanted to?
2. Did I stand up to the bullies in life or cower down and watch them bully me or others?
3. Did I do my part to help others?
4. Did I have the courage to speak up at important events. funerals, meetings, etc.?
5. Did I have confidence in who I AM.
6. Did I live MY life and not try to be anyone else. I’m unique!
7. Does my spouse know how much i love them?
8. Did I treat my family the best, or did I treat complete strangers best?
Michelle Dobbins says
I love this list. It’s always good to begin with the end in mind, but sometimes we get busy and forget. I try to find joy in everyday so there’s a lot of happy moments to relect on at the end of my life.
As for #7, I wrote my story, literally, and a person in my life badgered me until I was convinced it was worthless and I burned it all, all the years of writing the stories in my soul. After feeling a void no words could ever articulate, I lay dead for a long time. Now I am writing several things, none of them are my story but all tell it by expressing my life’s learnings. Thank you for insisting that I am not dead after all and that any time is the right time to begin again. In a palpable blackness where I fought for survival by myself, your posts have entered and are challenging the dross with the light of your compassion and wisdom. Thank you.
Cathy R says
Thank you for this post and this blog. I agree with Dee’s comments. Your posts touch me in a way that most do not. It’s clear you and your motivations are authentic. Your loving, positive energy ooze from the words, and the content is spot on for me in my life right now – and I suspect it will be for every day from here forward I am asking these questions at the end of my life.
All the questions and insights were worth reading and thought provoking as well. Wish people would spend more time discussing things of this nature at the water cooler instead of trying to be comedians.
David Rapp says
Another great post. Some great questions asked of me during the last 44 years:
1. Did you enjoy your life?
2. Have you given everything away?
3. Did you hold back on loving some people?
4. Have you made amends with yourself?
I love the #6..How sincerely did I live through love?… Never thought about it that way…:)
thank you…they are ALL very inspirational!!!
Tawni Nguyen says
Very thought provoking, well written, ideas! Thank you for sharing these gems with the world. I love number 1 and the “spectacle worth watching” virtual visual message!
[email protected] says
Beautifully written, Marc. You make some excellent points. Thanks for this.
Inspired Reader says
Marc and Angel,
I visit your website every day simply because your beautiful words of wisdom never fail to inspire me. No matter how often you post articles, each one is always uniquely amazing and thought-provoking, and I just want to thank you both for all the fantastic posts 🙂 The message you convey through each article – to live the best life you can through helping others, achieving your potential, and simply appreciating the current moment – is such a beautiful one that we often forget. Thank you for inspiring everyone with this message and for giving up your time to write these amazing articles.
Bret Mertens says
Your Grandma’s questions & your thoughts on those topics I shared on my FB page as I have many friends mourning the death of my wife 8 days ago. I think it will help inspire to stand up and say a few words at her memorial on Sunday. God bless you!!
@Dee: Thank you so much for the kind words. I am so happy you can resonate and reflect with each article. =)
@Vincent: I think these questions are great to review at any point in life, but as you near death you hope the answers are positive and fulfilling, like in your example about how you turned your struggles into successes.
@Rafi: Great additions as always, thank you.
@Kevin: Those are thoughtful questions that could really help flush out negativity and refocus a person’s mind. Thanks for sharing.
@Kory: Great! Thank you! Let us know how it goes. =)
@Patti: I think that’s a great idea. What a positive way to reminisce and bring a smile to your friend’s face. =)
@Frida: “…not victimized. Therefore can gain back our freedom to move from there on forward.” Well stated. Once we take ownership, we set ourselves free.
@Dawn: Thank you for the additional insight. Angel and I just might ponder these questions over the weekend. =)
@Jasmine: Welcome back!
@Inspired Reader: Your words really inspire us, thank you.
@Bret: I am so sorry to hear of your wife’s passing. You and your family are in our thoughts. I am glad these questions can shine some light in such a difficult situation. Stay strong.
@All: Thank you for sharing your stories and insight. We love reading them – we honestly do. =)
What a grandmother! Like Vincent, I think I have 1 – 5 covered (I like to think), but the other two make me realise that I’ve got work to do…
“Their fiction will become your life’s story.” – What a way to live, it may seem selfish to live for yourself, but I think that not only brings you a wonderful life, but through the skills and traits you’ll accumulate along the way – they’ll benefit just as much. Beautifully written.
jumpy beans says
gee, i ask myself this stuff everyday. and sadly i dont like the answers. but then i am a nihilist, so i guess that doesnt matter anyways…. oh the irony.
Dana Stern says
Thank you for the posts. The questions summarized are really the ones I would ask my self in the end. Also I would add a question if I made the most of my life.
Hey can someone please give me the link to the article that was there on the website till some months ago..about things to do before i die..really really need to read it now..
@Nick: That’s a great way of putting it. You have to love yourself before you can share your love with others.
@Dana Stern: Thanks for the thoughtful comment and the additional question. It’s a goodie. =)
@charu: Are you talking about this post?: 10 Things You Should Be Able To Say Before You Die
Really, these questions should be posed early in life so awareness can help us provide better answers when we get near the end.
I love your posts. They are very well drafted, words aptly chosen and to the point.
The best part is you have skilfully fitted maximum wisdom in each paragraph with words rightly chosen.
Thanks for sharing your life experiences and wisdom with all the readers.
Thank you. Inspiring! Favorite part is “Don’t be scared of death. Be scared of leaving too much of your life unlived. Be scared of leading a tedious daily existence that doesn’t empower you to be your best self. ” This resonates strongly! x
It is a best practice to always remind ourself that today maybe is my last day try to do thing perfectly. You will never regret when the time is coming.