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