“I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.” Ecclesiastes 3:12
Occasionally I suggest to my coaching clients that they should write their own epitaph. The intention of this exercise is not to be fatalistic, but visionary. In other words, if you can sum up in just one short sentence or phrase how you would like to have your life described at its conclusion you have essentially written a vision statement, the purpose of which is to provide direction for your life.
Years ago we had the good fortune to become acquainted with a man named Max, who had at one time been a prominent banker, rancher and successful businessman until a severe stroke rendered him mostly paralyzed and in need of full-time care. Always cheerful and outgoing Max puttered around the facility where he resided in his motorized wheelchair visiting with fellow residents and greeting visitors as they came and went. My mother happened to reside there as well, and that’s how we met Max.
Max never forgot anything. He remembered everyone’s name, where they were from, and what they were up to. Having a conversation with Max was an absolute delightful experience. He was inquisitive, interesting, and funny. But Max did something I will never forget. At the end of every conversation before we parted ways, he would always remind us in some way to go live our lives to the fullest. Then, looking us in the eye his departing words would always be the same, “Remember, this is not dress rehearsal.”
At first I was puzzled by Max’s closing remarks, suspecting perhaps it had something to do with his confinement to a wheelchair, or regrets about things he had done or failed to do. Maybe . . . Except Max didn’t seem much like the type to harbor regrets or disappointments. In fact, based on the stories we heard and the enthusiasm he continued to show I suspect Max had lived his life with the same vigor he was encouraging us to have. Max appeared to be a man with a vision, a clear direction for his life, an epitaph.
“I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live,” said the writer of Ecclesiastes. All it takes is to customize that for our own lives, and – voila! – we have written a vision statement – an epitaph at life’s conclusion.