It’s been about a year since my friend Gary died. It was sad, but not a shock because he knew he was dying. As a matter of fact, his death, like his life was rather inspiring. He had an incurable disease, so he took great pains to really live while he was alive, and it was stimulating just to be in his presence.
I’ll share one of his secrets for living with you. He kept a note card in his wallet. Written on it were the things that he felt were the most important to him. There were usually three to five things on the card, and he changed the list every week or so. The lists initially contained items like; health, honesty, art, friends, or myself and progressed to ideas like; joy, God and peace. Whenever he was faced with a choice, he would consult the card, and if a course of action did not compliment the values on the card, he wouldn’t pick it. Isn’t that a cool way to make decisions? He tried to live each moment of his life accordance with his current values.
Personally, I would love to be able to do that, and if this idea seems interesting to you as well, let me offer a series of little exercises that may help us both.
1. Get a piece of paper and on it write the three most important things in your life today.
2. Turn the paper over and estimate how many hours a day (on the average) you spend doing the following things.
Time with family
Meditation or Spiritual Time
The total should be 24, so you may need to add other things to this list; it’s just an outline.
3. Make a list of all the things you want to accomplish by the end of this day. For example, I want to;
A. Finish this article
B. Cook and eat dinner with my family
C. Read more of my book (you get the idea?)
4. Make a list of everything you would like to accomplish this week.
5. Make a list of everything you would like to accomplish this year.
6. Finally, and think about this now, list all that you would like to accomplish in your lifetime.
7. For the last part of this exercise, consider this: If you had five days to live, how would you spend your time?
Now, look back over the lists you have made, starting with the three things that were most important to you. Do they show up in the goals that you have set for yourself? Are they incorporated in some fashion on the list of things that you hope to accomplish over a lifetime? If they are not showing up, how can you get these values reflected on your list?
Is the list of things that you want to accomplish today propelling you toward your lifetime goals? Does it correspond to your three important values?
Finally, take a look at the second list, the one that displays how you spend your time each day. Does this correspond to the goals that you have set for yourself, and the things that you consider important for your life? For example, if family is important to you, do you spend time supporting this value? Is it reflected in the lists of things that you hope to accomplish over your lifetime?
Whenever I do this sort of exercise, I usually find myself having to make difficult choices because my time is limited. Am I going to exercise, see an evening client to help pay my rent or have dinner with my family? They are all important. It’s hard to choose. One thing that helps me is to go all the way back to my list of values and keep myself focused on my lifetime goals.
In the end, I want to live my life the way my friend Gary did. I would assume Thomas Carlyle did so as well because he said,
“Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct”.