The Being & The Doing EPISODE 6:
What’s the Point?!
It’s a basic human need to feel that we are making a difference in the world. At the heart of our well-being is having a sense that what we are doing in life is meaningful and worthwhile…otherwise what’s the point? In this episode Laurel shares some thoughts about how life purpose helps us make big and small choices.
HIGHLIGHTS YOU WON’T WANT TO MISS
- Lessons from a funeral 1:45
- Legacy vs impact 3:59
- Deathbed epiphanies 5:46
- The big why 14:25
- This episode’s homework 16:10
*A full transcript is available below on this page.
Here’s the link to the page for your Being & Doing homework. It includes a little guide with some ideas about making time for both action and awareness. Download it HERE. When you grab it you will also get my weekly tips about living life the mindful way.
Here’s a blog about what obituaries can teach us
The book I mentioned was The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing by Bronnie Ware
Curious about the skillset approach to well-being? Check out the Well-being By Design model
THIS EPISODE’S HOMEWORK
Something to think about:
What is the difference you want to make in the world and in the lives of those around you?
Something to try:
Write your eulogy. What would you like people to say about you at your funeral? Once you have done that, step back and see how big the gap is between what you want people to remember about you and the impact you have on them and how you live your life each day. Your task is to begin closing the gap.
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CREDITS: The Being & The Doing podcast is produced by Neela Bell. Voiceovers by Jason Harris. Music is GoodMorning Sunshine by Yoav Alyagon and Firefly by Scott Buckley.
Full Transcript of the Show
Intro: Welcome to The Being and The Doing, a podcast about well-being and the practices that help us have more calm, focus, purpose, and presence in our busy lives. Here’s your host, author and life coach, Laurel Vespi.
Laurel: Hey there, lovely ones, welcome to Episode 6 of The Being and The Doing. In today’s show, I’m going to share another one of the cornerstone skillsets of well-being from my ‘well-being by design’ model.
Today, it’s about the skills of purpose in life, about our personal impact and legacy and making a difference in the world. In the past few episodes, I’ve been sharing these cornerstone skill sets. Back in Episode 2, I kind of outlined the rationale behind using this particular kind of approach to well-being, a skillset approach. In Episode 3, it was about building the skills around creating pauses in our day. In Episode 4, it was about finding calm in the midst of chaos. In Episode 5, it was about getting stuff done, particularly the most important stuff done.
So, here we are today about the skills of purpose in life. At the heart of our well-being is really having a sense that what we’re doing in our life is meaningful and worthwhile because otherwise, what is the point? It’s actually like a basic human need to feel that we’re making a difference in the world so let’s start at the end of our lives.
So have you ever gone to a funeral and you’re sitting there and you’re listening to the eulogy and all of these lovely things that people are saying about the dearly departed one and you’re sitting there and you’re wondering, I wonder what people will say about me at my funeral?
I’ve had that thought sitting there at a funeral, I wonder what people will say about me when this time comes? Well, obituaries can teach us a lot about life. I’ll put a link in the show notes to a blog that I wrote about my morning obituary habit. It was something that my dad taught me a long time ago so you can check that out about my morning obituary habit.
Several years ago, there was an obituary for a woman named Antonetti, who passed away at the age of a hundred and one and in part, this is what it said, I’ll read it to you: “In my experience”, she, Antonetti: “Never uttered a negative comment about anyone. She had a gift for speaking the truth without being hurtful or nasty. She had an inner beauty that invited you into a relationship with her and magnified her outer beauty; her beautiful white bobbed hair, fingernails painted to perfection and smart bright colored outfits even in her old age. Her calm, soothing voice was punctuated with a wonderful laugh that made those high cheekbones rise even higher and those blue eyes sparkle.”
And then it went on describing the activities that she liked and what it was like to spend time with her and it ended with, “She enjoyed the simple things in a simple life, but her legacy was anything but simple, live with integrity and love and share your wisdom.”
It’s that lovely? Here’s what I know for sure; Aunt Netty created that legacy day after day, choice after choice. She created that for her friends and her family. But when you listen to that when I read that obituary, it’s like: “Darn, I wish I knew Aunt Netty.” That’s how powerful that legacy was.
Legacy is an accumulated thing, it doesn’t happen overnight. What people say at that funeral, is the accumulation of what it is that you have built over a lifetime.
Now, impact, on the other hand, can happen in an instant; good or bad. You can have an impact on someone immediately, maybe even a life-changing impact. I’m going to dive deeper into that and then in the next episode when we’re going to explore the idea of personal presence, but back to legacy. It really brings us to the idea of how we spend our time.
In the last episode, episode 5, it was about the skill set of getting stuff done and I touched on the idea that spending time on the most important things, are like actual true priorities is what’s important. Not just the stuff on the never-ending to-do list. Sure, we have stuff to get done but we also have to consider the truly important stuff, the Legacy making stuff because if we never make room for that, then don’t be surprised when nobody writes an Aunt Nettie-like obituary about you.
Finding Your Life Purpose
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care so she’s caring for patients who were in their last 12 weeks of their life. And she recorded, what she called, their dying epiphanies and she shared them in her book, ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: a life transformed by the dearly departing.’ That’s the name of the book. Now just as an aside, Wayne Dyer, who many of you have likely heard read his books or listen to him speak, he said about this book that: “This book had a profound effect on my life.” So, any book that’s going to have a profound effect on Wayne Dyer, I think is probably well worth the read.
Back to what she talks about in this book; she was asking people what their regrets were now that they found themselves at their end of their life. So, here, now that they were on their deathbed, what were their regrets that they had? And there were five that were pretty consistent and it might be a little surprising what the five were.
Number one, people regretted that they hadn’t had the courage to live a life true to themselves and not the life that others expected. Wow, she says this was the most common regret of all. That people regretted that they didn’t have the courage to live a life that was true to themselves. That they were always doing what other people were expecting of them.
So, it’s easy to see how at the end of your life if that is something that you’ve been doing that you look back and you see how many of your own dreams have gone unfulfilled.
The second one was, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard and this was very common among the men. Now ‘I wish I hadn’t worked so hard’ probably also means, I wish I hadn’t spent so much time and energy and focus on work rather than time with family or maybe following those dreams, I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
Number three, I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings. So at the end of their lives, people regretted that they didn’t actually say how they were feeling. Now, why did people not say how they were feeling? Well, because they were suppressing those feelings, holding back on that in order to keep the peace with other people.
So have you ever done that, bitten your tongue? This is how I’m feeling and this is what I’d like to share about how I’m feeling but that’s going to make somebody else unhappy or uncomfortable and so I’ll just keep the peace and bite my tongue.
Number four was, I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Yeah, have you ever done this? We should get together, we should go for coffee, we should have dinner, we should go to the movies, we should we should do this, we should do this and then we don’t, why? Because that never-ending list of to-do things is still there and that gets your attention, even though lots of the stuff that’s on that to-do list, probably is not as great a priority in the big picture as staying connected with your friends.
And so we say, yeah, we should and we don’t actually close the deal on that. We don’t make the appointment, we don’t schedule it and sometimes that’s because you know what, we’re just exhausted at the end of the really tired week, yeah, I could go out but I’m just going to stay in and lay on the couch.
Why is that important that staying in touch with friends? Because again we go back to that social need we have to be connected with people and friendships. It’s sort of hard to continue like the depth of friendship so you make friends and you put in a lot of effort to maybe start making friends and then you let it slide and now it’s going to take a lot more effort to again make a new friendship. So can we pay more attention to the friends that we have? Can we give them the time and energy?
And the last one that she says were in the top five was, I wish that I had let myself be happier. So people regretted not allowing themselves to be happier in their life. And when she talks about epiphanies, there was this realization at the end of their lives that happiness actually is a choice.
It’s not a set of circumstances, it’s not if this happens then I’ll be happy, it’s actually an in-the-moment choice. And so they had stayed in this kind of stuck pattern, old habits, looking on the negative side of things, waiting for something that was supposed to happen, some event, when this happens, then I’ll be happy. When this circumstance arises, then I’ll be happy. When this person starts doing this thing, then I’ll be happy and what they realized was, you know what, happiness was just there at their fingertips anytime that they wanted it.
Which is true for you too, do you find yourself ever saying, you know, well when this happens, you know, I’ll be happier. I don’t know, it kind of feels like we need a bit of an exhale here, don’t we? Like just this letting go some of that. I don’t know maybe even our own regret about what are we doing currently? What is happening for us right now, the choices that we’re making right now? That if we are to continue doing that, we’re going to find ourselves at some point hopefully, when you’re 101 like Aunt Netty, looking back and not having to say I wish this, I wish I had been truer to myself.
I wish I had gone after the dreams that I had. I wish that I hadn’t worked so hard and you know, I wish I’d spent more time with family and I wish I had just sucked it up and said how I felt. You know, other people might be uncomfortable but okay, I’ll just say how I feel.
And I wish that I had nurtured and cared for and cherished my friendships. No, it’s not even about having bazillion friends or you know, 800 friends on Facebook or whatever, it’s not about that.
It’s about having this circle of friends that are really the people that you can share about your life with and have fun with and help you be the best and you get to help them be the best that they can be and you know that you won’t be just sitting there saying, you know, I could have been happier if I just let myself be.
I know that big exhale is because this isn’t really light and fluffy stuff, is it? Before you can answer questions like what am I doing, how I am spending my time, there’s actually another big question that you have to consider, an important question. It’s the big ‘why’ question that informs the choices of tasks and activities that take up your time. Because if what we’re doing is ultimately not a reflection of what we say is most important and really what is the point? What is the point of any of it?
It’s really a question that we ask so that we can have kind of a deeper understanding of what is truly important to us as individuals. You know, often we can kind of give these superficial answers of what is important but when we dive down a little bit, we find out what is truly important to me and to you as individuals. And once we know the answer to that, well, then we can better align this underlying purpose, this big ‘why’ with how we spend our time.
The ‘why’ is not a one-time question, you don’t just ask that, oh, what’s it all about Alfie and now we’re done. No, it’s one that were repeatedly asking ourselves so that we can kind of keep peeling that onion about our core values about what is really important to us, about what we really deeply believe about the world.
So yeah exhale, big stuff and important stuff.
So let me leave you with a little ‘being and doing’ homework, something to think about and something to try, to kind of dip your toes into this a little bit and grab a pen write it down. In the show notes, you’ll find the link for the little download where you can record some of your thoughts and what happened when you try the thing I’m going to suggest you try.
So here goes, something to think about; what is the difference you want to make in the world and in the lives of those around you? And don’t have a first glance answer at it, take that question out for a walk, go for a bit of walk and like think about that for a little bit. What is the difference that you want to make in the world and in the lives of those around you? Because we know making a difference is a fundamental need that we have.
And something to try, write your eulogy. What is it that you would like people to say about you at your funeral? And I know, I ask clients to do this sometimes and sometimes it just kind of freaks people out a little bit but just hold it lightly a little bit and whatever way you need to do it, but write your eulogy. And once you’ve done that, then step back and see how big is the gap between what you want people to remember about you and say about you and the impact that you have on them and how you actually live your life every day.
Is there a gap or how big is the gap between all of that that you want to happen and the kind of choices and priorities that you make on a daily basis? And your task then is to begin closing the gap a little bit. So thanks so much for tuning in, I do appreciate it.
Next time, I’ll share some ideas about the well-being skill set of personal presence mindfulness a little bit and how you show up in the world. Until then lovely ones, pause, breathe and have a beautiful day.
Outro: You’ve been listening to The Being and The Doing with your host, Laurel Vespi. If you liked this episode and think other people would, please subscribe, rate and give a review on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. Be sure to tune in next week for another conversation about The Being and The Doing. Thanks for listening.