How Writing Your Own Obituary Can Transform Your Life

If I ever have the pleasure of coaching you. One of the first exercises I will ask you to do is to write your own obituary. 

Ironically one the best tools for understanding who we want to be in our lives is considering the end of our life.

Life has a tendency to run away from us before you know it 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 years have gone by and you look back and wonder how you got here.

This mainly because we find ourselves just reacting to the events that life throws at us. 

Nothing shows this example more than the work of hospice nurse Bronnie Ware who is the author of the memoir, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.

Here is a list of the top five things her patients regretted:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life where I was true to myself, and not just lived up to other people’s expectations.”

“I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.”

“I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”

“I wish I’d stayed in better touch with my friends.”

“I wish I’d let myself be happier.”

The good thing is that you don't have to wait until you are on your death bed to understand the kind of life that you want. You can put yourself into that space through writing your obituary.

How to do it

Without fail all my clients find the exercise more difficult than they imagined. Some can't bring themselves to do it at all. 

Thinking of our own death and how we want to be remembered brings up the realisation that we are not living in a way true to our authentic self, fear may grab hold of you.

So take the exercise slowly. 

Sit with it and contemplate your funeral, who is there? Who stands up to give the eulogy, what words do they use to describe you? What things do they say about you?

There might be things that come up that give you uncomfortable feelings, maybe people will say things about you that you don't like.

Take Alfred Nobel for example, who founded the Nobel peace prize. In 1888 the death of his brother Ludvig caused several newspapers to publish obituaries of Alfred in error.

One French newspaper published an obituary titled "Le marchand de la mort est mort" ("The merchant of death is dead").

Nobel read the obituary and was appalled at the idea that he would be remembered in this way.

His decision to posthumously donate the majority of his wealth to found the Nobel Prize has been credited at least in part to him wanting to leave a behind a better legacy.

Thus consider the obituary you would hate to write about yourself.

If it helps think of these other questions.

What did you stand for when things got tough?

Who was the real you, all along?

What decisions did you make about the direction of your life that made you proud?

What did your choices say about what mattered to you?

How will you be remembered now you’re gone?

What and/or who did you impact or change? Why?

What character traits and values did you consistently demonstrate over your life?

At your core, who were you?

Who did you care for?

How did you impact or change this person/these people?

What were major accomplishments in your life?

At the ages of 40, 50, 60, 70?

What did you show interest in?

What were you passionate or enthusiastic about?

What was your legacy?

Think big and really let go, reading it should be an inspiration to you. Think about your big dreams, think about who you really want to be.

It should stir emotions in you that you use to guide your actions. 

It is a work in progress, so keep it safe and revisit often, it will probably become the most powerful document in your life.