Well here I am again...after three weeks. Clearly a weekly blog is going to be too much for me at this particular time in my life! I’ve realised that a monthly blog is going to have to do, and that my initial idea of writing one weekly is not realistic. C'est la vie.
So, to round up ‘values’ I thought I would add a qualifier to the other posts I have written about values so far. This qualifier is an idea I’ve had for a long time, but one that has been crystalised in my mind by two quite different experiences I’ve had over the past week. Firstly, a ‘silly’ Facebook challenge where I had to post a 90s song a day for 7 days and secondly, a book I’m reading by an author and psychiatrist who has influenced me a lot over the years (Irvin Yalom).
I won’t go into too much detail about the ins and outs of these two experiences because they could each be a blog post in and of themselves, but I will say the 90’s music challenge had me reflecting on a whole decade of my life, and Yalom writes a lot about meaning and death.
I have realised why I tend not to use to eulogy exercise for values work with clients-it’s because I feel uncomfortable about basing one’s life choices predominately on what other people think and say. While I think it’s very important to be a good person, and how other people view us is meaningful and informative, basing a whole life on this seems a little superficial. I’ve realised it’s this that has had me feeling a little uncomfortable about the eulogy values exercise.
Living an authentic life in line with our own deeply held values means going deeper than just thinking about how other people view us. We all have an inner world; we have memories, hopes, dreams, fears, battles, fantasies, secrets and desires that other people know a little or nothing about- it is simply not possible to completely know another person. At the end of our life, we are left with ourselves, and that’s it. In the weeks, days or moments before our death, only we really know if we have lived a life worth living for ourselves. Only we really know if we have done the best we could have with the cards we have been dealt. In fact, only we know fully what those cards have been.
So, while thinking about what you’d like others to say about you after your death is useful, it shouldn’t be the only part of what informs your values and your actions. Your values and actions should also be informed by a deep and fearless examination of who you are, where you have come from and what is deeply important to you. Bringing those things into action creates a meaningful life.