Wishes and the Pursuit of Life
Contributed by: Lewis J. Walker, CFP®
Every new year we review our progress and reflect on goals, aspirations, and plans for the future, bringing to mind the Yiddish proverb, “Man plans and God laughs.”
The reality of a largely unknowable future came into focus as I read Resisting Happiness, by New York Times bestselling author Matthew Kelly (Beacon Publishing, 2016). The book tells “a true story about why we sabotage ourselves, feel overwhelmed, set aside our dreams, and lack the courage to simply be ourselves.” I have heard Matthew Kelly speak several times. He is a great motivator, urging listeners to “become the best version of yourself.” Spiritual and motivational reading is an essential element in resolutions aimed at self-actualization, true happiness, and confidence midst the slings and arrows of life.
In a chapter entitled “Get Busy Living,” Kelly recounts a Dream Manager program involving nurses in a large hospital. The Dream Manager program “helps people identify why they do what they do, what is important to them, and what their dreams are for the future.” How would you answer those questions as you plan for 2017 and beyond?
The nurses told Kelly that dying people very often talk about how they wish they had lived their lives differently. Kelly makes a startling observation: “The reality of death rearranges our priorities. It may sound weird or warped, but I think being told by doctors that you have six months to live is one of life’s ultimate luxuries.” What would you do with those six months?
As recounted in the book, and quoted with permission, here are the 24 things the nurses said that dying patients most shared. “I wish...I’d had the courage to be myself; I had spent more time with the people I love; I had made spirituality more of a priority; I hadn’t spent so much time working; I had discovered my purpose earlier; I had learned to express my feelings more; I hadn’t spent so much time worrying about things that never happened; I had taken more risks; I had cared less about what people thought; I had realized earlier that happiness is a choice; I had loved more.”
“I wish...I had taken better care of myself; I had been a better spouse; I had paid less attention to other people’s expectations; I had quit my job and found something I really enjoyed doing; I had stayed in touch with old friends; I had spoken my mind more; I hadn’t spent so much time chasing the wrong things; I’d had more children; I had touched more lives; I had traveled more.”
“I wish...I had thought more about life’s big questions earlier; I had lived more in the moment. I wish I had pursued more of my dreams.”
It is day 180 of your last six months. What “I wish I had...” would be on your mind? Why wait?
Sure, thinking about death is a downer. But as Matthew Kelly instructs, “It is good to think about death from time to time. It puts things in perspective and reminds us what really matters. The perspective that death is inevitable reminds us to get busy living.”
Diagnosed with cancer, Steve Jobs (1955-2011), at his 2005 commencement address at Stanford University, said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve encountered to help me make big choices in life. Because almost everything—all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure—these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
“Get busy living.” What truly is important to you?
Lewis Walker is a financial planning and investment strategist at Capital Insight Group; 770-441-2603. Securities and advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative and investment adviser representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Capital Insight Group.