What is the most important ritual we can commit to each day?
Perhaps people who are approaching death can provide an answer.
In Steve Job’s much watched (over 8 million views) commencement speech at Stanford University in 2005 he reflected on his life by discussing 3 stories. The 3rd story was about death and was prompted by his recent diagnosis with pancreatic cancer. I quote:
“My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: “If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.” It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the 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. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
Australian palliative care nurse Bronnie Ware wrote her book The top 5 Regrets of the Dying after listening to people in the last 3-12 weeks of their life. One of the 5 regrets they shared with her was:
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
On July 24, 2004, I made a decision to end my life because of a 4 year severe depressive episode which I thought would never end. Needless to say I am eternally grateful that I survived because I now lead a rich and fulfilling life.
My brush with death created an epiphany, which basically reflects the recommendations of Jobs and Ware – we owe to ourselves to lead a life that is authentic and true to self.
“Success is liking yourself, liking what you do, and liking how you do it.” Maya Angelou
Our most important ritual is to spend 2 minutes at the end of each day and ask ourselves:
- Did I like what I did today?
- Did I like how I did it?
- Was I true to myself?
If we like the answers – fantastic – we are on track. If we don’t like the answers for a few days in a row, we owe it to ourselves to makes some changes.
Decide when and where you are going to ask these 3 questions.
Graeme Cowan is an author and speaker who shows leaders how to create rituals that build their resilience, mood, and performance. To download his speaking brochure click here. If you have questions about his availability or suitability for presenting to your organisation please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +61 2 8005 0344.