Every reflective person sooner or later faces certain questions.
Erik Erikson taught me, early in my life, that a normal part of adult development is to ask this question: “Can I make my life count?”
As I travel (via Zoom) on book tour, I find that there is an amazing hunger to discuss this question. People seem more ready to talk a little less about how to do things and to talk a little more about “why” they are doing them.
Purpose is age-adverse. The pandemic has, regardless of age, ignited a human need to feel that life is in service to some greater good.
What Makes Your Life Count?
If you’re curious about making your life count, here are three steps that might help:
Step 1: Clarify your version of the Good Life.
Since we each have our own idea of what a Good Life looks like, it’s important to identify what the essential aspects are for you. Go to www.richardleider.com and click on Resources. Then, download the Repacking Journal to take the Good Life Inventory. “What is the Good Life for you?”
I hope that this exercise will be useful in giving you a way to reflect on an organizing frame for your life.
Step 2: Uncover Your Calling
Another way to get clear on how to make your life count is by uncovering your calling. Calling is “the inner urge to want to matter, to give your “gifts” away.” Gifts have four elements:
– It’s something you love to do
– It’s something that others observe you doing effortlessly, superbly
– It’s something that you can’t recall learning
– It’s something that you love practicing and learning more about
Go to www.richardleider.com and, again, click on Resources. Then, download “Is Your Calling Calling?” What are your top 5 “gifts?”
Next, zero in on your Passions – who (or what) you would like to use your gifts to serve. And, then, think about your Values – where you want to do all this – where is the best place to make your life count?
Step 3: “Keep Death Daily Before Your Eyes”
Don’t forget you’re going to die. The pandemic reminds us that we’re penciled in for an uncertain time. Benedictine monastics, poets, and sages throughout the ages have taught us what happens to our lives when we live our lives as if they were our last, enabling us when we come to the moment of our deaths to know that we have lived a “good living.”
St. Benedict says simply, “Keep death daily before your eyes.” He reminds us to make our lives count by using the ancient tradition of thinking about our mortality.
The practice of “keeping death daily before our eyes” might sound depressing, but I have personally found it has the power to make my everyday life more special – a reminder that tomorrow is never promised and to stop procrastinating on my real priorities.
I also use the somewhat scary smartphone app WeCroak, which sends me a daily reminder quote and even will ping my phone five times a day, everyday reminding me of my mortality. I don’t subscribe to the pings; once-a-day is plenty.
Put Death Into Life
In the end, we all want to belong, and we all want to matter. Making our life count is fundamental. It’s not a luxury for the wealthy or the educated. It’s fundamental and universal to who we are as human beings. Because, mattering matters.
Richard Leider, founder of Inventure – The Purpose Company, is the author of eleven books, including three best sellers, which have sold over one million copies. Repacking Your Bags and The Power of Purpose are considered classics in the personal growth field. Richard’s PBS Special – The Power of Purpose – was viewed by millions of people across the U.S. His newest book, Who Do You Want to Be When You Grow Old?: The Path of Purposeful Aging is now available.