Let me tell you something creepy about my mom.
She has a DEATH folder. Seriously.
In this folder she has all sorts of documents, explained by a disturbingly detailed list of instructions on what to do (step by step) upon her demise.
I hate that freaking folder, and I doubt I have to explain why.
No one likes to think about death—well except for psychos, serial killers, and the clinically depressed, of course. For the rest of us, death sucks.
But as much as we’d like to avoid the thought of our inevitable demise—or that of anyone we love—it’s something we all have to do at some point. And when pondered upon, death can actually be an extremely powerful catalyst for change.
Whenever someone passes away, we’re reminded of our own mortality. We think about our lives and deaths, the people we love and all the things we still need to do and say in the time we have left. And that’s a good thing—especially when you’re looking for ways to make life more meaningful.
Planning out your life is pretty much like planning any other work project. It’s always best to begin with the end in mind. Establish your goals and objectives, set a time frame, and then map out (and take!) the steps you need to take to make them happen.
Here are three morbid but surprisingly effective methods that might help:
1. Plan your funeral.
Well ok, you don’t have to plan the entire funeral like my mom did. Just plan your eulogies.
When you have some time for reflection, get a piece of paper and make three columns.
- In the first column, make a list of the important people in your life.
- In the second column, write down what they’d probably say about you if you died today. Be honest, even if it hurts.
- In the third column, write what you’d like them to say at your actual funeral—whenever that might be.
When you compare your second and third columns, you’ll see what you need to do and how far you still have to go. Act on it.
2. Pretend a sleeping person is dead.
I know what you’re thinking … and it’s probably something along the lines of “WTF???”
Totally creepy, right? That’s exactly what I told my mom (who we shall refer to as Morticia Morbidella—MM for short—from this point onwards) when she suggested it.
I was really mad at my dad one night—can’t really remember why anymore. When I whined to MM about it, she suggested I go into their room, sit by him as he slept and pretend he was dead.
It worked. I wept. And all my petty complaints and imagined aggravations were washed away.
Too often, we take the people we love for granted. We waste so much time being irritated and angry about things that don’t really matter in the long run. And more often than not, we realize this only when it’s too late.
So MM’s “stalk-the-sleeper” method, though creepy as hell, is actually a great way to remind us of these things while we still have time to do something about them.
3. Make a bucket list.
If you haven’t watched The Bucket List, you should. It’s good. Not very realistic since most of us won’t ever be best friends with a billionaire who can make all our dreams come true — but still good.
At the very least, you’ll learn that a bucket list is basically a list of all the things you want to do before you die (or “kick the bucket.”) Some people call it a life list.
Caroline Adams Miller, a Bethesda, Maryland-based life coach says, “It’s not enough to react to life on a day-by-day basis. People need a road map. Life lists are one of the best ways to plumb the depths of the human psyche.”
Miller’s Web site, Your 100 Things, allows visitors too create a 100-item list of life goals and compare their list with others. There are other sites like this (Forty-three Things, Superviva, and Reaperlist to name a few) so you might want to check those out.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of the super-long list. I find that the more items there are on a list, the less likely you are to complete them. But that’s just me.
The number (and even the far-outitude) of items on your list is completely up to you. Your bucket list is yours, and no one can or should tell you how to make it. If you need some guides or inspiration however, here’s a great list of resources:
- Life List Template (PDF file, Whole Living)
- 39 Ways to Live, and Not Merely Exist (Dumb Little Man)
- 50 Things to Say Before You Die (Lyved)
- 70 Things To Do Before Having Children (Marc & Angel Hack Life)
- 50 Unconventional Things to do in Your Lifetime (Lyved)
- 100 Ways to Live a Better Life (Dragos Roua)