We all think that with the holidays ending, there’s going to be an opportunity for slow. A blank canvas for mindfulness. A time for new beginnings, ready to leave the hectic, rushed and busy season behind.
Instead we find ourselves diving headfirst into the list-making. Maybe not for gift-giving for others this time around, but rather, gift-giving for ourselves. For the life we want to lead. We drive to the car wash, rush to the hair salon, hit the yoga mats. New year, new me. Old rhythm.
Here’s the thing. Beginning with the beginning is the same as beginning the way we always have. We have new hopes for a bright future, but our tendencies keep us from making any real change. Some New Year’s advice? Go backwards. Beginning with the end changes everything.
If you interview anyone who ever experienced a tragic event, an untimely death, a natural disaster, they will likely begin their story in much the same way.
“It started like any other day.”
That single sentence alone tells us all that we need to know. It tells us of the ordinariness of events. It tells of the human tendency to take daily occurrence for granted. It tells of a mortality that easily escapes us. And it tells of the unexpected end.
This year, I implore you to begin at the end.
Right before we began our married lives, a few months before we embarked on our journey to freedom, we invested in our finances. The value of having a CFP such as Andrew could not be over-emphasized. The most important thing Andrew did for us had nothing to do with money. The first exercise we did together involved sitting down at a turquoise green dining table that I scrounged from a consignment store five years earlier and beginning with the end.
In lieu of marriage counseling, we were talked about our deaths.
We were asked the difficult questions. “If you would fall ill, and knew you were to die in a year, what would you like to do with your remaining time on Earth?”
If it were only a month?
If you were to die tomorrow?
If you died right this second, what would be your biggest regrets?
Not quite the easiest questions to answer on the spot! I would recommend some serious mulling over, because these are questions worth answering.
This is why our journey is not just about numbers and money. This is why we focus on experiences over material goods. This is why the community we’ve built is more important than the accolades we’ve racked up. This is why the things we own must be only that which we love and nothing more, and the things that we buy must do good for others and for the planet.
Because if you ask people about their death, you will see that the life they wanted to have led does not line up with the way they are currently living.
They may say they want financial freedom, but refuse to manage a budget. They may say they want to lose weight, but refuse to go to the gym every day or alter what they eat. They might say they want to travel the world, but tie themselves to a 9-5 that only gives 2 weeks of vacation a year. They might say they want to focus on family, but focus on material goods instead, thus taking them away from their homes and forcing them to work for said goods. They may say they want to pursue a passion, but never invest, never take that leap.
I say, I want to live an intentional live.
I say, we aren’t promised tomorrow.
I say, it was never about us, for we are transient beings. It’s about what we leave behind.
I say, if you want to write real resolutions, you begin with the ending.
A practice that I encourage people to do is to write their own eulogy. If you were to die, how do you want people to remember you? What do you want people to say? Limit it to four sentences. Ideally, revisiting it once a year would be great. And then ask yourself, is what I am doing today reflecting what I want people to say?
I guarantee you that you will see your resolutions change.