Friday, 12 March 2010

Write Your Own Obituary

Contemplating our limited time on earth isn’t something most of us do willingly. Yet it is the ultimate goal setting exercise. How do we want to be remembered? What do we want to achieve during our lifetime?

It’s less weird than it sounds (and I know it does sound weird). When forced to consider what we could do during our lifetimes, what we probably won’t or can’t do, we are left with the choice of what we really want to accomplish. Yet the cold reality is that unless we do something about it, our obit is going to read quite differently.

“Here lies Caroline who really meant to get around to doing a whole bunch of stuff she never had time to do …” probably isn’t how I want everyone to remember me. And of course it doesn’t just have to be achievements, but also qualities, time spent with people who are important to you, and values passed on to future generations.

Charles Dickens’ Christmas Carol is the ultimate obituary, graphically set out during Scrooge’s own lifetime. The ghost of Christmas Future showed him what would happen unless he changed his ways. It left him a different man, with a wonderfully different outlook on life.

I’ve started to write my obituary and found the exercise a good deal more difficult than I thought. Striking the balance between worthiness and being realistic isn’t easy. And I don’t want my best work to be behind me.

None of us know how long we will live, so forever putting off our biggest dreams until tomorrow probably isn’t the wisest strategy. This little exercise reminds us of exactly that.


  1. It becomes even more frightening if you try to work out just how much time you have left.

  2. Margaret

    As the years march on I'm always comforted by remembering Mary Wesley who became a best selling author in her 70's. Looked at like that, there's little excuse for any of us!

  3. Currently reading 'The Element'by Ken Robinson and there's a great chapter on 'Is it too late?' and in short the answer is NO. Benjamin Franklin invented the bifocal lens when he was 78. Agatha Christine wrote The Mousetrap, the world's longest running play when she was 62. Hope for us all yet I think :-)

  4. That's all very encouraging.

    I've been starting to feel my age.