Are you Living your Eulogy or your Resume?

Good morning Lifestyle Design.  I recently had to write my eulogy for a project; it made me stop and think.  Consequently, I just came across this article, and hopefully it will make you stop and think too.    If you were to strip everything away from your outer, worldy-accomplishments, what remains is who you really are in relation to other human beings; not where you went to school, how much money you make, or how smart you were.  Arianna Huffington has something interesting to say.  There is a high correlation between the qualities we would want in our eulogy to what cultivates a truly happy life; so take a closer look at your own life, and start designing changes for a happier and more sustainable existence…Have a lovely Wednesday everyone.

“Today I want every American to see how these men and women lived,” President Obama said Sunday, eulogizing the 12 men and women killed in the Washington Navy Yard shooting. He spoke of volunteers who made time to give back to their communities, like “Frank Kohler, giving dictionaries to every third-grader in his county,” and “Marty Bodrog, leading the children’s Bible study at church.” There were fathers like Mike Ridgell, “coaching his daughters’ softball teams and joining Facebook just to keep up with his girls, one of whom said he was always the cool dad.” There were mothers like Mary Francis Knight, “devoted to her daughters … who had just recently watched with joy as her older daughter got married,” and grandparents like John Johnson, “always smiling, giving bear hugs to his 10 grandchildren … who would have welcomed his 11th grandchild this fall.”

Have you noticed that when people die, their eulogies celebrate life very differently from the way we define success in our everyday existence? Eulogies are, in fact, very Third Metric. At HuffPost we’ve made the Third Metric — redefining success beyond money and power to include well-being, wisdom and our ability to wonder and to give — a key editorial focus. But while it’s not hard to live a Third Metric life, it’s very easy not to. It’s easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work. It’s easy to use work to let ourselves forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It’s easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually harried, stressed-out existence. It’s easy, in effect, to miss our lives even while we’re living them. Until we’re no longer living them.

For most of us, our eulogy will be not just the first formal marking down of what our lives were about but the only one. The eulogy is the foundational document of our legacy, of how people remember us, of how we live on in the minds and hearts of others. And it is very telling what you don’t hear in eulogies. You almost never hear things like:

“Of course his crowning achievement was when he made senior vice president.”

Or:

“What everybody loved most about her was how she ate lunch at her desk. Every day.”

Or:

“He was proud that he never made it to one of his kid’s Little League games because he always wanted to go over those figures one more time.”

Or:

“She didn’t have any real friends, but she had 600 Facebook friends, and she dealt with every email in her inbox every night.”

Or:

“But he will live on, not in our hearts or memories, because we barely knew him, but in his PowerPoint slides, which were always meticulously prepared.”

No matter how much a person spends his or her life burning the candle at both ends, chasing a toxic definition of success and generally missing out on life, the eulogy is always about the other stuff: what they gave, how they connected, how much they meant to the lives of the real people around them, small kindnesses, lifelong passions and what made them laugh.

So the question is: Why do we spend so much time on what our eulogy is not going to be?

“Eulogies aren’t résumés,” David Brooks wrote in June. “They describe the person’s care, wisdom, truthfulness and courage. They describe the million little moral judgments that emanate from that inner region.”

And yet we spend so much time and effort and energy on those résumé entries, which are gone as soon our heart stops beating. Even for those who die with amazing résumés, whose lives were synonymous with accomplishment and achievement, their eulogies are mostly about what they did when they weren’t achieving and succeeding — at least by our current, broken definition of success. For example, look at Steve Jobs, a man whose life, at least as the public saw it, was about creating things, things that were, yes, amazing and game-changing, but when his sister, Mona Simpson, rose to memorialize him at his memorial service at Stanford University, that’s not what she focused on.

Yes, she talked about his work and his work ethic, but mostly as manifestations of his passions. “Steve worked at what he loved,” she said. But what really moved him, what he really loved, was love. “Love was his supreme virtue,” she said, “his god of gods.” And though yes, he loved his work, he loved his family too:

When [his son] Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.

And then she added this touching image: “None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.”

And about his wife: “His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic.”

And then there were lines like these, sprinkled throughout:

“Steve was humble.”

“Steve liked to keep learning.”

“Steve cultivated whimsy.”

“With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun.”

“He treasured happiness.”

“He was an intensely emotional man.”

His sister made sure in her eulogy that we knew that Steve Jobs was a lot more than just the guy who invented the iPhone. He was a brother and a husband and a father who knew the true value of what technology can so easily distract us from. Even if you build an iconic product, even one that lives on, what will be foremost in the minds of the people you care about most will be the memories you built in their lives. In her 1951 novel Memoirs of Hadrian, Marguerite Yourcenar has the Roman emperor meditating on his death: “[I]t seems to me as I write this hardly important to have been emperor.”

And Thomas Jefferson’s epitaph describes him as “author of the Declaration of American Independence … and father of the University of Virginia.” No mention of the presidency.

What the old adage that we should live every day as our last usually means is that we shouldn’t wait until it’s our last day on Earth to begin prioritizing the things that really matter.

Anyone with a few smartphones and a full email inbox knows that it’s easy to live while not being aware we’re living. So a Third Metric life would be one lived in a way that’s mindful of what our eulogy will one day be. “I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it,” joked George Carlin. We may not be listening to our own eulogy, but we’re actually writing it all the time, every day. The question is how much we’re giving the eulogizer to work with.

This past summer an obituary of a Seattle woman named Jane Lotter, who died of cancer at 60, went viral. The author of the obit was Lotter herself.

“One of the few advantages of dying from Grade 3, Stage IIIC endometrial cancer, recurrent and metastasized to the liver and abdomen,” she wrote, “is that you have time to write your own obituary.” After giving a lovely and lively account of her life, she shows that she lived a life with the true definition of success in mind. “My beloved Bob, Tessa, and Riley,” she writes. “My beloved friends and family. How precious you all have been to me. Knowing and loving each one of you was the success story of my life.”

Just months before the historian Tony Judt died of ALS in 2010, he gave an amazing interview to Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. She asked him about his spiritual beliefs. Hereplied:

I don’t believe in an afterlife. I don’t believe in a single or multiple godhead. I respect people who do, but I don’t believe it myself. But there’s a big “but” which enters in here: I am much more conscious than I ever was, for obvious reasons, of what it will mean to people left behind once I’m dead. It won’t mean anything for me, but it will mean a lot to them, and it’s important for them, by which I mean my children or my wife or my close friends, that some spirit of me is, in a positive way, present in their lives, in their heads, in their imaginings and so on. So in one curious way I’ve come to believe in the afterlife as a place where I still have moral responsibilities, just as I do in this life except that I can only exercise them before I get there. Once I get there, it’ll be too late. So no god, no organized religion, but a developing sense that there’s something bigger than the world we live in, including after we die, and that we have responsibilities in that world.

So whether you believe in an afterlife, as I do, or not, by being fully present in your life and in the lives of those you love, you are creating your own afterlife and writing your own eulogy. It’s a valuable lesson, even more so while we have the good fortune of being healthy and having the energy and freedom and lack of impediments to create a life of purpose and meaning.

It shouldn’t take a near-death experience to remind us of what we’re all going to lose one day.  According to Colors magazine, something called “living funeral therapy” is becoming increasingly popular in South Korea, which has the highest suicide rate of developed countries. It can involve actually getting in a coffin and having it nailed shut, to experience a glimpse of the finality and closure of death. One operator sometimes has the participants make a list of the people in their lives who matter to them. One woman said the process made her realize she’d been neglecting her husband. “I feel like I’ve been reborn,” she said. “I want to call my husband, to tell him ‘thank you,’ and ‘sorry.'”

It’s an extreme method, and hopefully most of us won’t need to be nailed shut inside a coffin to get a sense of what we really value. But the good news is that if you’re reading this, there’s still time to live up to the best version of your eulogy.

Here are some of my favorite eulogies, courtesy of Alison Nastasi of The Atlantic. Do you have a favorite eulogy, or something in particular you remember from a eulogy you heard? Please use the comments section to share.

Photo: ETIENjones Shutterstock

Posted by:Arianna Huffington

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Belle Vivir

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Hello World!  One of my favorite things, that I have been sadly neglecting because of my lack of time, is my love for designing spaces.  I recently came across a blog called Belle Vivir, which is gorgeous.  It made me come alive instantly, and I remembered how much I love beautiful spaces, and how important design is in capturing your personal style.

For me, style should complement your values.  When it comes to interior design, let’s face it, the extremely modern Design Within Reach look is becoming blasé with knockoffs everywhere, the Crate and Barrel look is kind to the eyes, but lacks a certain “umph”.  More and more I keep seeing designers or design movements creating flat, monotonous looks.

I believe in creating spaces that have a presence and are multi-dimensional.  Spaces which honor large, unique chunks of beautiful stones, wood, metals; that brings the modern, clean element into the space.  It outlines the divisions and angles of space.  Followed by little artisanal details in the windows, the molding, the knobs, the lighting, etc.  Lighting is so important, and that’s a whole art on it’s own.  Finally, bring it all together with your personal touch.   This is the most important part, that is often lacking in spaces.  The things that you really love for reasons other than “art for my house”.   You love the item, because you love that piece of art or glass or whatever; it moves something inside of you, it has a story, which has nothing to do with your interior design.  You see, what people don’t tell you, is that if your personal energy is not present in a room, the experience will not be the same.  I am a firm believer of this.  Whether it’s something you picked up in your travels, something you painted, or photographed.  It must be something that you have an emotional connection to.  I once walked into a space that was clearly designed by a professional.  Everything was perfectly in place, by the books, but as my eyes absorbed the room, they found refuge by resting on two little paintings of fish on a bookshelf, that I loved.  They gave that room energy and allowed me to connect with the space and the person who lived there.  Turns out the person who lived there painted them himself.

Truly moving spaces reflect and merge your personal energy to the whole space in a unique way, so that when you or a guest walk in, there is a connection between all of you.  That’s a huge part of Lifestyle Design.

Here are some of my favorites from the lovely Belle Vivir, that I think did a beautiful job turning the ordinary to extraordinary by using the above elements…

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Dream.Plan.Go. Afar

Afar

Hello Lifestyle Design!  As I am in the midst of creating my lifestyle venture which will revolve around travel, philanthropy, and food experiences- my most favorite things in the whole entire world; I wanted to share with you all an understated, fantastic lifestyle travel magazine called Afar Magazine .  Unlike some of the more common magazines which are filled with Rolex advertisements and expensive hotels that most people will never stay in, Afar is different.    It’s filled with diverse articles on the experience of art, history, architecture, food, philosophy, and style of different places all over the world; old and new.   Little local gems and experiences described simply in short articles will transplant you to another place where the imagination flows into perhaps a different time, a different space.  A different life, with new possibilities?  That, to me, is the art of travel.  Traveling to new places allows a novel experience of even the most mundane, to become exotic.  I remember in Alain de Button’s, “The Art of Travel”, he describes a Scandinavian airport sign as an exotic symbol for someone who is viewing it for the first time.

I post a lot of articles about human behavior and happiness, and I found that the best place to practice and experience the ultimate human connection is when we are away from our normal routine.  Somehow new spaces, allows for vulnerability and openness that would not normally happen so easily for us humans, and this ultimately can lead to new connections.  The good news is that when we return back home, these connections help us change our focus positively.  For those of you who have ever wondered what the experience is of viewing a Van Gogh in an old Paris train station or to be staying in a old summer palace in the middle of a lake in Rajasthan, India, or to even try a little hole-in-the-wall street vendor that is famous for the best sticky buns, I urge you to pick up a copy of Afar Magazine.  Even if you never make it to these places, Afar does a good job taking you partially there or inspiring you to go there.  It has fantastic articles of the famous and the hidden treasures, recipes, maps, little tidbits on lifestyle.  The articles always inspire me to continue roaming to new places, to have the best human experiences and connection to others and to myself, in the most sustainable fashion.  After all, that is the purpose of Lifestyle Design and why I am starting my own company, to transition from writing to actually designing a sustainable, connected experience for you.  A better life awaits…XO

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Say hi to Lucy

As I’m sitting outside reading on the deck, enjoying the absolute, beautiful Californian weather, I read a fantastic article that my sister sent me.  Today’s Lifestyle Design is a story about our modern world, written by “wait but why”.  Your name is Lucy.  Read the story.  My only caveat is that I wish they didn’t use unicorns, because I still love them!…Click on the link “Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy” and take a time to reflect from your own life.  Have a lovely day everyone.

Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy

Say hi to Lucy.
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Merging Neuroplasticity and Business

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Happy Friday the 13th!  Today’s Lifestyle Design is exciting for me, because it combines my past and my future. As a neuroscientist transitioning into a lifestyle entrepreneur, I found this article from Fast Company below to be telling.  It mixes very important elements from science and business, to explain a certain way of being.  How fantastic, and true.  I personally try to practice these things in my life very consciously, and they seem to work.  Also, for those of you who are further interested, there is a great book I read a few years ago called, “The Practical Neuroscience of Buddha’s Brain”  by Rick Hanson.  Check it out.  Have a fantastic day everyone!

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BUDDHA HAD IT RIGHT: RELAX THE MIND AND PRODUCTIVITY WILL FOLLOW

EASTERN THOUGHT AND MEDITATION ARE PUSHING EVER-CLOSER TO THE MAINSTREAM. TODAY, MANY ANCIENT TEACHINGS COINCIDE PERFECTLY WITH MODERN RESEARCH ON IMPROVED MENTAL AGILITY.


“The great enigma for psychologists and philosophers is the mind.”
–Bhante Wimala

Several decades ago, the term ‘mindfulness’ used to imply Eastern mysticism related to the spiritual journey of a person, originated by Gautama Buddha. Buddhists believe that being ‘well, happy, and peaceful’ comes from practicing ‘mindful’ living.

Today, from self-help gurus to business leaders, and scientists to politicians, many talk about mindfulness. According to various prominent psychological definitions:

  • Mindfulness has been described as “bringing one’s complete attention to the present experience on a moment-to-moment basis” (Marlatt & Kristeller, 1999)
  • And as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally” (Kabat-Zinn, 1994).

The scientific community now believes that by practicing daily mindfulness we can take advantage of the neuroplasticity of our brains and thereby improve the state of our lives. William James was one of the first psychologists to address the notion of neuroplasticity back in his late 19th century text, The Principles of Psychology. The central idea behind neuroplasticity is that our brain can restructure itself based on our perception and experience.

And management gurus like Bill George say that the best way to become more resilient is to develop oneself into a calm, compassionate and adaptable, mindful leader. Given today’s global uncertainty, there has never been more need for mindful leaders. George continues:

In my experience, mindful people make much better leaders than frenetic, aggressive ones. They understand their reactions to stress and crises, and understand their impact on others. They are far better at inspiring people to take on greater responsibilities and at aligning them around common missions and values.

Along with the billions around the globe, I suffer from the daily grind of life, the challenges of leading others, and coping with a constantly changing world. My affinity with mindful living is not grounded in any kind of scientific research–rather from my roots in Eastern philosophy and constant self-analysis.

Last Saturday, I had a chance to spend a couple of hours with Bhante Wimala at a mindful meditation session. Bhante Wimala has been a Buddhist monk for 36 years, is known throughout the world as a compassionate spiritual teacher, and is the author of Lessons of the Lotus. This very fortunate session with Bhante was my reaffirmation of how to lead our minds.

Based on my session with Bhante, here are some principles that help to lead our minds:

Living in the Moment

I briefly touched upon being in the moment in one of my recent posts. Being truly in the moment allows us to escape from adversity and conserve our inner energy. Living in the moment doesn’t mean we don’t care about the future. It means that when we make a choice to do something, we focus on solely doing it, rather than letting our mind wander into the future (or the past).

It’s been said that the only two jobs of a Zen monk are sitting zazen (meditation) and sweeping. Cleaning is one of the daily rituals of a Zen monk, one of their most important daily practices. They sweep or rake, and they try to do nothing else in that moment. The next time you’re doing housework, try concentrating on the housework–on the dust, on the motion, on the sensation. Cooking and cleaning are often seen as boring chores, but actually they are both great ways to practice mindfulness–something I ritualistically try to do at least once or twice a week. Sounds simple–but it’s actually pretty hard–go ahead and try it.

Letting Go

Fear is a protective emotion which signals danger and helps us to prepare for and cope with it. Fear perhaps is the key fundamental emotion that holds us back, makes us unhappy–fear of failure, fear of losing people, fear of success, fear of the unknown, and fear of moving forward or making a change.

Along with fear, emotional pain is another key factor that often holds us back. Although others can cause pain for us, our pain can also be caused by our own actions, including our inability to achieve a desired aspiration.

The physical reaction to fear and pain is called the “fight or flight” response. Being mindful is the exact opposite of that response. Mindful living comes from ‘letting go’. Letting go is the inner action that stops resisting fear and pain. It allows us to restore our ability to see clearly.

Buddhism asserts that attachment to negative emotions is the primary source of suffering. So then, detachment or “non-attachment” would be our ticket out of fear and pain.

Letting go comes from having a ‘nonjudgmental’ outlook towards life and people. It allows us to forgive others and ourselves equally for mistakes and incompatibility. In more secular and practical terms, we must be willing to let go of fear, pain, anger, and people. It is the ability to let go that drives a constant process of change–it is what makes us flexible and adaptable. This is hardly easy, takes a conscious effort, and is something I know I struggle with everyday.

Slowing Down

Drink your tea slowly and reverently, as if it is the axis on which the world earth revolves–slowly, evenly, without rushing toward the future. Live the actual moment.

–Thich Nhat Hanh

For a fast paced entrepreneur like me, perhaps the most paradoxical lesson for me has been around the need to slow down to move forward. Slowing down is a deliberate choice that can lead to greater appreciation for life and a greater level of happiness, which yield’s better results in one’s endeavors.

In the context of mindful living, slowing down does not imply taking a vacation every other month. It is what we must do every day. It means taking the time to do whatever we’re doing. It means single tasking rather than switching between a multitude of tasks and focusing on none of them. ‘Slowing down’ is about deliberate actions to be ‘mindful’. American author, poet, philosopher Henry David Thoreau sumed it up well, when he said:

“I got up early and bathed in the pond; that was a religious exercise, and one of the best things which I did. They say that characters were engraved on the bathing tub of King Tching-thang to this effect: “Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again.”

Neuroplasticity: Scientific Research on Mindfulness

Now, on the science of mindfulness, in the following video, Dr. Richard Davidson, speaks about his research on neuroplasticity, the ability of the brain to change its structure and function in response to experience:

http://youtu.be/bdLUoVPF3ug

What do the wealthiest have to say?

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Today I came across an unusual amount of friends that needed a little extra motivation in their endeavors.  As I wind down this evening with some leisure reading, I came across some tidbits of life “stuff” from the most successful … Continue reading