I’m sure you have experienced a wake up call at some point in your life. Events such as a divorce, a new baby, a firing, a terrorist attack, or a near-death experience tend to hit us like a ton of bricks and are not easily forgotten.Personally, what I find interesting is that implicit in the idea of a wake up call is that we have, in some sense, been asleep. What is it that we have been asleep to?When I think of wake up calls, the word that comes to mind is “priorities”. Wake up calls tend to make us stop, pull back from the runway of life, and consider exactly what it is that is important to us.Very often we realize that we have had our priorities upside down. Perhaps we have been spending too much time at the office, too little time with our kids, or have been neglecting our health. So to answer my earlier question, it seems to me that many of us travel through life asleep to what really is important.If you are in a slumber, the following are some ideas to help you wake up and remember the important things in your life:
Connect to Your Own Mortality
Some may find it depressing to think about death, but it can actually be a great technique to improve your life. Try, for example, to imagine laying on your deathbed. What could potentially give you cause for regret? Would it be all the money you didn’t make? Or would it be the friendships you didn’t nurture, the time you didn’t spend with your family, and the places you didn’t see? Now, consider if the way you currently live your life will give you cause for any regrets when you do actually come to lay upon your deathbed.Steve Jobs is a famous advocate of connecting to your own mortality. In his Commencement Speech at Stanford University, he said: “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important thing I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life, because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure — these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”
Write a Personal Mission Statement
I admit to being one of those people who normally skips the exercises in self-help books. I did, however, decide to follow Stephen R. Covey’s advice in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and write a personal mission statement. In short, a personal mission statement is an individual statement of who you are, what you are about and what you value. The process of writing such a statement helps to clarify your inner-most thoughts and feelings, and once finished is something you can turn to for guidance.If you are interested in writing your own personal mission statement, I recommend Dr. Covey’s Mission Statement Builder. Also, if you would like to see an example you are welcome to read my personal mission statement.
Have a Meaningful Conversation with an Older Person
As you grow older, you naturally acquire experience and knowledge of what is important in life. For example, is there anything you could tell the “you” from 10 years ago that would make life easier? I’m sure there is. Unfortunately, though, unless you have a time machine this is impossible.A great way then to acquire the wisdom that comes with age is to seek out an older person, such as a grandparent, and have a meaningful conversation with them. Ask them about their life, what they have learned, and what they would do differently. You may just find they experienced many of the thoughts and feelings you are currently are when they were younger.
Usually the problem is not that we don’t know what is important in life, but that it is forgotten as we get caught up in the everyday tasks that comprise life. One of the best methods I have found to overcome this problem is meditation. Meditation is a great way to relax both your mind and body. Such a state is ideal for gaining a better understanding of who you are and what you value.
It is easy in life to become consumed with your own sense of self importance. A very effective way to step back and see life in a greater context is to volunteer. For example, helping those with less than yourself will help you realize just how fortunate you really are. So often we act in such a way that we don’t already have the important things in life, when in actual fact they are right under our nose.