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The deathbed test

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Nutritional information

Meaning
Perspective
Dignity
Serenity
Clarity

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The deathbed test

Life has no meaning a priori… [I]t's up to us to give it a meaning, and value is nothing but the meaning that you choose. — Jean Paul Sartre

  • 1 hour
  • Serves 1
  • Hard

Ingredients

Directions

A self-inquiry to discover the meaning in life.

If your life will end anyway and you will soon be forgotten, what is the point of anything you do? This question paralyses many changemakers who give up their work hopelessly. But making peace with the impermeability of things and the inevitability of death can be a catalyst to discover the meaning of your life. And when you lead a life with meaning, you face obstacles — even the ultimate obstacle of death — with dignity and serenity. This, in turn, empowers you to continue doing your changemaker work.

The following practice has been created by William Breirbart, whose work on meaning-centred psychotherapy can help anyone live a better life. The exercise has been taken from The Power of Meaning: Finding Fulfillment in a World Obsessed with Happiness by Emily Esfahani Smith. In this book, the author introduces the four pillars of meaning, namely belongingpurposestorytelling, and transcendence. To find out more about Emily and her work, please visit: http://emilyesfahanismith.com or watch her talk at TED2017.

*Image © The Happieee Place

Steps

1
Done
5'

Imagining

Imagine that you're at the end of your life. Perhaps a freak accident or diagnosis of disease has suddenly shortened your life, or maybe you have lived a long and healthy life, and are now in your eighties or nineties.

2
Done
10'

Reflecting

Sitting on your deathbed, with only days ahead of you to live, reflecting on the way you have led your life and what you have done and not done, are you satisfied with what you see? Did you live a good and fulfilling life? Is it a life you are glad that you led? If you could live your life over again, what would you do differently?

3
Done
45'

Writing

At this point, take some time to write your obituary as a deepen your reflection on the questions above. Do not worry about grammar and syntax — focus on the experience of writing this note.

Greta Rossi

Chief Empathy Officer at Akasha Innovation. Co-founder of ImpactAimers and Recipes for Wellbeing. Regional Coordinator for Ashoka's ChangemakerXchange. Youth coach and FRSA.

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