They say at the end of your life you’ll look back and ask yourself questions.
Did it matter?
Did I love enough?
Did I spend my time on the right things?
Lately I’ve been thinking, why wait?
Why wait until the end of my life to ask myself these questions?
Isn’t the END decidedly too late?
Certainly, the end is too late to do anything about it.
When it’s time for me to shuffle off this mortal coil. If I’m lucky enough to have a moment to reflect on what was – I don’t want to feel regret.
If I’m really lucky I’ll get to spend the last bit with the people who have made my life truly worth living. I don’t want to waste one single minute with an ‘if only’.
Every day I’m asking myself the questions I think I may ask at the very end.
Asking these questions is opening up my living to a whole new emotional repertoire.
And they are bringing me a calm filled peace at the end of each day.
Each day I ask myself
Did I love?
Did I contribute?
Did I learn?
Did I love today?
This question keeps me focussed on what is truly important to me. My closest relationships.
Even before I was thrust into the world of childhood cancer, I felt really strongly that no one should ever have to guess how I felt about them.
I would often think ‘If I died tomorrow, does this person know how much they mean to me?’.
At the end of the day, if my little tribe feel deeply loved by me, seen by me, it feels like enough.
Did I Contribute?
Asking this question prevents me from thinking I need to solve every little problem single handedly.
I have a tendency to want to be a solver – it’s a need for control. I know this about myself, and I don’t LOVE this about myself.
Needing to control is both hard on me and the people around me.
I sometimes get angry when things didn’t go to plan.
I get stressed if I can’t solve.
I’m not my best self when I’m stressed and angry. I don’t think any of us are.
I’m pretty sure my tendency to want solve could, at times, be wildly annoying to those around me. Although I’m surrounded by people who love big, so no one has ever said so.
The thing is – so many problems aren’t really mine to solve, they don’t belong to me. Seeing pain doesn’t mean I should always try to solve pain. Seeing difficulty doesn’t mean it’s any of my business is trying to make it easier.
But… I CAN contribute.
Changing my focus from solve to contribute brings me peace. Every. Single. Day.
On a big scale for me, contributing is about changing my life, and others, for the better. It’s about my life’s work. Helping people find connection, courage and compassion.
But… every day can’t be filled with life’s big works of art.
Some days I need to do the washing and feed my children and Netflix and eat too many biscuits.
Asking the question ‘Did I contribute?’ also acknowledges that small acts of compassion and kindness have big impacts.
I don’t have to go big or go home every moment of every day.
The shift to ‘Did I contribute?’ gives me the permission to find meaning in the smaller things.
It takes away the urgency of needing to build a compassion army this very minute and acknowledges that it’s a work in progress.
Did I learn?
I can’t do any more than my best and commit to learning from my mistakes when my best doesn’t cut the mustard.
Did I learn? is my ultimate self-compassion pill at the end of every day.
The mistakes I make may be mighty or they may be small. What really matters, at the end of my day, and I’m guessing at the end of my life, is – Did I learn?
Asking this question each day keeps me switched on to seeing my lessons.
It changes mistakes into celebrations – YES! I can learn from that today.
I have put down the big stick I use to beat myself with when I don’t get it right.
When it takes too long, when I eat the 3rd (alright 10th) biscuit. When I got too ‘busy’ to exercise.
When I yell at the people I love the most because I let my stress or sadness get the better of me.
When I am impatient.
When I got NONE of my to do, done.
Each of my failures are like a data gathering exercise.
Did I learn helps me to wholeheartedly accept that I am a flawed individual who will repeatedly get it wrong. Because I’m also an individual who will LEARN. I’m OK with that.
At the end of the day
These questions don’t just give me peace at the end of the day. Because I KNOW I’ll be reviewing – Did I love, did I contribute, and did I learn? I spend my days intentionally seeking these three outcomes.
I am loving bigger than ever.
I am intentionally contributing.
And I am really excited by mistakes and failures. They’re an opportunity to learn.
So, while the idea itself sounds a little macabre. At the end of each day I’m asking myself the questions I’ll ask at the end of my life.
Did I love?
Did I contribute?
Did I learn?
I certainly hope when my time comes, I can be graceful. No wailings about what ifs. Whatever the actual end looks like, these three questions are making my every day immensely meaningful, easier to live, self-compassionate and filled to the brim with possibilities.
What are your three questions?
Take some time to sit down and think ‘If today was it for me, if today was the end, what would I regret?’
If you’re not the type to keep a journal, this exercise works just as well mentally asking yourself the question.
Try it… it may just change your life. It did mine.
Happy Sweat – my journey from sweaty panic to exercise sweat
The Body Keeps Score – my story of cortisol and adrenaline overload