Do you ever wonder if we are using the correct yardstick to measure our success? Have you gotten to that place in life yet where you have done all the ‘right’ things and yet you don’t feel fulfilled? Did you ever hit that dead end wall at the end of a long driven journey?
If you answered yes to any of the above you are in good company. You are a person who is looking for more after having followed the path most traveled. If you are old enough to be able to look at your life, politics, history or patterns and see that the things we are told are important often tend to be the direct opposite, you may appreciate this concept.
If everything we know to be truly important is actually not, how would we go about ascertaining what is important? Let’s use the backwards model to measure. Imagine yourself on your deathbed, in the last days of this life. From this perspective, what would be important?
Reading books by hospice workers and my experience with octogenarians, the responses appear to be pretty much the same. And number one is not working more or harder or making more money (contrary to current success measurement number one). It always is some variation of connection~ wishing they had connected with the ones they loved more, wishing they had taken more time to play with those beloveds, wanting to connect in a kind and caring way. Sounds simplistic or unrealistic, maybe, but think about it. When it is all about to be washed away with the swift and equalizing hand of death, what would have been important to your life? Suddenly all the toys lose their alluring shine. People win out over things. Who would have been important? Did you treat them the way you would have been proud of? Will others remember you as being caring, kind, taking time for them, being respectful and honest?
Looking at this backwards yardstick, how could we apply it to our current work lives? Everyone talks about the amazing benefits of a positive corporate culture, yet when do we live it? Are we going to be the ones to live the lives now we will be proud of later? As a manager or supervisor, how can you treat others so that when you revisit the scene on that final day, you are glad you handled it that way? As a co-worker, what is most important? At the end of the day, is it how you treated others and how you nourished yourself? As an owner, how do your decisions impact the people in your world? Most people at the end of their lives say they don’t recall the grades they got, the raises, the jobs, the details that seem so all important now. They mostly feel the loss of having spent way too much time on things that actually didn’t matter.
George Washington Carver says it like this, “How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these.”
Perhaps today we take the backwards approach to measuring the success of our life, from the end to the now. What would change?