Six Ways to Seize the Day – Lessons from a Funeral 11/13

yellow.sunflowersNovember 2013

While no one is perfect, you’d never know it at his or her funeral. At our death we become our best selves, a package of lovable strengths that reduces weaknesses to irrelevancy or humor. And so it should be – at death and in life. As I’ve said many times before, we are all perfectly imperfect.

While it is difficult to part with our loved ones, we all know there is good that comes from every experience, even death and funerals. For example: • We become closer to friends and family. • We learn and grow through difficult experience. • We identify goals and priorities by looking at our own life.

To take this a step further, here are six important points I’ve taken from my friend’s recent death. They might be helpful to you.

1. Be respectful, kind and accepting now. Instead of focusing on what’s annoying, difficult, or how you think someone should be, accept him or her for whom they are right now, just as they are . . . because that is who he or she is. Accept what is. Anything else is self-imposed suffering (like beating your head against a wall).

2. Say it now. Don’t wait until it’s too late to tell others what’s right about them. Look for strengths. Say it out loud.

3. Be here now. We are a goal-oriented culture always focused on the future. As John Lennon sang, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In order to live fully, it’s important to wake up to what’s happening in and around you right now. Yes, NOW!

4. Do it now. Whether you want to: learn to play the piano, give up meat, or see your ageing aunt, seize the day.

5. Be grateful now. There is always something good to see if you look for it. Gratitude makes for a good life and feels so much better than focusing on what’s wrong, which isn’t helpful or healthy. And speaking of health . . .

6. Be healthy now. Don’t wait for when you have more time, or for when you receive a serious diagnosis to practice healthy behaviors. You know what they say, “If you don’t take time to be healthy you might have to take time to be sick.” Your body is a miracle. Treat it accordingly.

When we’re not eulogizing, well meaning parents, spouses, teachers, friends, complete strangers and all other humans, myself included, are often quick to point out what’s wrong with us. What do we usually get from criticism? We get strong weaknesses, poor self-esteem, small comfort zones and unrealized potential.

On the other hand, coaching is about looking for what’s right, and expanding on it. It’s not about diagnosing problems or shortcomings. Coaching works, in large part, because of this principle. In coaching lingo it’s called appreciative inquiry.

Here’s how it works. As plants grow toward the light, so too do we. We get excited and engaged when we let the light in, let it grow and expand. Changes never thought possible are suddenly mobilized when we are encouraged, challenged and supported in a structured, meaningful way.

How about practicing appreciative inquiry? Just look for what’s right. The best sports coaches, teachers, bosses, friends and parents do it.

Just as weddings make us think about our marriage, funerals make us think about our life. That’s a good thing. Every moment in every day yields opportunity for acceptance and change. Appreciate what’s right about yourself, and others, and build from there. One step at a time. That’s the only way to get anywhere. (Could this be the path to heaven?)

Rest in peace, my fearless friend.