Author of great novels and psychotherapist Irvin Yalom talks frequently about the rippling effect we have on people’s lives. Imagine yourself as a rock sinking down a lake and causing a wave of emotions and impact on everyone around you. Did you truly believe you would come and go out of this world without influencing anyone? Without changing someone’s life? And that that effect wouldn’t be passed on?
Even if we don’t realize it, we’re constantly touching and changing others people’s lives simply by existing and that wave of change keeps on going through time and space and generations. Simply put: think about the great heroes and characters of our history. How much influence has had Leonardo de Vinci or Jesus in our lives? And they’ve lived and died centuries ago! It’s actually a comforting idea: your body may die but the ripple effect you’ve caused will live on as long as your teachings or your actions do too.
Apart from comfort it gives you a sense of responsibility. Your actions will be passed on and repeated even through generations. Doesn’t it give a new meaning to your job as a parent!
Looking back: feeling a sense of purpose
The Australian nurse Bronnie Ware published a book on the top five regrets of those who are reaching the end of their lives. It is a moving book that serves as a wake-up call and warning on how to face death with a sense of mission accomplished, as opposed to “I should have done better with my life”. In case you’re wondering the top 5 regrets of those facing imminent death are:
- Not having a courage to live the life you wanted and not the one that was expected of you
- Not having worked so hard and enjoying the simple pleasures of life more
- Not expressing one’s true feelings
- Not keeping in touch with friends
- Not letting yourself be happy (because happiness is also a choice)
But what if you look back and you do feel like there was a purpose and meaning in your life? How to do that? Well, you might want to check the list above and make an assessment as to whether you are following the path of regret and wasting your life. You may also reflect on whether or not your life has meaning not only to yourself but to others around you. If you’re already a grandparent, this might be an easy thing to spot. How much of what you’ve taught your children, do you see passed on to your grandchildren?
Another important question arises: What kind of a legacy do you wish to leave to the world? In the answer to that lies the meaning to your life.
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