A Thought Experiment: How Do You Want to Be Remembered?
Have you ever found yourself sitting around without much to do, and having your thoughts wander to the big questions of life? Things like why you’re here, and what the meaning is, and how you want to be remembered?
Life should always be lived to the full and enjoyed as much as possible along the way. But it’s an unfortunate reality, that we all need to come to terms with, that life doesn’t last forever.
While taking care of some of the particular formalities involved at the end of life can be pretty straightforward, it’s not so easy to figure out the deeper stuff.
So, here’s a thought experiment – not to get you obsessing over death, but in order to give you a heightened sense of perspective so that you can live your life in the most fulfilling, meaningful, and enjoyable way possible.
How do you want to be remembered?
How caught up do you get in necessary chores versus more meaningful activities?
In life, we all need to deal with certain basic tasks and chores from time to time that are necessary for their own sake, but that aren’t necessarily deeply meaningful in any real way.
For example, on any given day you may well need to pick up a pair of glasses from a company like https://www.eyeglasses.com, then fill in some reports for work, then tidy the house, and so on, and so on.
While it is necessary – and can be uplifting – to stay on top of all your chores, you probably wouldn’t be happy with the story of your life you’d be leaving behind if you had spent it all on getting chores done.
Always work to find particular moments and opportunities for more meaningful activities that lead you in a direction you would like to move in. That might mean writing a few lines of a novel each day, or regularly making time to meet up with loved ones.
Track how you spend your time – would you be happy with that pattern defining your life?
When it comes to how we spend our time, we all tend to be prone to falling into different patterns – both positive and negative – without necessarily being very consciously aware of them, or paying them much mind.
Between the projects you have to deal with at work, and the habits you get into at home, you might well find yourself doing more or less the same thing every day for the majority of the year, the decade, or even your lifetime.
A very useful exercise to do is to track your time for a while, using either a pen and paper, a digital timesheet, or a tool such as ATracker, that helps you to streamline the task. Do this every day, as reliably as you can, for at least a week or two, and then assess the results.
Have you been spending a good amount of your time doing exciting new things, engaging in meaningful hobbies, working on pursuing your dreams, and interacting with the people closest to you? Or, like many of us, have you shocked yourself with the realisation that you spend almost 20 hours a week watching TV or surfing the web?
The real question to ask yourself is would you be happy if the way you routinely spend your time ends up being the pattern that defines your life? Because sooner or later, it will be.
Weigh up your doubts and anxieties – how much will they really matter in the long run?
We all have doubts and anxieties to deal with on a regular basis. Sometimes, we push through, confront our hangups and fears, and expand our comfort zones in the process. At other times, however, we allow our doubts and anxieties to create a perimeter surrounding our possibilities and then refuse to venture out into the unknown.
It’s important to get into the habit of regularly assessing and weighing up your doubts and anxieties, in order to see whether they are the kinds of things that should be granted that level of power in your life, or not.
In some cases, your doubts and anxieties may be a legitimate signal that you should stay away from a particular path which might be genuinely life-threatening. But in many other cases, those doubts and anxieties will be ephemeral things that have more to do with your fear of being embarrassed than anything else.
The question to ask is if you were at the end of your life looking back, would you be glad that you had let those doubts and anxieties hold you back? Or would all those doubts and anxieties – like the fear of starting a new job – seem completely inconsequential and tragic in hindsight?
Don’t let the doors to your life’s possibilities stay shut just because you are nervous about approaching them.
Are you really living the life you want to be remembered by, or are you just going with the flow?
Think about the trajectory you’re on in life right now, and the sorts of things that you are actively pursuing, whether that be success in a particular career, fame on social media, or anything else.
The key thing to figure out is whether or not you are pursuing those goals and ambitions of yours because you genuinely value them for their own sake, or whether you are pursuing them because you’re just “going with the flow” and are pursuing the social milestones set for you by your family, or your culture, or even popular media.
In order to figure out which of these two paths you’re on, the question “would I be happy to be remembered by this life?” might be useful.
Are your integrity and character being compromised in the pursuit of less meaningful prizes?
According to the results of well-reported interviews done with people on their deathbeds, one of the leading regrets of the dying was “I wish I lived for myself more.” Another leading regret was “I wish it didn’t work so hard.” And yet another was “I wish I cared less what others think.”
While career success, financial security, and other such things are certainly important and worth pursuing in life, they are not the ultimate prizes. They will not assure your happiness in and of themselves, and they will almost certainly not be the kinds of things that give you a sense of rich meaning and joy when you look back on them.
At every point, you should be checking in and asking yourself whether your integrity and character are being compromised in the pursuit of less meaningful prizes. If you find that the answer is yes, that’s a clear sign that you need to actively reorient your life so that you are remaining true to yourself.
Look at the examples of others – what sorts of people do you really admire?
A question like “how do I want to be remembered” might be a bit hard to pin down and figure out. For that reason, it may be a great idea to begin by looking at the examples set by other people.
What sorts of people do you really admire? What life stories do you find truly compelling and worth emulating? And which examples do you want to avoid emulating?
Look at the examples of others – what sorts of people do you really admire?
A question like “how do I want to be remembered” might be a bit hard to pin down and figure out, in and of itself. For one thing, answering a question like this requires you to weigh up a large multitude of different factors and concerns, and then rank them in a way that allows you to get a good overall sense of whether or not you’re happy with the direction you’re heading in.
For another thing, it’s not always easy to exercise a high degree of introspection just by sitting around in a vacuum, and trying and come up with the perfect answer for whatever question may be concerning you.
For these reasons, among others, a great exercise for helping you to more easily and effectively get in touch with whether you are living life true to your own ideals – and whether you are living in a way that you would like to be remembered by – is to turn your gaze outwards for a while and to look to the examples of other people.
What sort of people do you really admire? If you can determine that, you will automatically be granted a degree of insight into some patterns and behaviours that you might well find particularly compelling, impressive, and worthwhile.
One reason why this exercise can be so useful is because it utilises your own intuition in such a way as to help you to get a much clearer picture than you might otherwise have. Specifically, it can really help to dispel certain illusions or unexamined presumptions you might have.
Many people, for example, automatically assume that a particular sort of profession – such as being a successful musician – would feel particularly fulfilling. And maybe it would. But are you basing that on anything other than a detached and poorly formed desire for fame and wealth?
If you look at the examples of famous professional musicians, what do you see? Do they seem to be the sorts of people who you actually admire, when it all comes down to it, and would you like to be remembered in the same way as them? Or, are you actually less enamored with that lifestyle after all, when you’ve had a closer look?
It’s worth keeping in mind that you don’t have to find someone who you agree with on everything, or who you think is a perfect role model in all ways, in order to do this thought experiment. Rather, you just need to be able to turn your gaze outwards to other people in order to help clarify your own thoughts and feelings about the kinds of activities and approaches that you find genuinely meaningful.