I wrote this a few years ago and I’m revisiting it today because it’s time for me to the exercise again. The post is based on a conversation I had with a good friend over Sunday brunch. She, in turn, first came across the story in a book.
The Five Wishes
The following is neither new nor earth shattering. It’s quite simple, actually. However, this post can change your life…
A good friend called me all excited this past Sunday, and as we walked together to have a late brunch, she related the following to me:
Imagine you’re on your deathbed, this very moment, tonight or fifty years from now. Try to make a mental picture. Got it?
I stand by your deathbed, look you in the eyes, and ask, “Was your life a complete success?”
You might say, “Yes, my life has been a complete success,” or you might say, “No, my life has not been a complete success.”
If you answered, “No, my life has not been a complete success,” you would have a reason why. For example, J. Paul Getty, who was once the wealthiest man in the world, is reputed to have said on his deathbed, “I’d gladly give up all my millions for one experience of marital happiness.” If he could have had one wish granted, that would’ve been his wish.
Still with me? Wondering what this has to do with you?
Well, here it is then, if you had told me on your deathbed that your life had not been a success, what would be the things you’d wished happened that would have made it a success?
The question cuts to the core: what are you really doing on this planet? What is your life purpose? Do you have a mission? As my friend asked me these questions, I felt more than a little anxiety, but on another level, there was a sense of relief — a sense of being able to go inside and reach into myself in an empowering way.
Back to you: you have to answer the question. You can’t get back to me while you mull your responses. You’re on your deathbed; you can’t afford to continue to live as if you’re never going to die. This moment is all you have anyway. There’s no right or wrong answer, or perhaps you’re one of those rare individuals who feels his or her life has been a total success (I have yet to meet one). Dig deep, give yourself permission and the answers will come.
Whatever your answer, look at it from the perspective of your deathbed. Put in the past tense, and do it from the point of view that your life was not a success. Here’s one of my own:
My life was not a complete success because I never really got around to expressing to my loved ones how much I loved and appreciated them. I wish I had told my son how sad I felt at how we had grown apart.
In other words, I wished I had paid more attention to the relationships with the people most important to me and that I had communicated my feelings more often to the people I loved and cared about.
My friend then asked me, “Now turn that into a goal. Put it in the present tense.”
My life is a complete success because I express my deepest feelings with all my friends and family. I say the important things I need to say and do all the important things I need to do. There is nothing significant that I leave unsaid or undone.
My friend went on to ask me to list four more deathbed wishes and then she asked me, “Where are you with achieving each of those goals?” Realistically, I had to admit that most of my deathbed wishes were mostly a lot of good ideas rather than actual realities.
I was reminded of my experiences when I worked in a hospital ward for terminally ill patients. These were people who knew they were going to die — soon. And whenever I asked them if they had one more illness-free year, what they would do with that one year, there answers were never was anything like, “Make more money,” or, “Invent some wonderful gadget,” or “Spend more time at the office,” or “Worry more about money.”
Their responses were mostly very simple: spend more time with their loved ones; to take the time to enjoy life more often; to say I’m sorry instead of holding a grudge; or to spend more time with family and loved ones.
My friend then took me a bookstore and showed me the book she had been reading. It’s called “The Five Wishes,” by Gay Hendricks. In it, he shares his five deathbed wishes and how he went about realizing them. It’s a small little book, and there’s a website where you can download a worksheet to help you recognize and realize your own five wishes. For me, they are more like personal promises and it’s a gentle way to make manifest a rewarding and fulfilling life.
So many of my friends online and off are struggling these days. It seems that too many of us are counting pennies and it seems like each day brings another struggle, another challenge or setback Whatever the case, I truly wish all of you genuine happiness. If I prayed, my prayer for you would be that you’d be given the opportunity to do what you most love to do and to do it joyously and passionately. I strongly recommend you visit the website and check out the free video based on the book (click here).
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…