One of the exercises that Covey encourages the reader to do, is to write in detail about your own funeral and eulogy.
It is in the part of the book that discusses habit two, “Start with the end in mind.” Writing about your own funeral may seem morbid to some people, but it can be a very powerful experience.
Covey encourages the reader to ‘access the right side of the brain, by using imagery and details.’ He talks about how this enables you to access a more holistic part of yourself.
In our world the left, or more logical side of the brain, is often favored. I know that I rely heavily on my logical mind, so I welcomed this exercise as way to peer deeper into my more intuitive ‘right brain.’
I wrote out a description of my funeral in great detail. I tried to include scents, sounds, and what people were doing as they talked.
As I wrote I found myself getting caught up in the story and it often felt like the words were writing themselves. I described the different people who were there, from friends and sangha members, to my family and professional colleagues.
Then I listened as one person from each group talked about my life. I tried my best to listen as I spoke through them in my narrative.
One of the first things that surprised me was that I wrote about a business partner and a professional mentor being at my funeral. These are two people I don’t have in my life right now, but as I wrote I realized that I want to have people like this in my life.
One aspect of visualization is that often hidden desires have a chance to surface. Our logical mind might think, ‘it’s silly to imagine you have a business partner, you don’t even have a business yet,’ but our imagination can reveal what we desire.
Moving forward with that clarity, we can be more aware of opportunities to fulfill that desire. I know that I will now be looking at other people I meet as potential mentors and business partners.
By being open to that desire I am much more likely to see that opportunity for a great partnership.
Next I wrote from the perspective of a member of my spiritual community (sangha in Buddhist terms). They talked about how I blended spiritual teaching into my everyday life. I was already aware that I valued this blend, but visualizing someone from my community saying it helped me see how important it really is.
Often we hold things we value at a distance from our selves. We do this out of fear that maybe we can’t make it happen. Perhaps you really want to run a half marathon, but because you think you can’t do it, you try not to think about it.
When we visualize, the logical part of our brain can’t come in and say ‘you can’t,’ instead we are free to dream what we want. In truth your dreams are not as far out of your reach as you think. Visualizing helps us see what is possible and what our hearts long for.
Another person who spoke at my funeral was a close friend. They spoke about loyalty and how I was there when they needed me, but they also spoke about how I pushed them.
Often I have felt that my tendency to push and challenge people might annoy my friends. When I visualized my friend saying they appreciated being pushed, I realized that my perception of that as a weakness wasn’t accurate. When we visualize, our judging mind is less active.
The logical side of the brain that keeps score isn’t tracking and so the underlying value of something has a chance to surface. I realized that I enjoy people that support me, but also push me to become better.
It makes perfect sense that my close friends would value the same things. The intuitive side of ourselves can often see more contours of truth. Outside of keeping score and judging many of the traits we label ‘weaknesses’ are the contours that make us unique and special to others.
Finally I heard from a member of my family. For this I visualized a son. The things he said are kernels of wisdom I hope to pass on and many of them were given to me by my father.
My visualized son talked about integrity and love. He talked about how I saw and heard the people in my life; how I inspired and challenged them.
The last thing he said touched me the most. He said that everything I did in my life was an expression of the deep love I had for other people.
This reveals a belief that I have long held, but rarely admit. I realized that I want very much to embody that love in my life. In big gestures, but also in all the little things that I do. I want to live a life guided and embedded with love.
Visualization can often bring to light a fundamental vow that we don’t want to admit. We might think that vow is idealistic or childish. We might be ashamed, because we aren’t living up to that aspiration.
This kind of visualization can cut through that guilt or doubt and reveal the truth of our hearts. I write daily vows, but none of them contained the vow to embed love into everything I do.
My logical mind, who makes the lists, can’t really understand that vow. It’s a BIG VOW.
Visualization gives us a chance to see our big vow, our big heart, and our big dream.
By starting with the end in mind, we can see if the path we are on is pointing us to that BIG VOW or not.
I don’t think that I will always be able to live up to these highest of principles, but I know I will live a better life if I try. If I point my life in the direction of my BIG VOW, in big and little ways, I’ll be moving in the right direction.
It’s important to remember that our BIG VOW is not fulfilled by achieving at what we aim. Just walking the path to our BIG VOW, IS the the fulfilling of the vow. The two are not separate.
Take some time to write your own funeral and eulogy, or if that is too involved maybe just your obituary. Start with list of things you’d want said about you. One list for family, work etc. You may be surprised by what is on the list and what isn’t.
I noticed that there were several things that weren’t in my eulogy that I worry about. No one talked about me dating allot of attractive women, or finishing high in my triathlon age group, or having stylish clothes. Part of keeping the end in mind is learning what to leave out.
Thanks for reading and Be well.