You’re flat on your back under a fluorescent light that flickers on and off.
Either side are machines that monitor your vital signs through a dozen different wires and alternating beeps.
Clothed in a gown that rides up uncomfortably and encased in stiff cotton sheets, you’re surrounded by family and friends who stare awkwardly about the room, unsure of what to say.
Your final day has arrived.
How do you feel in these last, fragile moments?
Did you give this thing called life your best shot?
Did the positives outweigh the regrets?
What are you most proud of?
Are you grateful for the adventure that’s now coming to a close?
When all is said and done, financial achievements won’t rate very highly.
Beyond taking care of your family’s basic needs, it’ll be more about how true you were to your spirit, how well you treated the people around you, and how many of them you impacted – especially your kids.
Building a successful business is a worthy achievement, and so is making the most of your talents to achieve good things for you and your family.
It all has its place.
But the measure of your life and the value ascribed to it will come from within, judged by you and you alone.
Will you have defined your purpose, and will you have striven to meet that worthy ideal?
Will your partner be proud of you, or your parents, or kids?
Gratitude Changes Everything
For me, a turning point in my life came when I discovered the importance of simply being grateful.
It occurred one stormy night as I lay in bed, with the wind howling and the rain lashing down in violent torrents.
Lightning flashed and thunder followed like distant cannon fire.
For some reason, the picture of a fishing trawler came to mind.
I imagined those on board being tossed around like a cork on the angry sea, fearing a rogue wave that could put them under in seconds.
I imagined they were terrified.
But as I stared out the window, my bed was warm and dry, and the roof didn’t leak.
I was safe as could be and the contrast of these two images filled me with an immense sense of gratitude for what I had.
Recently, I’ve become a lot more active on social media.
One thing it’s done is expose me to images of people and places from around the world – many of them in dire need of help from those of us much more fortunate than them.
Images of abandoned children, displaced families, and those with little hope for change, have reminded just how incredibly fortunate I am.
And they’ve inspired me to increase the levels of support I offer to those whose lives are a nightmare from one day to the next.
We’re told there’s always somebody worse off than us, and this is certainly true.
Those of you who are truly struggling will think this point moot, but it’s incumbent on us to be grateful for our good fortune, no matter how relative it happens to be.
I believe it’s actually essential.
Practising gratitude is proven to benefit our lives in so many ways – physically, mentally, and even financially.
While it’s important to strive for great things, it’s equally important to be thankful for what we already have.
As far as I’m concerned, peace of mind is king and contentment its queen.
Neither advocates laziness or an absence of ambition, but they encourage us to recognise and acknowledge what we’ve already achieved and to draw satisfaction from the paths we’ve chosen and the actions we’ve taken to achieve our lofty goals.
It also allows us to feel gratitude for the challenges that come your way – even the ones that nearly break us.
We grow from the experience, and we become better people.
I feel grateful now for the financial hell I went through several years ago.
If it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t have learned and grown the way I did, and I probably wouldn’t have the wonderful life I do today.
Having said that, the absence of that hell would have been just as appealing; it’s just that I’ve chosen to be grateful for the outcomes it produced.
This is why defining your purpose is so important.
It helps you make deliberate choices about what’s important in life.
It informs your decisions whenever forks appear on the road, and it gives you a compass to navigate the long game with dignity and grace.
Most importantly, it lets you define your own measure of success, to set it out on your terms.
So when that last day arrives, having known and followed your purpose, you will do it beautifully, peacefully and with no regrets.
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