Five years ago, we had a group of friends, most of whom were high achievers, over for dinner. Amongst our guests was a client, who had returned to Canada after working as a director at a hospice in California.
I thought to tie in our dinner discussion with what she did, by posing this question to my dinner guests: “What would you be doing differently if you were told you only had 30 days left to live?’
It was a question I had never ever thought about, but as my guests started answering it, it became apparent that most of us were living our lives differently from how we would be if there were a greater sense of urgency.
It was a beautiful, early summer day, and as I contemplated my answer, I looked out of our floor-to-ceiling windows that surrounded the dining table, appreciating the stunning sunset.
It started to dawn on me that for someone who preached “authenticity,” the only thing real in my life was the breathtaking views of Mt. Baker on one side and the snowcapped Olympic Mountains on the other, with the Juan D Fuca Strait in the middle.
As my turn came to answer the question, I found a way to deflect, because my marriage, my work, my words, my truth, my entire life barely reflected what I would be doing if I were told that I only had 30 days left to live. My whole life hardly represented what my heart ached for.
After my guests left and the dishes put away, I got ready for bed. The answer to the question must have lingered in my subconscious while I slept because I awoke with tears streaming down my face. How did I detour so far off from my center?
We get pulled by so many different deafening voices telling us how we are supposed to be, we can barely hear the whispers of our heart. I did finally tune in and make a series of difficult decisions that I have not regretted.
I am in the business of inspiring people to a mindset of living fully and using their financial resources to support that.
The realization that we never know when the clock on our last 30 days would start ticking compelled me to reframe my conversations with my clients. The usual question, “Who do you want to leave your asset to?” turned into, “What kind of impact would you like to have once you’re gone?”
We all know that we can’t take anything with us beyond the grave.
What if our conversation on money started not with what we’ve accumulated but rather what we wanted to leave behind?
When you look at your life through the lens of what you are leaving behind, perhaps it looks different from what it is now. Perhaps you would do a lot of things differently with the assets you own.
Perhaps you would approach the subject a lot more carefully if you knew you could make an impact on those around you long after you are gone. Perhaps you would think more about the way you spend your finances, your time, and energy.
What if we started the conversation on money not from what we wanted but what we already had? Not from what we kept but from what we shared? Will our conversation on money be different from what it is now?
We are not all called to save the world or start a school for girls in Africa. But we are all called to do our best and leave a legacy that matters.
“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs, ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman
How would you then script your life if you knew you only had 30 days left to live? How would you then manage your estate? What would you want to be doing the last hour of your time on earth? Are you doing all of that now?