As promised yesterday, here is the reflections exercise I use in my introductory talk on ethical wills. I'll add some commentary about typical responses following the exercise.
TWO QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER IN CREATING YOUR ETHICAL WILL
Take a few moments to relax and quiet your mind. Breathe three, long slow deep breaths. Then read the first question below, close your eyes and focus on your heart while breathing normally. Listen for your inner voice and hear the answer to the question from your heart. When you're ready, open your eyes and write down the words you received from your heart. Then, repeat this process for the second question.
1. Who were the most influential people in your life? What did you learn from them that affected the way you've lived?
2. How has life blessed you -- given you special gifts? What have these gifts meant to you as you've lived your life?
Often people have been surprised by how they feel when they consciously breathe with a focus on their heart -- and by how clearly their inner voice speaks to them. Then, as they begin writing, so much flows forth that the pen seems to be writing by itself! Memories are recalled, learnings crystalize, wisdom emerges.
In answering the first question, most people in my talks have considered one or both parents to be the most influential people in the lives, but teachers, close relatives, friends, mentors, and authors are close behind. Quite often, the issue of "negative" influences -- usually one parent or another person in an early period on someone's life -- come to the surface. Surprising to some is the fact that their "negative" experiences have ultimately led to important learnings that transformed into blessings for the way they've chosen to live their life. In my own experience, I know that my difficult relationship with my father for most of our lives has taught me forgiveness in a deeper way I than I probably could ever have "gotten it". Now, I can also see the connection between how I learned to "show up and be present" for others and the way my dad was so "negatively" distant and unavailable to me in my life.
Most people easily "connect the dots" between the influencial people in their lives and their most important life learnings -- affecting their values, beliefs, vocational choices, relationships -- all of these (and more) have influenced the way they've lived as a result of experiences with key people in their childhood, youth, and later life.
The second question regarding the special gifts that life has given a person has proven more powerful and revealing than I ever imagined. Generally, people who've done this exercise during my ethical will talk have clearly recognized the gifts -- the blessings -- that life has graced them with. Most know what an incredible difference these special gifts have made in their life and feel a deep sense of gratitude for life's blessings. But many have been surprised when they've recognized the connection between the gifts they have been given (by their Creator, God, or Life itself) and their "purpose" or "mission" in life.
I've found in my own life and in the lives of people I've counseled over the past 20+ years that knowing your "special gifts" reveals -- and opens -- the doorway to living your life "on purpose". If you ever have any doubts about what you need to be "doing" (and "being") in your life, start using (and giving!) the gifts that life has given you. Bless others with the blessings you have received. When you do, you'll feel absolutely certain about "why I am here" on this Earth -- at this time, in this place, and for however many days you have left to live.