After my book The Tiffany Box, a memoir was released, I received many emails from readers expressing how grateful they were that I included several condolence letters that were sent to me after my mom passed away in my book. Each reader liked seeing examples of sympathy cards.
Who knows what to say when someone dies? Often, not knowing what to say, we put off writing the note and eventually don’t say anything. The intention to write is there, but what to say isn’t easy or obvious.
I decided to write a blog post on writing a condolence letter. This is a list of suggestions. I know each loss is specific and personal in tiny ways and big ways, and that it is impossible to capture the specificity of loss in a template condolence letter. I also know that it is far better for friends to say something to someone who is grieving than to not say anything.
Silence from friends can hurt too. Reaching out by writing a condolence letter is important to do, even if it feels awkward, even if you don’t know what to say.
I want to share with you that for me, it always feels awkward and hard to reach out to someone who has lost a beloved. The unthinkable has happened. Even if someone knew a beloved was dying soon, loss is profound. No one can know what pain someone else is in. But we all know enough about pain to want to stay away. This response is the opposite of what most people need. Reaching out through a note or a letter is a way of saying, I witness your loss and I see you. Often, when someone is in a dark hole, being seen is enough. An act of kindness is enough. A few sentences are enough. I’m thinking of how gentle rain can feel kind on hot skin.
1. Because of this, the first thing I say to myself when I sit down to write a condolence letter is that it’s important that I get comfortable being uncomfortable.
Sometimes I get up and get a piece of chocolate and make tea, but then I remember that it’s hard and important to do and so I take a breath and I begin. I date the letter. I start with “Dear” and then I write.
2. I try not to say that I am sorry someone has died. Instead, I say that I am sorry for the person’s loss.
I want you to know that I am sorry for your loss.
I may even say something like — This is a hard note to write, but I want you to know that I am thinking of you even though I don’t know what to say.
3. Then I bring to mind the person who has passed and remember them in a joyful way. What was something I saw them doing that made me smile? What was something I saw them doing that made them smile? I begin a sentence with the phrase,
I will always remember…
Here’s a list of ideas and memory prompts:
*Retell how they made us smile.
*Retell a story of what they did that they loved.
*Remember quirky details that made them uniquely them — that one paper snowflake that no one else can replicate. This is exactly what makes the loss so hard and yet it is also what makes the loss poignant, specific, real, and irreplaceable.
That’s the word I’m looking for, irreplaceable. What about that person was irreplaceable? This is the diamond at the center of grief, why it hurts so much and why we are richer for having been touched by that person.
If I don’t know the person who passed, I may something like:
I will always remember your stories about ______ with ______. “
If I don’t know stories, I will say, ”I will always remember how much you loved ____.”
Remembering someone who has passed doing something they love is my way of cheating death. In my heart of hearts, I try very hard to put aside as well as I can how someone died. I think we as a culture and people focus a lot of energy on illness or disaster. We retell and retell and retell how someone died. I am tired of that. I believe it is far more important to retell and retell and retell how someone lived.
4. I always end a condolence letter by telling the person that:
My thoughts and prayers are with you and I wish you peace.
5.The last thing I do is write the address on an envelope, pick out a pretty stamp and mail the condolence letter. I acknowledge to myself that there is absolutely nothing I can say that takes pain away, but that small acts of kindness are eventually how we make our way out of the dark hole into daylight — hopefully carrying a diamond.
I hope these ideas help you write a sympathy letter. I like to focus on the joyful spirit of the person who passed and on offering kindness and love to the one who is grieving. The heaviness of grief is softened by small acts of kindness.
Be sure to comment on any phrases you have found helpful that I might have missed, and please share this article with your friends. Thank you.
Today is Veteran’s Day — which is a day to celebrate and honor those who have made unfathomable sacrifices in order for U.S. citizens to live freely.
While every day should really be a day where Veterans are given the respect and admiration that they deserve, today of all days is one in which each one of us should go the extra mile. Not sure where to start? Here are five simple ways that you can honor an active or retired veteran in your neighborhood:
1. Pick up the tab unexpectedly.
If you decide to eat out today, keep your eyes open for signs that there’s a veteran nearby. Certainly, an active-duty uniform will stand out, but retired veterans might decide to wear hats or other clothing that might tip you off that they’ve served in the past. Ask your waitress to include their meal on your tab. This could be just the surprise that they needed in order to know that their service is being recognized. Don’t have a lot of money to spare? Hang out at your local busy cafe. Even buying a drink for a couple of dollars can go a long way.
2. Call a veteran family member.
You likely don’t need to look any further than your own family to find an active or retired veteran. So give them a phone call. Let them know that you’re thinking about them. Even if the conversation is only a few minutes, the sign of respect that you’re showing them will likely not be forgotten any time soon. And who knows — perhaps you’ll learn something about that person that you never knew before.
3. Shop at a veteran-owned business.
Do you know a local business owner who also happens to be a veteran? Shop at his or her business today and let them know that you’re thinking about them. Not only will your purchase support that particular veteran and their business, but it will do its part in helping the local economy as well.
4. Spread the word about veteran causes.
You might find out about veteran causes today that otherwise never would have heard about. For instance, did you know about this crowdfunding campaign that was designed by Degage Ministries to help disadvantaged veterans? Let others know about this veteran-related cause and others by sending messages through Twitter, Facebook, or any other social channel you’re a part of.
5. Say “Thank You.”
Sometimes, it’s better to just keep things simple. When you see a veteran or active military member today — just simply say, “Thank you for your service.” You might be surprise by how a simple expression of thanks can go a long way.
From a Funeral Director: Understanding and Selecting a Funeral Casket
It can be difficult to select a casket for your loved one. Understanding the differences in materials, construction, and aesthetics inherent in each casket can make the selection process easier.
Selecting a casket is always a difficult experience. But when you are faced with buying a funeral casket for a loved one, do it in an informed and balanced manner.
The term “casket”, though originally defined as a small container to hold something valuable, is now commonly understood to refer to the large, four-sided, rigid container meant to hold the remains of a deceased human being (a real ‘valuable‘). Frequently (but incorrectly), the term “coffin” is used interchangeably with “casket;” an actual coffin differs from a casket in that it is a large, six or eight-sided container meant to hold the dead (imagine the funeral boxes from old Western movies). Regardless of the terminology, it’s helpful for those planning a funeral to understand that there is a HUGE variety of casket/coffin options available. Understanding the value of each of these options can go a long way to help families make sound, comfortable decisions about selecting the right products for their funeral needs.
Ultimately, the casket is designed solely to contain and display the deceased’s body for funeral services and ceremonies, burials, and other types of disposition. Whenever the body is to be displayed or the body is moved for funeral ceremonies, a casket is going to be involved. Nearly all burials and entombments require caskets; ‘green’ or ‘natural’ burials are the exception.
Selecting a casket that is appropriate for your needs will be easier for planners if they understand the differences in materials, construction, and aesthetics inherent in each casket. In general, caskets are made of either metal or wood (coffins are almost exclusively made of wood). Metal caskets can be made from steel, copper, or bronze; and each of these types have variations in the thickness and quality of the metal used. The finish on the exterior can be painted, polished, or ‘brushed.’
Steel caskets are usually described as 20-gauge (thinnest), 18-gauge, or 16-gauge (thickest) steel. The differences in thickness mainly reflect the overall quality of the casket in relation to the durability of the product. Steel caskets can also be made of differing levels of stainless steel, which is more corrosion-resistant than standard steel.
Copper and bronze are non-ferrous metals (they don’t rust); caskets made from these metals are described by the amount of the metal in each square foot of the casket exterior (usually 32 oz. or 48 oz. per square foot). These caskets tend to run on the more expensive side of available options, but their additional durability may be the right match for some consumers.
Well-made metal caskets will usually be carefully welded and structurally reinforced to accommodate weight-load requirements and to maintain the integrity of a “protective” casket. Protective caskets use a rubber gasket between the box and the lid to basically keep what is outside, out and what’s inside, in.
Wood caskets (my personal preference due to their warmth and beauty), are made from a variety of hardwoods and softwoods. The actual specie of wood used will be a major determinate in the price of the casket, as will the construction; walnut, mahogany, and cherry are going to be more expensive than oak, pecan, or pine, and a solid wood casket is more expensive than a casket made with multiple kinds of wood or veneers. The stain color and finish of the wood are not usually major price factors, but they do influence the overall look of the product.
Other Considerations Around Caskets
The overall look of a casket is clearly one of the factors the family uses in making a buying decision. The color, the design, the finish, the ‘theme’ all play a part in selecting what’s right for the family. The trend towards ‘personalization’ of caskets has provided even more options to the family; special corner pieces, interior panels, and plaques can help customize a standard casket to more truly reflect the life of the deceased. True customization (such as personal photographic panels surrounding the entire casket exterior) is available, but producing and delivering these products will take more time than most families are willing to wait.
Consumers also need to be aware that caskets come in fairly standard sizes; most caskets will accommodate a body that is less than 250-300 pounds and shorter than six feet, five inches tall. An individual whose weight or height exceeds these standards is likely to require a specialty casket that is designed for larger folks. These special caskets will be significantly more expensive than a comparable standard casket and are almost always made of metal. Our growing obesity problem in this country is reflected in a significant increase in the use of these larger caskets over the last twenty years.
Funeral homes will usually have a casket display area, picture book, or a digital catalogue of caskets they sell, and these will help you understand the options available to you. Caskets are available from other sources, though, and the Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to accept third-party products without charging handling fees. These other providers may offer caskets at a ‘lower’ price than many funeral homes, but I would caution any consumer to carefully check and compare the quality of the exterior and interior materials, the quality of the overall construction, and the origin of these materials and manufacturing.
Purchasing a casket is always a difficult experience; no one WANTS to buy a casket! When you do have to go through this experience, though, do it in an informed and balanced manner. This is a large purchase, often made under difficult emotional circumstances with little time available for research or rumination. Be educated about cost and quality factors, pre-plan the purchase if you can, and choose wisely when under the stress of the death of a loved one. Remember that this is a very personal choice that must take into account what is right for you, your family, and your budget.
This article is part of the eFuneral Resource Center and was written by Tom Rybicki, President and Funeral Director for Rybicki & Son Funeral Homes. Tom was raised in the funeral business, and for the last 25 years, he has been working as a funeral director at the funeral home his grandfather started 73 years ago. Those thinking about end-of-life should visit eFuneral.com for help researching, planning, and arranging a wide variety of funeral-related services.
In the Western world, death is one of the last taboos. Death has become so sterile … so unspeakable … so frightful … so improper … that we assume we MUST protect the innocent souls from it’s darkness. In many parental minds, those “innocent souls” who need the most protection are our children. So we shield them from death, and keep them away from funerals, viewings and the dead.
Death, though, isn’t something that we CAN protect our children from. As much as we want to give our children security and answers to their questions, death, by it’s very nature, takes away security and only provides questions. The desire to protect our children from death is understandable, but it is a part of life that — if ignored — only becomes more difficult, more frightening and more harmful. It’s a part of life that may provide some of the best teaching moments for your children. Teaching moments where you can share that:
Life has an end.
Love continues on.
We have to live and love as much as we can because we don’t know how long we have.
All of us will die, so we must pursue our dreams and enjoy the life we’ve been given.
Not only should we recognize that death confrontation provides our children with incredible teaching moments, we should also realize that children do indeed grieve. They are connected. They love. They feel. And so when death comes, they grieve. Depending on their developmental stage, they will grieve differently than adults. But as long as they are apart of our family, of the community of the deceased, they have the right to grieve with us.
Here are a few helpful tips that I’ve gathered from three separate Counseling journals about how to help your children grieve:
When death happens, have a close relative, preferable a parent, tell the child about it immediately.
Stay close to the child, giving them physical affection. Instead of pushing them farther away from the community during death, draw them closer into it.
Children grieve in cycles. For example, they may be more inclined to play and divert their focus from the death when the death is recent and parents are grieving intensely. More than adults, children need time to take a break from grief. It is important to know that it’s okay to take a break. Having fun or laughing is not disrespectful to the person who died; this is a vital part of grieving, too.
Avoid euphemisms such as, “passed on,” “gone away,” “departed”. In and of itself, the concept of death is difficult enough for a child to understand; using euphemisms will only add to the difficulty.
Advise the child to attend the funeral, but do not force him or her to go. The funeral and viewing is the community expression of grief. As a part of the community, it’s valuable for the child to take part in that expression. Questions will arise. But, those questions are necessarily. And it’s okay if you don’t have the answers. Part of the reason why many of us DON’T take children to viewings and funerals is because we’re afraid of our children seeing us grieve … we’re afraid of our children seeing us in a state of weakness.
Let the child see you grieve; it gives them permission to grieve on their own. “It will help the child to see the remaining parent, friends and relatives grieve. Grief shared is grief diminished…if everyone acts stoically around the child, he or she will be confused by the incongruity.If children get verbal or nonverbal cues that mourning is unacceptable, they cannot address the mourning task.”
Gently help the child grasp the concept of death. Avoid vague explanations to the child’s questions, but answer each question as honestly as possible.
Keep other stressing situations, such as moving or changing schools to a minimum; after the ceremonies, continue child’s regular routines.
Be honest with the child about the depth of the pain he or she will feel. “You may say, ‘this is the most awful thing could happen to you.’ Contrary to popular belief, minimizing the grief does not help.
When faced with the task of writing a eulogy, it’s hard to know where to start. There’s so much to think about and you want to make sure that it does justice to the type of person your loved one was. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this task, it can help to break it up into smaller parts. Follow these 5 steps to help guide you through the process of writing a meaningful, heartfelt eulogy.
1. Decide on a Theme
When organizing your thoughts, be on the lookout for a theme that you could use to weave throughout your eulogy. Reflect back on your loved one’s life, the things they did, the places they went, and think about possible metaphors that could be used to describe your loved one. Having a theme to keep coming back to helps to keep the eulogy on message and gives your message a deeper meaning.
2. Take Time to Introduce Yourself
One of the first things you should do is to introduce yourself to the members of the service. Let everyone know who you are and talk a little bit about your history with your loved one. If you are delivering the eulogy it means that you were a very significant part of your loved one’s life.
3. Share a Story
Once you’ve taken the time to explain who you are and your history, share a positive story about your loved one. It should be a memory that people will relate to. Even if it’s not one that everyone was a part of, people should hear that story and think, ‘that sounds like something ‘Anne’ would do.
4. Talk About Their Character
What one word do most people use to describe your loved one? Some people are defined by their family. If your loved one was a wonderful father, incorporate that into your eulogy and address his children or his wife. If your loved one was devoted to his career, make it a point to talk about her professional achievements.
5. Tie it All Together
When you’ve said all you need to say, find a way to tie everything all together. Try to find a quote, song lyric, or religious verse that relates to the theme you chose.
If you’ve been asked to deliver a eulogy, take it as an honor to be able to share a few words on behalf of the one you loved and lost. I know it will be overwhelming at first, but follow this guide to help alleviate the anxiety and facilitate the process. If you get stuck, turn to someone you trust to help you along the way.
My mom died in less than two weeks; although sick for more than 10 years, her sudden illness became a huge awakening. Knowing her health was deteriorating, I had convinced myself for years that I had accepted her death at some point. I felt she was my guide for only a short while longer.
My belief was that once her physical form left this earth, I would feel her presence and guidance and I would be surrounded with an abundance of love so strong, I wouldn’t be affected by her passing. After all, I was an insightful and intuitive yoga teacher, no?
I wasn’t prepared for the night she was taken into intensive care.
Her organs were failing and her heart, panicked, drained blood from her extremities. The images of her body shutting down and the effects of such have haunted me and continue to do so. I stroked her hands each night; the same hands she had so beautifully creamedeach night had begun to shrivel. The burn unit carefully bandaged her hands, feet and legs as they worsened each night and her skin began to blister.
I watched intently as my father’s demeanor turned from courage to powerlessness and from compassion into sorrow.
I was completely present, carefully enthralled with the colorful patterns on her monitor, the beeping of the dialysis machine, the suctioning of the doors opening and closing to keep out foreign entities and the chatter from the nurses. I waited for a blink or a smile and held onto her carefully wrapped hands hoping for a gentle squeeze. Time stopped but days still passed.
Silence was met with heartfelt outbursts of tears. Regrets, guilt, sadness and hope weaved themselves together without any ending—my heart was broken and my mind felt numb.
They lifted her medication a week into her treatment and she awoke. With blurred eyes and confusion, she looked around the room carefully: at every machine before she looked to her loved ones. She scanned our facial expressions as she had done our entire lives. She smiled and nodded her head as if to say, “I’m present.” She was scared; she wasn’t ready to leave but in an instant I felt the deepest level of acceptance I have ever witnessed.
We all knew, including my mother, that had she survived, her life would change drastically. With multiple amputations and living life with the support of technology, she would have begged us to let her go that very day. It’s as if she prepared me in the previous years, asking if it ever came to this moment, to do the ‘right thing’.
At that moment I couldn’t do it; I couldn’t let her go.
My inner child—the one every reiki master, past life coach or vibrational healer told me to confront—finally emerged. Frightened and lonely, she stepped back, covered her face, prayed for a miracle and cried, “Mommy.”
She looked peaceful, rested and still; she had finally surrendered.
My family and I left that evening to rest. We had high hopes that the strong and mighty matriarch would make her triumphed return to life and freedom as she had done so many times before. When we returned in the morning, the machines had been removed and my mom was yet again, unconsciously conscious. She looked peaceful, rested and still; she had finally surrendered. Confusion and anger immediately set in and I went looking for answers to know exactly what had happened. When we had left that evening, my mother signaled for her specialist.
Unable to speak, she wrote out on a board, “I’m done.”
She had looked deep within our hearts and knew we weren’t strong enough to let her go; she made the decision to make the request herself.
It only took a few days for her to take her last breath. My brother, father and I waited patiently and, without refuge, stayed with her. Her suffering was finally over but ours seemed to just begin.
In shock and feeling numb, my family and I planned her funeral. I wrote and lead her eulogy not with any sense of feeling—just relying on my bodily systems and responses to get me through the beautiful story of her life and journey.
Months passed and I sunk deeper into what felt like a mild, functioning depression.
All of my passions and interests were no longer prevalent; I gave up my physical yoga practice not having energy. I taught with a huge smile and love in my heart for 90 minutes and picked up the despair on my way home. My relationships with my spouse and friends suffered greatly as all I wanted to do was to be alone; the only light in my life were my children, who, most days, allowed me a chance to see how far a parent will go to protect their children from misery and regret and our willingness to do anything necessary to shield them from pain.
I began to doubt all of my findings, readings and my purpose over the past 10 years as a teacher and educator.
I couldn’t connect to anything, not even my mother’s spirit. The only intention behind my meditation practice was to talk to my mother’s spirit and to my disappointment and frustration, there wasn’t ever a response. I became angry and withdrawn and felt duped by the entire conception of ‘yoga’.
I still taught but without a purpose or direction.
I sought after every psychic, clairvoyant healer I could desperate for a sign, direction or affirmation that my mother was happy and healthy and forgave me for my neglect the evening her body became riddled with pneumonia. Nothing.
Emotions came on heavy and I tried not to control the duration or amount of tears I released when I cleaned behind the fridge as my mother so obsessively did throughout my childhood, when I tucked a piece of kleenex in my shirt while dealing with a cold or when I witnessed my children’s milestones and wished my mother had been here for a shared experience.
Although we had our moments like most mothers and daughters and despite my vow to not be like my mother, I was and I am.
We were extremely close, spending almost every day together with my children. She was my best friend, my greatest teacher and my confidant. My son was an incandescent light to her throughout treatments and filled her life with joy and love. She thrived on her energetic days and rested when she felt the need to conserve her energy. My mom was the strong silent type but suffered by not speaking her truest feelings and emotions.
I know my path is similar, which is why I’ve now decided to share my vulnerability.
What is grief? It’s deep, it’s sticky and it’s layered with so many emotions it’s sometimes unbearable. It’s lonely, it’s exhausting and it’s filled with an overwhelming sense of fear. It’s unstable, it’s draining and it’s disgustingly human.
I decided to walk away from my practice and teachings, for now—to discover why I questioned my spirituality and how I became so detached from my heart and destructively emotionless. To be patient with the grieving process without any observances or distractions but just sit; to sit in the seed of the emotion, the loss, the emptiness and the guilt.
From here and only here, will I be able to fully understand the teachings of yoga. I feel like I’ve been here before after dealing with many struggles in my life, but this has been the absolute.
I no longer want to teach with falsehoods, pretending to be on the path to enlightenment while struggling with my own identity. I want to be nothing more than my authentic self in search of my “atman”. To teach this, I believe I have to undergo a transformation without judgement or expectations of others or myself. The need for external responses and ideas seem less important as I begin to rely more on my own truth and authenticity. Not to understand but to simply, see my purpose, my direction and most importantly, to see my Self.
My father told me about a conversation he had with my mother. My heart wept with joy hearing him laugh about throwing away containers my mother had hoarded 20 years previous and her obvious spiritual disgust for the waste. The other part of me became jealous; I couldn’t connect with her the same way. I soon realized my father, throughout his own grief, had stayed present and connected to his heart. His level of acceptance was like my mother’s that day she opened her eyes to say “I’m present.”
Who am I and why am I here?
At this very moment, I’m vulnerable. I’m brokenhearted and I’m disgustingly human. I’m here for the exact same reasons as you.
How to Write a Eulogy Deeper than an obituary, this memorial captures who the person was — and why he or she will be so missed by Christina Ianzito, AARP, March 20, 2013 Brain Health Sweeps Play fun games to keep your brain strong and have a chance to win $25,000! See official rules. (0) inShare En español | Putting into words the essence of another person — and what they mean to you — is a difficult task in the best of times. When it’s a loved one who’s just passed away, when you’re grieving and may have only a few days to gather your thoughts, the challenge can feel overwhelming. But there are things you can do to make writing a eulogy a little less daunting. See also: How a random act of kindness helped me heal When writing a eulogy, try not to focus too much on yourself, do include lively anecdotes and don’t be afraid to be funny. — Corbis The first step is to understand what a eulogy is — and isn’t. “It isn’t an obituary,” says Carol DeChant, editor of the book Great American Catholic Eulogies. Obituaries are usually mini-biographies, focused on what a person did, she explains, “but the eulogy is much deeper, more about who the person was, than just the facts. It’s meant for the select group of people who knew and cared for that person, or who care for the survivors.” “It’s the personal touch,” says Garry Schaeffer, author of A Labor of Love: How to Write a Eulogy. “It’s someone getting up and saying, ‘This is what this person meant to me.’ It’s what makes the service special and heartwarming and memorable.” Related What to do when a loved one dies The do-it-yourself obituary Write your life story — and maybe even a best-seller Join AARP Today — Receive access to exclusive information, benefits and discounts There’s no one right way to eulogize someone, the experts say. Some memorial services are more formal and have only one or two eulogies that might need to be approved by the clergy member beforehand; others are more loosely planned and might include four or five short eulogies — or organizers might welcome any number of extemporaneous eulogies. Whatever the format, it’s helpful to organize your thoughts before you share them with other mourners. Some tips: 1. Start by brainstorming: Schaeffer suggests using a form of outlining called clustering or mind-mapping. You start by drawing a circle with the person’s name in it. Then, he says, ask yourself, What are the qualities of the person? What is most outstanding about him or her? Write those down in circles around the person’s name. Cluster related thoughts together. 2. Consider reaching out to other mourners: If you’re the only family member scheduled to offer a eulogy, for example, you might ask other close relatives for their stories and suggestions. 3. Include lively anecdotes: Schaeffer says, “The biggest mistake people make is talking about the person’s qualities in a way that’s just too bland.” In other words, he explains, don’t just say, “She was generous.” Give the listeners an example of her generosity that impressed you. 4. Try not to focus too much on yourself: “You have to put yourself into it to a degree,” says DeChant, because a eulogy is from your point of view — but it’s not about you. “Have someone who loves you read it,” she suggests. “Ask them, ‘Is there too much of me in it?’ If the person cares about you, they’ll tell you.” 5. Don’t be afraid to be funny: DeChant says, “When people get up and share something that they loved about that person, there can be very healthy, healing laughter.” 6. Edit yourself: You may want to put the eulogy aside for a bit, then come back to it with fresh eyes. Keep revising until you’re happy with it and it’s at a good length. Schaeffer suggests aiming to speak for between five and eight minutes, but “I would err on the side of shorter.” 7. Don’t give up: You’re grieving, maybe struggling to think clearly, and probably have only a short time to prepare. But remember, says DeChant, that putting in the effort, then offering other mourners your heartfelt thoughts and memories, “is the greatest gift you can give.”
Do you ever feel like days, weeks, months and years just slip away from you? There’s so much you wish to accomplish, but never do? Maybe it’s the New Year’s resolutions that you set or the goals to lose some weight, start a business and read more.
Whatever the goal, you’re just not getting it done.
On top of that, you feel stressed out, overwhelmed and exhausted by life. How on Earth are you supposed to move forward on things you want to do when the things you need to do every day wear you down?
It’s time for a truth bomb.
Even if you’re insanely busy with work, life, family and errands… you likely waste a good amount of time every single day.
Be honest with yourself… How much TV do you watch a week? How much time do you spend on Facebook, surfing the web or doing any other mindless activity?
This is not about beating yourself up or feeling bad, it’s about getting honest where you’re wasting precious time each day on things that aren’t making you feel amazing or moving you forward on goals that are really important to you.
There’s nothing wrong with a little time to veg out in front of the TV, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with checking in with people you love on Facebook. The problem is that many of us spend far too much time on these activities, turning them into a time suck that actually further drains energy!
Three Steps to Make the Most of Every Moment
1) Start by making two lists.
I know you might be thinking, “But Stephenie, I have a million lists!” These are special lists, so hear me out and give them a go.
The first list is things to do that make you feel ah-mazing! Things that relax, energize, de-stress and fulfill you. This could be calling your bestie, eating a piece of dark chocolate in a bubble bath, reading, going for a walk or run, being outdoors, swimming, drawing, laughing, favorite tunes, etc.
These items bring you pleasure and joy.
The second list is action items that will move you forward on your goals. Start by reversing your big goals — so if you want to start a business, break that goal down into goals that are small enough to take action on in an hour or less. Then, add those items to your second list.
These must be things that move you forward!
Important: These are not to-do lists! Be protective of these two lists and ensure that you’re only putting items on them that a) bring you pleasure and joy, or b) are action items that will move you forward on your goals.
2) Utilize your two lists.
When you find yourself with a pocket of time during the day, instead of hopping on Facebook for some mindless, uninspired scrolling, take out your two lists and choose an item. If you’re feeling stressed or overwhelmed, pick something from your “Pleasure + Joy List.” If you’re feeling good and like you want to take action, choose an item from your “Action List.”
Choose an item that fits your mood and energy level, but also fits the amount of time you have available in that moment. If it’s an evening, choose something that requires more time, like a long bubble bath or writing a blog post for your business. If it’s 15 minutes, choose items like slowly enjoying a piece of dark chocolate or doing some quick research online.
3) Continue to add to and adjust your lists.
As time goes on, you’ll begin to accomplish goals and start to feel awesome every day. This is great, but the key is to consistently adjust and update your lists.
If you find that something you thought would bring you pleasure didn’t, remove it from the list. On the flip side, if you think of something new that makes you feel amazing, add it! For your action items, be sure to constantly review your progress and update the list as needed with new micro goals and action items. Make sure the action items are clear and specific, not vague. If they’re not clear, you’ll waste time trying to figure out what you should be doing when you find yourself with a pocket of time.
Take Action Now!
Get out two pieces of paper and get to work. List A is your “Pleasure + Joy List” and should be filled with things to do (short and lengthy timeframes) that make you feel amazing. These are self-care items!
Then, break some of your most important goals down (two to three priority goals — no more!) into micro goals and then small, actionable tasks for List B, your “Action List.” Remember, small and clearly actionable goals is key!
I’ve created two quick and actionable ebooks that help you make major mindset shifts and life transformations, on your own, for very specific issues you’re facing! Visit the products + programs page now!
Stephenie Zamora is the founder of www.stepheniezamora.com, a full-service, life-purpose development, design and branding boutique. Here she merges the worlds of personal development and branding to help young women build passion-based businesses. Click here to download her free guide, “The Unexpected Trick to Transforming Your Life With ONE Single Question.”
Death comes to all of us at some point. Have you thought about how you would feel when the time comes for you to die? Have you considered if you would have any regrets about how you led your life?
A palliative nurse who counseled dying patients in the final weeks of their lives took the liberty to record the most common regrets among them. Many of her patient’s regrets were revealing statements like: wishing they didn’t work so hard, wishing they had the courage to express their feelings, and wishing they had stayed in touch with their friends.
I believe in learning from the experiences of others. Having the insights of people who have lived to the end of their lives is strikingly helpful in living our best lives. Rather than reiterate the details of their regrets, I’m going to share them briefly and provide suggestions on how we can ensure that these regrets don’t become our regrets on our deathbeds someday. While we can’t change our past, we can change the present and the future. How our lives pan out from here is dependent on what we do starting today.
Final Reminder: We recently released the Audio Book for 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently. And we also have a limited time bundle of our eBook, audio book and bonus material on sale for a big discount. Click here to check it out!
Regret #1: I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
Are you living the life you have always wanted for yourself? Or are you simply living a life based on what others expect of you?
Many people today live their life around the expectations of others. Among my friends, many of them often make decisions based on what their partners or what other people want, rather than because of what they want or believe. Among my one-to-one coaching clients, they often complain about being trapped in careers they dislike because they chose careers which were deemed acceptable by their peers and family, rather than pursuing career paths that interested them.
I was raised in an oppressive manner by my parents and by my education system. While I have never faulted anyone for such an upbringing because I believe my parents and teachers came from a place of good intention, I did grow up feeling repressed. I would do things to conform to what others wanted for me, rather than doing things I wanted to do, and this made me very unhappy most of the time.
Being raised this way made me realize the importance of living a life true to myself. When I was in my early 20s, I began to come into my own, steadily making decisions and acting in a way that was truer to who I was as an individual. When I realized I was no longer in love with my corporate career, I quit and moved on to pursue my true passion to help others grow. When I felt it was time to do what I love to do, I readily started my personal development business (which I continue to run today), by way of my blog Personal Excellence. When I realized I had friendships which were no longer compatible with the person I had become, I immediately let them go rather than keep up a pretense.
How to avoid this:
Stand true to your beliefs. If you face naysayers, listen to their feedback, but don’t sweat over it if you don’t agree with what they say. Just as others have the right to express their views, you have your right not to regard them. Remember that you don’t live your life to please. As Winston Churchill puts it: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life.” Read: 7 Tips To Tackle Naysayers in Your Life
Regret #2: I wish I didn’t work so hard.
Our modern society is one which drowns itself in busy-work. People are busier than ever, working twelve-hour workdays, and sometimes even longer. Parents rarely have time for their kids, and instead relegate care-taking duties to daycares, nannies and grandparents. People rarely have enough time for relationships or personal activities, often prioritizing their work ahead of everything else because it’s their livelihood. For some, work forms the core part of their identity.
How to avoid this:
There’s no such thing as “not having enough time.” It’s only a matter of what you set as your priorities. If you don’t have enough time for your relationships, it means that you are not making them a priority. If you missed your anniversary with your lover, it’s only because you deemed the anniversary as less important than whatever it is you had to do at that time. If you consistently miss your gym classes, it’s only because you are not committed to staying in shape, even if you claim otherwise.
Everyone has the same amount of time every day, be it successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates, financial moguls like Warren Buffet, top athletes like Serena Williams, or inspirational leaders like Oprah Winfrey. It’s silly to think of yourself as not having enough time relative to others, because these go-getters are making productive leaps ahead every day even though they have the same amount of time at their disposal as you do.
Make a conscious choice on what you want to spend time on. What do you value the most in life? Are you spending your time in line with your priorities? If you answer no to the latter question, it means there is a misalignment between your desires and your actions.
This life wheel video (just ten minutes long) will help you do a quick overview life assessment and figure out your immediate areas of priority:
Regret #3: I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
Is there someone you like? Are you afraid to open your heart to him or her? Have there been times when you closed your heart to love because you were afraid of what would happen if you opened yourself up to it?
You aren’t alone. I have quite a few friends who are single, not because they are inadequate (in fact they are high achievers, great lookers in their own right, with great personalities to boot), but because they are closed off to love. They repeatedly dismiss opportunities to meet new people and expand their social circles. Whenever there is a guy or girl they take a fancy to, they choose not to act on their desires, instead finding one billion and one excuses why this person is not “the one” for them.
How to avoid this:
I believe it’s better to regret doing something than to regret doing nothing. In fact, I rarely ever hear of people who regret acting on their desires, even if the outcome may not be what they were looking for. On the contrary, I always hear about people who regret not doing something and who are now plagued with the question of “What if?”
If you are afraid of expressing your feelings, ask yourself, “What is there to lose?” or “What’s the worst that could happen?” I believe in wearing your heart on your sleeve and being true to yourself, rather than hiding your feelings. At worst, the person will reject you and you will realize that your feelings had been misdirected all along.
But wait, is that really a worst-case scenario? Because now you will know the truth and be able to move on, rather than lingering around a one-sided romance. On the other hand, if the person reveals similar feelings, you will then be on the way to building a budding romance. Either way you will be grateful that you acted on your feelings rather than hiding behind a facade out of a mental fear of being rejected.
Regret #4: I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
Friendships are often put on the back burner relative to other things, such as one’s career, romantic relationships, financial goals, and personal agendas.
Why? Because we tend to think friendships will stay afloat even when we do not give them due attention. As such, many of us take our friends for granted, often pushing back social appointments in the name of work, cancelling on friends at the last minute, or simply not putting in the due effort to meet up with friends face to face.
How to avoid this:
Rather than wait for your friends to initiate a get together, why not take the first step? Many of my social appointments and gatherings are often self-initiated. My proactive behavior has encouraged my friends to reciprocate in terms of putting in more effort to build our friendships. I don’t think there’s a need to wait on other people to meet up; it takes two hands to clap and you can always be the one to gets things moving.
As you reach out to friends, there will be people who do not reciprocate your efforts. That’s okay. Don’t take it to heart; sometimes people have different priorities and there’s no need to force a connection if it’s not working out. Simply move on to the friends who are reciprocating your efforts. You will build more authentic and fruitful connections this way.
Regret #5: I wish that I had let myself be happier.
Are you deeply unhappy? Are you always complaining about little things that go wrong? Are you always harping on the things you don’t have or things you have missed out on, rather than appreciating the things you do have today and the things you have gained?
Too many people are deeply unhappy not because of their place in life, but because of their misperceptions about what it takes to be happy. If anything, many of these unhappy people are highly affluent and privileged; they have a comfortable place to live, a stable job, a regular disposable income, a healthy social network, and a family to return home to.
It’s as John Galbraith mentioned in The Affluent Society: “Despite the increasing wealth of the society, people are not happier – in fact, they have become unhappier.” Why? Their unhappiness isn’t due to a lack of material wealth, but because they have flawed perceptions of what it takes to be happy. They think happiness comes from material goods or financial wealth, when these things are simply means to live a better quality life, rather than vehicles of happiness itself.
How to avoid this:
Recognize that happiness is a choice. Many people relegate their happiness to external factors. They think they can only be happy if they achieve X, Y, and Z or if X, Y, and Z criteria is satisfied.
Of course, the problem is this criteria is entirely untrue. Happiness doesn’t happen when those things are achieved; happiness is something you can experience now in this moment if you allow it to happen. You CAN be happy now if you want to be. The question is: Do you?
Here’s a web-lecture on the ten timeless principles on how to be happy:
How do you feel about these five common regrets of the dying? What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life? Please leave a comment below and share your thoughts.
1. It must be exactly 12:00 AM when you begin the ritual, or else it will not work. You will need;
Candles Paper and Pencils A wooden front door Salt A pin needle All the lights in the house off
Step 1: Everyone who is playing the midnight game must write their names on a piece of paper, then use a pin needle to drop a single drop of their blood onto the paper
Step 2: Place the paper in front of your front door. Your front door must be made of wood.
Step 3: Light a candle
Step 4: Knock on your front door exactly 22 times. (Note: The 22nd knock must happen at 12:00 AM or the ritual will not work.)
Step 5: Open your door, blow out the candle, and close it. You have now summoned the “Midnight Man”. Immediately relight your candle
Step 6: Your goal for the rest of the game is to survive the Midnight Man. Everyone who plays must walk with their candle lit around the house, avoiding the Midnight Man at all costs until the clock strikes 3:33 AM. At which time the Midnight Man will leave. If your candle blows out on its own, it means the midnight man is near, and you have 10 seconds to relight your candle. if you fail to relight the candle in 10 seconds you must surround yourself with a circle of salt and wait until 3:33 AM. If you fail to surround yourself with salt in time the Midnight Man will attack and you will have hallucinations of your worst fears until 3:33 AM.
Signs that the Midnight Man is nearby: * Your candle blows out * You suddenly get very cold * You hear a low whisper * You see a black humanoid figure within the darkness
WARNING: * DO NOT USE SOMEONE ELSE’S BLOOD ON YOUR PAPER * DO NOT STAND IN ONE SPOT UNTIL 3:33 AM, THE MIDNIGHT MAN WILL FIND YOU * DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FALL ASLEEP DURING THE MIDNIGHT GAME * DO NOT ATTEMPT TO LEAVE THE HOUSE DURING THE MIDNIGHT GAME * DO NOT USE A LIGHTER OR ANY OTHER LIGHT SOURCE IN PLACE OF A CANDLE * DO NOT TRY TO TURN ON THE LIGHTS DURING THE MIDNIGHT GAME
* AND DEFINITELY DO. NOT. TRY TO PROVOKE THE MIDNIGHT MAN!