How will your life be measured?

Just recently I attended the funeral of someone whom I’d known quite well professionally but not at all socially. Someone I really liked and respected but I wouldn’t claim to have known well. Nevertheless funerals are a time to reflect on someone’s life and the impact they’ve had on other people throughout their lives.

The funeral service was held at a large, traditional church and it was absolutely crowded. Listening to the eulogy and the readings by various people I began to fully appreciate just how much my late colleague had meant to so many people. It’s fair to say that she meant a lot and many people’s lives had clearly been blessed by her presence in them.

The experience really made me think. I recognise as people we are all driven to achieve and leave our mark on life before we pass on. However we tend to measure our impact in terms of career progression and money. With those it’s easy to keep score.

Obviously careers provide tangible evidence of achievement. So climbing the greasy pole and increasing our income and wealth tend to be the measures we use when we consider success. However as I sat and listened that day I had to ask myself, it that the most appropriate measure really?

Anything we do that only has a long term payoff is not something we tend to measure at all because there is no immediate evidence of achievement. We can’t see the immediate impact of the small things we do, so we don’t believe they matter much.

However I realised then that they matter a great deal. For instance, a random act of kindness might not mean much to us at any given time but to the recipient our action could have meant the world. It might have had a profound effect on that individual. It might even have been life changing for that person.

How will any of us be remembered? People won’t talk about the size of our house or our car but they will talk about how we made them feel. They’ll talk about how we helped them and how they’re a better person because of the impact we had on their lives. When you think about it, why would we want to be remembered in any other way?

Let’s face it material possessions and successful careers are as much a reflection of good fortune as they are of anything we actually did to justify them.

That’s not the case when it comes to the impact we have on the lives of other people. The help we give; the kindness we show; that’s all down to us I think. How many people we’ve helped seems like a much better measure of success than the size of our car. Real success in life comes down to the difference we make. How we’ve touched the lives of other people. Certainly that’s how I think we’ll be remembered.

And I remembered my thoughts that day at funeral when I stumbled upon this video of a presentation given by Clay Christensen at TEDxBoston. It offers a great perspective on how your life will be measured.

I recommend you watch the video as it’s well worth your time.

Then reflect on this question; should the measure of our lives be just about money and achievement or should it be more about the lives we’ve touched and the people whose lives are better for us having been in them?

I’d be interested to hear what you think.

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© Roy J Sutton and Mann Island Media Limited 2017. All Rights Reserved.

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