Last week I attended my third funeral in the last year or so, all at the same church. Each was a bit different in nature yet they all yielded the same clarity and reflection. Whether it was a wonderful mother of three who lost her heroic battle with cancer, a young man who was taken far too early after a fairly routine chest cold turned fatal, or an accomplished, proud grandfather who never met a stranger who was gone in a blink of an eye after a freak blood clot incident, these stories remind us (at least me) that we all have numerous opportunities and blessings to focus on. I wanted to share some of these thoughts because I found it to be a nice way to (re)focus on the true spirit and nature of the holiday season.

  1. Appreciate the “small” things – Sure, we’ve all heard this time and time again. Many times it is realized after a terrible disaster, personal scare, or life-changing event. It is in these moments that we are stripped away of caring about the day-to-day rat race and have clarity on exactly what’s most important. Be it family, friends, physical health, or mental well being, I encourage you to take a few minutes to identify your core list. Doing so will shed some light on where your focus is – and where it likely should be.
  2. Value your time – I, for one, need to heed this advice as much as the next person. I’m a busy guy between my various commitments and many times give the most attention to the squeakiest wheel or most out of control fire. Regardless, it’s what we do with our time here on this Earth that defines us. So (note to self), stop wishing you had more time and redefine what you do with those 1,440 minutes in every day.
  3. Do something today – One of the many things I learned from reading “The Last Lecture” by Randy Pausch is that wishing you had done something in your life or complaining about the reasons why you did not or cannot accomplish something is lame (paraphrased). One of the funerals I attended was for a man that retired after a 25 year career as a partner in an insurance adjusting agency, who immediately went on to purchase a couple of beauty supply stores. To my knowledge he didn’t know the first thing about owning a retail business like this. He did this for several reasons, most importantly to have flexibility to not only provide for but to spend spend time with his growing family. And he would be the first to tell you that if he can do it, so can you. This isn’t about starting a business, but rather to encourage you to take up that hobby, train for that event, change careers, get more involved in that charity or church you love so much. No matter what it is, just do it… today!
  4. Get your priorities in order – Now, the above suggestions are all for naught if you lack clarity as to some order of importance. Take note as you work to identify those items in #1 that stand out as the points of focus in your life. Those need to be what you prioritize at the top of the list and should your list be greater than your waking hours, something has to give. This exercise of sorting and evaluating should provide some amazing and hopefully life-adjusting clarity from which you and those around you will benefit.

More than likely you’ve had a brush with something that gave you a wake up call of some kind. I can easily point to mine and it has truly rattled my cage. I’ll give you a hint…the title of my blog captures the raw emotion and the story can be found here. Let me be one more person to tell you that your life can change in the blink of an eye. I pray that it doesn’t take a catastrophic event to rattle your cage.

Sure there’s a 1000 books and websites dedicated to helping you find these answers, but in the end the common denominator is YOU. You have to sort through your life and decide whether your interested in changing and investing the time it will take to get there. Regardless of the outcome, I hope you find some piece of clarity and the happiness that generally accompanies a purpose filled life.