Monday, May 18, 2009

The Measure of a Life Well Lived

When it’s all said and done, when the piper has played his last note, the farm is well and truly purchased, the bucket come to rest, and the fat lady’s final lyrical note but a fond memory, what is the yardstick we use to measure the worth of our lives? Do we tally up bank accounts to see who won? There will always be someone whose net worth is greater than the next guy’s. Mine, unfortunately will not even be a contender for that particular prize. Maybe we could compare the grandeur of our cars. Mine is a clunker well past its warranty, but it holds a lot of good memories. My car’s value is not in its blue book value, but in the memories it holds. So if memories are more important as a measure of a life well lived than monetary possessions, how do we measure memories?

We should measure the worth of our memories by those who will carry them on after we are long gone. How many people have you positively touched in your life? How many of those were a lasting, memorable touch? How many of those went on to touch others because of your actions? This is your measurement. This is your legacy.

Randy Pausch touched millions while he lived, and continues to have a positive impact on people’s lives today. I’ve included a video clip of his address to the graduates of Carnegie Mellon University. I think everyone should watch this clip at least once in their lives. And stay tuned through the end when he carries his wife off stage and gives her a beautiful kiss behind the stage. Your relationships with the special people in your life are what really matter when it’s all said and done. This is what people will remember. Not the degree you earned, not the handy little nest egg you managed to build, not even the size of your office - although it seems very important now.

And when it is your time and they record the important stuff on your tombstone, what will it say? Your name that your parents chose, you didn’t have anything to do with that. Your birth date, again, more your parent’s business than yours. And your death date. You shouldn’t decide that either. No, the only thing you have to show for an entire life is the dash between the dates. And how many of us make it a hard, fast dash to the finish line? So this entire life that is summed up by a mere dash etched in granite is where we insert the memories of the relationships, the love, the life, the passion, the person.

“Even though our culture puts a strong emphasis on attaining wealth and fame, pursuing these goals does not contribute to having a satisfying life. The things that make your life happy are growing as an individual, having loving relationships, and contributing to your community," says co-author Edward Deci in a news release about his article, Achieving Fame, Wealth, and Beauty are Psychological Dead Ends.

So when it’s all said and done, let’s have no regrets on our way to the top of the ivory tower of our choice. Let us be remembered as a person who had a positive impact on others, who loved and lived life to the fullest, and made the most of the time we had. Play on piper. Ours will be a mighty dash. We’ll measure up just fine.

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