As soon as we read the title I’m sure our mind automatically turns to ‘life in prison.’ Mine certainly does. When we see what’s happening in the world around us – on the news, in our communities – it seems that a countless number of people are committing disturbing acts only to face a consequence that deems impossible to undo. A consequence that, if written about, would portray an unfulfilled life of regrets.
But the life sentence I am referring to has nothing to do with felonies, convictions or a prison sentence. When I was in college I took a literature class that really made an impact on me looking back. In that class the professor had us write a condensed autobiography as if we were writing it about our entire life before we had actually lived our entire life. So for example 90% of the students in the class were 22 years old or younger. Most of us had not experienced anything worth writing about up to that point. Her goal (I believe) was to allow us to think critically about the decisions we would make in life if we knew it would be written about 60 years later. I was 21 years old when I took this class so for me specifically I had to imagine that I was 81 years old writing an autobiography outlining the life I had not yet lived.
It was the most difficult but best writing experience to date. Included in the directions were guiding questions that I believe made all the difference in how our young minds thought about life. These were some of the questions:
- Did your career make a difference in people’s lives and give examples of how it made a difference?
- What favorite memories can you share that involve family and close friends?
- What struggles were you able to overcome?
- How well did you play the hand you were dealt?
- What were you able to contribute and are you happy with your contributions (financially, time, love)? Give examples.
- What lessons did you learn?
- What were your passions and did you pursue those passions?
- Do you have any regrets?
- Did you find purpose and meaning in your life?
- If your life could be remembered in one sentence, what would be written?
I know, pretty deep questions for a 21 year old to think about (or anyone for that matter). I found my binder with my report and all the instructions included and it’s amazing how different my autobiography would be today if I were to do the same activity all over again. It truly is amazing how our perspective on life changes as we get older. Now granted I am only six years older but my thinking is drastically different.
What I never considered six years ago when writing this was the fact that none of us are guaranteed tomorrow. However, it seems that most of us live our lives as if tomorrow is for certain. It wasn’t until I was given a death sentence that my life sentence began to change. But all of us are given a death sentence – it doesn’t matter if the diagnosis is made my a doctor or by God, none of us will make it out alive.
So will the decisions we make today matter in eternity? When I ask myself this question it forces me to re-evaluate my priorities. I know perfection is impossible – every day we will fall short no matter how much we do and how hard we try; that is why Jesus was sent to the cross. But that does not give us permission to live a mediocre life or play small (as Chris Brady says). Our days are limited whether we are 1 year old, 21 years old or 81 years old. How many times do we have to hear ‘life is short’ before it actually hits us that life is short?
As I meet people and ask the deeper questions I find out how many people are living an unfulfilled or mediocre life. Not always by choice, but by default. It doesn’t surprise me though because I too have been there many times. It’s easy to get trapped by meaningless things that steal our time. But I believe so many people are looking for a way to change their life sentence. No matter how busy, distracted and stressful life can be, everyone wants to succeed, make a difference, love and be loved and find happiness. Instead of a life sentence of regrets, why not create a life sentence of resolutions.
For me, if it wasn’t for the LIFE community and the amazing leadership of Orrin and Laurie Woodward and George and Jill Guzzardo I know I would still be living a very unfulfilled life that was leading me down a path of regrets – afraid to ask myself these deeper questions. While I will always continue to fall short, I have hope that my current and future decisions will reflect a life sentence worthy of being written about. The mission of LIFE leadership is to bring world class information to the masses (millions of people) so they can choose to live a live of purpose, principles and priorities. LIFE is offering people a chance to re-write their autobiography in a way that will reflect a life of resolutions and not regrets. When it’s all said and done what will be written in your LIFE sentence?