How do you know what is meaningful and fulfilling in life?

“For something to be considered meaningful and fulfilling, it must pass what I call the “deathbed test.” If asked on your deathbed to complete the following sentence, “I wish I had spent more time_______________,” how would you respond?”

Via Shiny Objects: Why We Spend Money We Don’t Have in Search of Happiness We Can’t Buy:

For something to be considered meaningful and fulfilling, it must pass what I call the “deathbed test.” If asked on your deathbed to complete the following sentence, “I wish I had spent more time_______________,” how would you respond? I doubt that many of us would wish we’d spent more time at work or shopping. No, I’m guessing that a lot of your responses would revolve around spending more time with family, in church, with friends, or helping others.

In the past I’ve encouraged my students to draft their obituary as part of an extra-credit exercise, asking them to write it as they wished it to appear after a long life. I know it sounds morbid, but this assignment is an excellent way to expose the gap between how people live their lives and how they want to be remembered. It’s a sobering experience at any age. The real benefit, of course, is that the writer gets to confront any such inconsistencies before it’s too late. I can’t tell you how many students have told me that this experience was a real wake-up call for them— one that I hope has changed many lives. We all must ask ourselves, if our obituaries were written today, would we be happy with what was written?

Steve Jobs recommended a similar exercise and Ryan Holiday has great tips for making hard decisions.

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