I recently saw an interview Oprah did with a man named David Brooks. His face looked sort of familiar, but I wouldn't have been able to place it without some background. Turns out he's a writer and political pundit (a term that makes me go, eew). But that's not why Oprah was interviewing him.
Apparently, a few years ago it occurred to David Brooks that he, like many of us, might possibly be focusing his energies on the wrong things. I have to believe that Brooks spends much of his work life surrounded by a combination of really smart people, really powerful people and real dirtbags (these categories are likely not mutually exclusive). I imagine this might make the idea of "focusing our energies on the wrong things" even more glaringly obvious than what most of us experience day-to-day.
Anyway, I watched this interview and found it really thought-provoking and rather interesting. And then I went back about my regular business. Not long after I watched the interview, I came across a NY Times article he'd written on the same topic, when someone shared it on Facebook...then I saw his book on Amazon...then I saw his TED Talk.
So here's the thing. I kind of feel like the universe sends us signs of things we need to focus on. And, if we're paying attention, we can find the lessons we need to learn or what we need to work on in our lives and ourselves this way. So, I think the universe is telling me that there's something in David Brooks' message that I need to focus on. And here's what I think it is:
Live for your eulogy, not your resume.
But Brooks found a very succinct, easy to understand, bumper-sticker worthy way of capturing a really important idea with Eulogy Virtues vs. Resume Virtues. Here's the core of what he says:
It occurred to me that there were two sets of virtues, the résumé virtues and the eulogy virtues. The résumé virtues are the skills you bring to the marketplace. The eulogy virtues are the ones that are talked about at your funeral — whether you were kind, brave, honest or faithful. Were you capable of deep love?
We all know that the eulogy virtues are more important than the résumé ones. But our culture and our educational systems spend more time teaching the skills and strategies you need for career success than the qualities you need to radiate that sort of inner light. Many of us are clearer on how to build an external career than on how to build inner character.He goes on to expand on how we can go about building these eulogy virtues by focusing on building humility and other-centeredness, confronting our own weaknesses, being committed to others, giving love, finding and following our calling, and letting go of labels and being our true selves. We must allow ourselves to stumble, then get back up and move on. We must focus not on being better than others, but on being better than we used to be.
He captures, in his talks and articles, things that I've been focusing on more and more since having kids. But I've found that it's so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day stuff and sucked into focusing on what our culture deems important. Though it shouldn't be, it's somehow easy to lose sight of what's important to me. And, I have to believe that I'm not alone in this.
I've mentioned in prior posts, I think, that I am a big fan of having mantras and touchpoints-- easy reminders of what I want to focus on. I own bracelets that say "Only Love Today" and "Live Hands Free," I have a necklace that says "Writer" and I've taken to writing a daily intention on my hand with a ballpoint pen (things like: Stay loose. and Have fun. and Focus on Love.). All ways of reminding myself throughout the day--when things get crazy, when I feel overwhelmed, when I get tired and cranky-- of how I want to live the moments of my life.
So, for me, this "eulogy over resume" idea is an easy way to remind myself of what's important to me...and where I want to focus my time and energy everyday. On being kind, brave, honest and faithful. On loving deeply. And all the other things I value...
Food for thought.
Until next time, give some thought to what you want people saying in your eulogy...and then see if how you live your life, day in and day out, and where you focus your time and energy is in line with where you want things to be in the end.
P.S. If you'd like to read/watch more of what David Brooks has to say on this topic, check out these links...to his NY Times article: The Moral Bucket List, to his TED Talk: TED Talk: Should you live for your resume...or your eulogy?, to his book (which I haven't read yet, but may add to my list now): Amazon: The Road to Character, and to clips from his Oprah interview: Oprah Interview. Or Google him...there's lots more. Happy reading and pondering.