Life frequently has a way of bringing your focus back onto the important things. When we hear of sudden unexpected deaths, we resolve never to take our life for granted. But despite our best intentions, we soon forget about the fragility and preciousness of life and carry on as we always have done, sweating the small stuff!
However, one very practical thing we can do, even when we fail to live up to our intentions to "make each moment count" is share with our children the values we hold dearest.
I recently found myself pondering on this question:
"If I were to die tomorrow, what would I want my sons to know to live happy, meaningful and fulfilling lives"?
It might seem morbid, but actually, by answering this question, it helps us, as parents, to get very clear about the sort of values we want to espouse on a daily basis as a family. And in fact, once we've decided what's important, we don't need to wait to tell our children!
Here are the 10 things I'd want to tell my children if I knew I was going to die tomorrow.
1. Life will never be all up and no down.
Accept this, but remember that during the down times, something positive eventually emerges from the negative.
Treat every "bad" thing that happens in your life with curiosity. Be a learning detective and look for the life lesson. No matter how bad it may seem at the time, try to find one positive out of every negative.
My own mum has always told me to "dry your tears and put your lipstick on". You don't need the lipstick, but you do need to get that smile on your face, even if it's the last thing you feel like doing.
Don't transfer your misery onto others. Instead, make it your mission to create a better world one person at a time; smile at people you meet as you go about your daily life. You never know, you may just save a life with your smile. And you will certainly preserve your own.
3. Human beings are magnificent.
Every human being is special. Take every opportunity to connect with as many people as you can in your life. Talk to the men who collect your refuse, talk to the woman who serves your coffee and talk to the man cleaning the public toilets. Accept people as you find them.
Each connection you make with each human being will enrich your life. The more you talk to people, the more your life will fill with luck, wisdom, happiness and abundance.
4. Don't take yourself seriously.
Don't get offended by stuff - it's just boring. Laugh at yourself when you mess up (you will), be humble when you excel (you will) and most importantly, treat yourself lightly and gently when life feels heavy (it will)!
5. The safest place to invest in a turbulent world is in yourself.
Never stop learning and invest heavily in "You Inc" so that you have a set of skills that you can turn into money. Keep growing your skills so that that no matter what happens with the economy, you can find ways to support yourself and those you love.
6. Be kind.
Being kind means approaching others with compassion and understanding, even when they are annoying the buggery out of you. It's not always easy. Sometimes, the most difficult people to be kind to are the people you love, which makes it even more important to keep kindness as your guide.
7. Your health really does comes first - both physical and mental.
Keep moving for the joy of moving, lift heavy things and stretch your body. Nurture your mental health by reading widely and talking to good friends and learning to be still. Do whatever you can to keep yourself healthy and never take your health for granted. It must come first - every day.
8. Don't ever let fear rule your life.
My philosophy is this: If something scares you, all the more reason to do it. Make it a habit to do one thing that scares the pants off you each week. The more you face your fears, the more you'll live your life.
9. You have the power to choose.
You always have a choice and there's nothing you HAVE to do. Sure, there are consequences to each choice you make, but there's no such thing as "must" in life. You will always be free as long as you allow yourself to be free. The only person who can make you feel trapped is you.
10. Make joie de vivre your guiding principle in life.
This is IT kids! You only get one shot at this life you have now! So live it completely. Do the things that make your heart soar. Eat delicious food, drink good wine, and dance your way through life. Laugh with abandon, love passionately and be awe-inspired by life in all its glory.
Tell me, what would YOU want your children to know if you knew you were going to die tomorrow? How do you want your children to live their lives?
Try this exercise yourself and you will get very clear on what your key values are in life. And then actively live those values every day as a role model for your kids.