Writing your Obituary

A couple of weeks ago I heard an interview with an amazing woman who had just completed the Atlantic Rowing Race.  She was the only woman to attempt the race and she rowed, single-handed, from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean.  She eventually crossed the finishing line after 103 days alone at sea, having rowed 3,000 miles.

What really intrigued me about her story was the process which had led to her embarking on this extraordinary adventure.  After leaving University she had followed a typical career path – working her way up the corporate ladder, firstly as a Management Consultant and then moving on to be an Investment Banker in the City of London.  So far so good, but eleven years later, when she was in her early 30s, she started to get a niggling feeling that something was missing and that perhaps there was "more to life than this…"

The turning point came when she sat down one day and wrote two versions of her own obituary. The first version related to her current life, while the second described a life that was a very different story!  It contained words that were full of meaning for her – ‘adventurous’, ‘courageous’, 'fearless' and ‘colourful’  – and that was the point at which she decided to make changes to her life so that it more closely resembled the life she wanted to live and, ultimately, how she wanted to be remembered.

I remember hearing a similar story about Alfred Nobel – famous for the Peace Prize – who had made his fortune from inventing and manufacturing dynamite.  When his brother met an untimely death, the obituary writers made an unfortunate error and wrote Alfred Nobel's obituary by mistake.  He must be one of the few people who have had the unsettling experience of reading his own obituary. And he didn't like what he read.  He decided that he didn't want to be remembered for something destructive, but for something philanthropic instead – and the rest, of course, is history.

How about you?  What would your obituary say about you?  Is this how you want to be remembered?  Writing your own obituary may seem a touch morbid, but there's no doubt that it's a powerful way of focusing the mind on what's really important to you and how you want to live your life. 


© Annabel Sutton Coaching Tips 2009  

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