There’s nothing like a funeral or memorial service to make us aware of the passing of time and the shortness of life. Time is a strange thing. We all have the same 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, and 52 weeks in a year. Yet some people aimlessly drift through life, while others use their time to make more of an impact than others.
This morning I attended a memorial service for my brother-in-law who passed away at the end of August. Listening to the tributes brought to mind a poem called The Dash that one of my dear friends read at her mother’s funeral years ago. This morning’s memorial service gave me an opportunity to reflect on the impact of a life well lived, and how important it is to make the best choices about how we spend our time.
The poem The Dash was written by Linda Ellis. I’ll include a couple of snippets here, but I encourage you to visit Linda’s website to read the full text. It’s very beautiful and thought provoking. The poem is about the meaning of that little dash between the dates on our tombstone when we’re gone.
For that dash represents all the timeThe Dash, Linda Ellis
that they spent alive on earth.
And now only those who loved them
know what that little line is worth.
How are you spending your dash?
How are you spending your dash? Are you truly making the most of every day and living a life consistent with your values?
None of us knows how much time we have left on this Earth. Every day we make choices about how we spend our time, but how often do we slow down and really consider the impact of those choices?
When our time is up, no-one at our funeral will speak of the size of our house, how much money we made, or the kind of car we drove. They also won’t care that we achieved level 8,000 on Candy Crush. Instead, they will share stories about our character, the good times we shared, the impact we had on them, and the quality of relationships we built.
We all have many things competing for our attention, and it’s tempting to want to be the hero—that person who takes on everything they’re asked to do. In his book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, Greg McKeown discusses the importance of differentiating the “vital few” from the “trivial many”. It was an excellent reminder that we spend a lot of our time on tasks that probably fall into the category of the “trivial many.”
If you don’t prioritize your life, who will? The next time you’re wrestling with a decision about taking on a new project or task, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does this align with my values?
- Will this be good for my physical or mental health?
- Will this help someone else?
- How will it impact the planet?
- Will anyone care about this a hundred years (or weeks, or even days) from now?
- Finally, if I knew I had just one day, one week, one month or one year left to live, would I take this on? If not, what would I do instead?
The answers to these questions will help you determine if this is one of the vital few tasks or projects that deserve your time and attention.
How do you want to be remembered?
Living a life that’s true to our values, and doing things that improve our relationships, help others, and positively impact our planet. That would be a good use of our dash!
So, when your eulogy is being readThe Dash, Linda Ellis
with your life’s actions to rehash,
would you be proud of the things they say
about how you spent YOUR dash?
Here’s to a long and healthy dash for everyone reading this!
How do you decide which projects or tasks to take on? Would you add other questions to this list? Drop a comment below and join the conversation!