Live a life that matters…

Having heard some sad news recently, I found myself re-reading a poem that I first encountered a few years ago:

Ready or not it will come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no more minutes, hours or days,

All the things you collected, whether treasured or forgotten

Will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrive to irrelevance.

It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear.

So too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and losses that once seemed so important will fade away.

It won’t matter where you came from,

Or what side of the track you lived on in the end.

It won’t matter whether you were beautiful or brilliant.

Even your gender and skin colour will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured?

What will matter is not what you bought but what you built.

Not what you got, but what you gave.

What will matter is not your successes but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, courage and sacrifice.

That enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence, but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew,

But how many will feel a lasting loss when you are gone.

What will matter is not your memories,

But the memories that live on in those who love you.

What will matter is how long will you be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident.

It is not a matter of circumstances but of choice.


[Author unknown]

I got to thinking about how to make a life well lived, a life that matters. If you believe the popular hype, your life is all about you. You have to ‘enjoy every moment’ and ‘act like every day is your last’. Ok. Of course, aiming to enjoy every minute is a great goal. If you manage to enjoy even half of the waking minutes of your life then you’re really not doing too badly. But actually, this won’t get you down to the roots of it. It’s a great start: so, you’ve enjoyed your life. But when it comes down to it, who really cares about that apart from you? Your memoirs are your memories; and unless they make the best-seller list you take them with you when you go.

No, there must be more to it. How can you combine the ‘really matter’ and the ‘really enjoy yourself’? It might be that you have to take the ‘you’ out of the equation. You have to start thinking about your impact, and that might even get you on the path of thinking about….gulp….others. And not in a “well I give three quid a month to Cancer Research, that’s charity, yeah??” or “I gave that homeless guy the rest of my Big Mac when I was drunk, I’m such a great person”. Nope. I’m talking about deep impact, a legacy, and that means developing a constant awareness of your affect on other people.

I guess you would start by ‘putting-others-first’. Be a good person! Ouch. Giving to charity, being the friend for those in need, cat-sitting your cousin’s kitten despite your allergy to fur? It can’t just be that, though. The people who have had the greatest impact on my life, the ones I’ll always remember, aren’t especially good people, or particularly selfless. They influenced me because they guided me, developed me and made me a better person. Maybe, to live a life that matters, to have an impact, you don’t have to be a better person – you have to help others become better people. And by doing that, maybe you can become that better person anyway – which would be a nice bonus!

What will matter is not your successes but your significance.

What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught

But to make an impact on the world, the first place you have to start is with you. And close behind, there has to be the others. The rest is about what you do with it. The rest is history.

Categories: Duck | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

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One thought on “Live a life that matters…

  1. “Not what you got, but what you gave.” So true! What a beautiful poem

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