Figure Out What's Next

Death: A Life Lesson in Personal Change

career change dorothy tannahill moran purposeful living Feb 03, 2010

by Dorothy Tannahill Moran

photo by Frantisek Duris

Live like you're dying

What would shift in your life, your behavior if the possibility of death loomed over you? 

How would you know what the lesson is? You don't live to tell it!? As a person focused on personal change and transition, it does strike me that this is the ultimate transition. The lesson is in the observation of the process. It's either the pre- or post-death experience of those left behind or it's the pre-death experience of the expired. I choose the latter because of the big lesson's I learned from my dad's death and from the current pre-death transition of my best friends sister.

The lesson is: Live like you're dying. What would shift in your life, your behavior if the possibility of death loomed over you? These two beautiful people demonstrate that you make big changes real fast.

My dad was a stern, difficult and strict man when I was growing up. I feared him more than almost anything else I might have felt. Imagine that same man as, happy, curious, effusive, generous, present and introspective. That's what happened to him the very second he was told he would die without by-pass surgery. These days by-pass surgery is almost as common place as gall bladder surgery. In those days it was brand new and this procedure represented maybe something close to the 200th such surgery in the entire US. It was a big risk with or without it. I didn't realize he had shifted at the moment I heard this discussion but I knew it later that summer after his surgery. I knew something was amiss when I pulled up to the house and my dad was sitting on the ground looking up at the tree he was under. When I joined him, he asked me if I had ever just looked at a tree from underneath. He proceeded to explain his observations and joy in what he was experiencing. This launched a set of behaviors for the decade he had left that were simple and powerful to those he had a chance to encounter.

While my friends sister's transition is still in process, I have been fortunate enough to hear of the various outlooks her sister has had. Many of these perspectives strike me as noble and loving both for her and her family. Instead of dwelling on something potentially sad, she has used this time to really live. As a second party observer, I see it is pulling her family together and at the same time using it to show the rest of us what to focus on. What a gift she gives us each day.

The lessons gained from their modeling behavior are:

-- Life is too short to worry. Things will take care of themselves

-- Make sure no day goes without kindness to others.

-- Don't go to sleep without expressing your love, gratitude and joy especially to those you love.

-- Be curious. It causes learning and there are and infinite amount of cool things to know.

-- Spend time being present. Absorb everything right to your pores.

-- If you have a dream, pursue it. Now.

-- Engage strangers. Everyone has a fascinating story they really want to share.

-- Laugh. At everything. It makes you feel good.

-- Mend fences if they are in disrepair. It will be part of what you leave behind.

 What would shift in your life if you lived like you were dying? Imagine just how great your life would be? You would hold no grudge or create any. You would be in love with everything, every minute of every day. Sure, we have to think about the rent and food but this way of living doesn't mean an "either /or" situation. You can continue to do all the things you do today. You would simply live in a way that would be abundant and joyful. You would be contagious. You would be a living legacy.

Dorothy Tannahill-Moran is a Career Coach and expert on helping her clients achieve their goals. 


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