When I was a hospice social worker, I had a sign on my desk. It said, "Live each day as if it were your last... because one day you'll be right."
That was the greatest lesson I learned when working with people who were dying. Life is precious. Take advantage. Appreciate everything you have. Don't put things off. Laugh at others when possible. Laugh at yourself all the time.
As a personal development junkie, I'm overwhelmed by all of the advice floating out there in the you-can-be-better world of self improvement. There are seven steps to this, 101 ways of doing that, and 1001 Things to See Before We Die. That's a bit daunting. In fact, for many of us (and by us, I mean me), we're lucky to accomplish one thing each day.
So, I sought to simplify my own development and the result was an easy, two-step process that I call "Do it Well, Make it Fun." Simply put, if I seek to do everything with excellence while making the processes in my life and work more enjoyable, I become more successful and my life becomes more fulfilling.
So how does it work?
Well, for starters, we must realize that everything we do in life and work is a process. For instance, when we learned how to drive a car, we were instructed to follow a step-by-step process from the minute we got into the car:
- Put your seatbelt on.
- Check the mirrors.
- Put your foot on the break.
- Put your hands on the wheel.
- Put the key into the ignition.
- Make sure Lynyrd Skynyrd is playing loudly on the cassette player. (Note: I'm 51 so both Lynyrd Skynyrd and cassette players were an important part of my driver education experience.)
After years of driving, though, most of us don't even think about the process anymore. We just do it. We quit paying attention to the steps. And if we're not paying attention to the process and the steps, one day we'll find ourselves at the end of our life wondering where it all went and why it didn't go the way we wanted.
If, on the other hand, we break down the processes in our life into steps, we'll realize that each of those steps has the potential to not only be better, but to be more fun as well. That's where "Do it Well, Make it Fun" comes into play.
One of my hospice patients was a dynamic woman who did things well her entire life. She was a great mother, a great wife, a great employee, and a valued member of her community. She was loved by everyone who had the privilege to know her.
When her illness took a turn for the worse, I visited her in our hospice inpatient facility. She looked very weak and as if she was having trouble breathing. I asked if she was getting everything she needed. She said she was.
Then, she raised herself up on her elbows, looked around her beautifully decorated room, and said, "This place is lovely. I'd heard so much about it, I was dying to see it."
With that, she fell back on her pillow, burst out laughing, and said, "Can you believe I said that?"
I laughed too. It was funny. We had a moment.
Six hours later, she died. It was of the most profound hospice experiences I had. She was the epitome of "Do it Well, Make it Fun." She lived her life excellently but did not give up on having fun -- even when she was dying.
Life is just a series of processes. Every process has steps. And each step has the potential to be better and more fun.
Do it well. Make it fun.
Isn't that simple?
For more by Ron Culberson, MSW, CSP, click here.
For more on emotional wellness, click here.