Mark L. Hopkins: New Year’s resolutions and more
The prospect of writing New Year’s resolutions reminds me of a column I read by a writer named Marilyn Schwartz.
She reported that a lady planning a dinner party put out an invitation to her guest list, all women, telling them they were to bring a covered dish and their obituaries.
Obviously, she was planning a very interesting activity for the evening as each shared what they planned and hoped for their lives.
One woman wrote that her first husband was a lottery winner who died under mysterious circumstances and that she passed peacefully away in her sleep at the age of 97.
Another woman wrote that she had been a finalist for the Nobel Peace Prize and would be awarded a posthumous Tony for a recent role on Broadway. Her longtime companion Robert Redford would be accepting the award for her.
The women “died” as sex-goddesses and bungee jumpers. They were rich, daring and adventurous. The dinner party was for fun, of course, and the guests played it for laughs.
Having worked at a college for most of my professional career, I have talked to many students about their futures. When you ask a student to picture themselves 20 years down the road, they usually say they can envision themselves with “a nice job, a nice family, and a nice house.”
They think they’re projecting their future when, in fact, they are merely dreaming. Of course, the ladies at the party were dreaming too, but they knew they were dreaming.
When we write resolutions we tend to think of job, money, weight loss and things that fit into the societal competition mode. However, if you ask your children or your spouse to write a list of resolutions for you, they probably won’t mention your job or talk about money at all. They’ll talk about of having more of your time, feeling more loved and seeing you happier.
Accomplishments, successes, and positions in organizations are not important to those who love you. They are more interested in happiness, friendships and your relationship with them.
So how does one separate the “resolution” from the “obituary”? It’s easy. One is what you intend to do, and the other is what you did. The point, of course, is that writing what one intends to do is not nearly as important as writing what one did.
Can one write their own obituary? Actually, we really can. To write the best obituary for ourselves, we need to start living the way we really want to be remembered.
What we do may not come out on the obituary page in the newspapers when we are gone but it certainly will be written in the memories of those close to us. Now, where is that paper and pen.
Dr. Mark L. Hopkins writes for More Content Now and Scripps Newspapers. He is past president of colleges and universities in four states and currently serves as executive director of a higher-education consulting service. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.