Recently, I (the Rabbi) asked this question to a group of financial planners of a variety of ages. One older gentleman responded, “I am not sure if my life makes a difference.” Despite having a family being well respected by his peers, he was having trouble appreciating his role in the world. I reminded him, that we all make a difference, of the blessings in his life and his capacity to harness them for impact every hour of every day.
Pause today and answer this question yourself. How would the world be different without you?
You may not realize it but you are not an accident. You were born with purpose. Every day you possess a unique mission and potential to reveal the light in you and share it with the world.
Here is a secret: Our lives are not made up of years, but of days and moments. The more we are attuned to this reality, the more meaningful this coming year will be for each of us, our families, friends and community.
Today is one day, the first day of the rest of this year. Seize it to plan a year of becoming your best self. What are you on this earth to do? In the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov, “The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.”
Your email and social media are now bombarded with lots of tips on how to set your SMART goals, develop and keep your New Year Resolutions, how to pick out the perfect planner, and other advice on building health, wealth, and great relationships in the new year.
But if you truly want to lead a life of legacy and impact next year, go deeper inside yourself. Ask yourself Five Important Questions Now. As I wrote in my book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?, do not just read this list below, but actually pull out a journal or open up a document on your computer or phone and really answer these questions. Your answers will motivate you to make this year the most memorable in your life:
1. If you only had 24 hours to live, what would you do and why?
2. What values do you stand for and what is worth fighting for?
3. What five words would you want written on your headstone?
4. What will you do this year that is worthy of future memory?
5. How would the world be different without you?
Take some quiet time to answer these questions. Or take just a few minutes to answer one of them and start the process of personal introspection. You may choose to watch a movie to get you in the mood. One of the most inspiring is the classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. Psychologists have actually coined the phrase “the George Bailey Technique” as a strategy for contemplating the fragility and meaning of life. In the film, Clarence Oldboy, angel second class, tells George, “You have been given a great gift, George: a chance to see what the world would be like without you.” (Click here to watch this memorable scene.)
Think about the world without you. It will awaken you to the gifts that surround you. It will inspire you to unleash the Divine potential within you.
This time of year is a natural time for reflection and planning. We all possess an inner voice that wants meaning and joy in life and we all want to lead a life of impact. The problem is, we often get distracted by the pace and the hustle and bustle that defines the world, and then we wonder where the time goes and we end up living with regret. Make this year different.
No matter your religion or lack thereof, reflection on the year past and looking ahead to the future is what human beings do. We are hardwired for it, so make it count.
Answer these five questions and review once a week throughout the New Year. If you do, you will truly make a difference. You may not change the world, but every day you can change the world of one person.
Live this year by the immortal words of William Penn, “I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do, or any kindness or abilities that I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer it or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Click here to purchase Rabbi Daniel Cohen’s book, What Will They Say About You When You Are Gone?