Lacking direction? Try the death bed exercise

I’m feeling a bit unsettled at the moment. 

As life becomes increasingly normal, many of the aspirations and possibilities which lit me up during the first lockdown period are disappearing, and I can’t quite explain it. 

It’s almost like the break in the norm gave rise to a feeling that anything was possible, and with it came a fearless creativity.

It doesn’t feel that way anymore.

I can feel a slide back into set habits and routines, along with the rise of the doubting voice at the back of my mind.

I’ve managed to hold onto a few of the new ones, like not drinking much, meditating, writing and being a bit more easy going (mostly), but I can’t seem to access the carefree, childlike aspect of myself which I found during the first lockdown: the one who became convinced that life is much simpler than we make it.

I feel less comfortable in my own skin. (Maybe I only feel comfortable in it when my interactions remain in my comfort zone!)

I’ve also stopped taking action.  I research lots of different things, but sometimes I don’t quite manage to put ideas into practice, particularly if they involve big changes.

I have a hard time understanding if some of the ideas that fascinate me are worth pursuing or are just pipe dreams.

I can get lost in my own head.

When I’m struggling with direction, I find the death bed exercise can help bring me back to my heart and remind me what truly matters to me.

I imagine myself on my death bed, looking back at a life well lived:

My light and frail body is cocooned in soft sheets, my papery skin is liver spotted and smooth to the touch, my hair is grey, fly away and wispy. I know I’m taking my last breaths, but I’m smiling.  I’m smiling because I have lived a good life.  I’ve lived a good life because I was there for the people that mattered to me.  I had time for them.  I spent time with them.  I showed them how much I loved them.  My heart was open, compassionate and loving. I had my interests and passions and I followed these, but they didn’t define me. I was open, playful, and curious.  I embraced the ordinary wonder around me. I was serious when I needed to be, but I laughed a lot too. I didn’t sweat the small stuff. I knew that the most important things aren’t the legacy left behind in money or measurable impact, but the small acts of love and kindness in daily life that ripple outwards.  I wasn’t a loud leader, but I was a quiet friend. I gave my time, my love, and my words.

Of course I have other dreams and aspirations. I’d like to travel again, I’d love to write a book, I’m still searching high and low for my dream camper van (a VW California if anyone out there is offering), but these things are secondary to love, connection and finding the joy in life.

I think that’s what the first lockdown gave me: a clarity of values and a sincere gratitude for all that I have, a perspective that often only comes when faced with the possibility of losing it.

As time has gone on, and the fear has faded, it’s harder to hold on to what really matters, especially when life gets in the way.

So that’s my challenge: to hold on to the knowledge of what really matters to me, even as I’m cursing my to do list and the number of unopened emails in my inbox.

Should be easy, right?

If I’m still writing this blog when I’m on my deathbed I’ll let you know how it went.

How about you, have you ever tried this exercise? Or are your values always easy to pinpoint?

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9 thoughts on “Lacking direction? Try the death bed exercise

  1. IMO best thing to do to be comfortable In your inner skin, stick to your beliefs and integrity despite wanting to pacify by pacifying you won’t be happy with yourself because intrinsically it’s not how you feel .. if you are true to yourself or you won’t despair at yourself. People may dispair at you but that’s better than the alternative. aIt’s hard if it’s not in your nature but do what is right even if it doesn’t appeal to the masses or even please the masses.

    Outer skin- you are beautiful, envious figure , perfect skin. That’s how I would describe you. Actually it’s disgusting you look so good for your age and with 2 children ( I know you worked for it but some of us haven’t the willpower 😉 ) so there is no reason why you shouldn’t feel comfortable in your outer – skin. Although realising none of that actually matters is even more important .. something I have learnt this year I suppose.. If you can let it go that’s even better. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do sometimes find my beliefs wavering in the face of other people’s…I think I can lack trust in myself, but at the same time we are also social beings, so it’s natural to want to fit in with others, and part of doing that is trying to understand where other people are coming from, walking a mile in their shoes so to speak.

      I’m also very open to other people’s ideas and possibilities. I know that I don’t know everything, so when I discover something new that strikes a chord then I’m open to exploring it.

      I think what this exercise does is remind me, when I’m feeling a little lost, of the best parts of myself and what’s important at the baseline.

      Thank you for the many compliments, you’re so lovely 😚

      Letting go is also something I’m working on 🙂xx


  2. I don’t know about the death bed exercise, but I can see how it could help you clarify your sense of purpose in life. My values are usually easy for me to know, but how I’m going to get things done is often less clear. I get lost in my head, too. Maybe we all do and only some of us are willing to admit it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • My husband doesn’t like this exercise either, he won’t even entertain the idea but I suppose it’s horses for courses.

      I think getting lost in our heads must happen to most people, though there’s a myriad of ways to distract in this day and age!

      Liked by 1 person

    • I love how you keep it simple John, sage advice.

      I do feel like there are lots of possibilities in there though, so many potential versions of myself, my future self being determined by my actions in the present.

      I think that’s why I like this exercise, because it helps me keep in mind the future self that is closest to my heart.

      Liked by 2 people

      • That is pretty spot on to how I feel too! There are so many “me’s” inside me, there is some level of choosing involved and then patience needed to stay on path and not jump to another version of “me” due to impatience or doubt.

        I also think about my own death in order to help me figure out which of my values or paths is the closest to my heart. I also sometimes imagine a Heaven scenario, to help me understand what is most important to me.

        I find both helpful, but sometimes it seems it may lead me to not recognize when to give up on a dream. And I burn out attempting what others will tell me is “impossible”. I’m still not sure what to make of it, or if anything is really “impossible”, but I do burn out.


      • I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who does this kind of exercise!

        I think many things are possible, though they don’t always turn out according to our expectations, but if we stay open to what’s happening, instead of what we think should happen, we can often find the path again.

        Liked by 1 person

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