Are you living for your resume, or your eulogy?

This writing exercise reminds you what truly matters.

You may have heard of the difference between the resume virtues and the eulogy virtues. The resume virtues are skills and accomplishments in the marketplace. What prestigious school did you attend? What corporate rank did you reach? How hard did you work? 

The eulogy virtues are deeper. They are the qualities people will talk about in your eulogy. Who are you? What is in your heart? What are your relationships like? What legacy did you leave on those around you? 

Most of us would agree that eulogy virtues are more important than resume ones. But our society favors resume virtues in everyday life. It’s easy to lose sight of eulogy virtues when we get caught in the race of success instead of spending time on developing character.

Consider spending a few minutes meditating or journaling about your eulogy virtues. Writing down your thoughts can help you make small changes in your everyday life so that the person you are becomes more aligned with the person you want to be. And this writing exercise is a profound way to make that happen.

Write your own eulogy. This sounds like a dark and daunting task at first, but putting your life in words can be incredibly clarifying. Daniel Harkavy, author of Living Forward, popularized this exercise. He writes, “When we take the time to write our eulogies, it creates this magnetic pull power that draws us forward, our priorities and our vision for where we want to be as leaders and how we’ll get there come into sharp focus. This clarity enables us to make the best decisions, get up out of our comfortable patterns, create new habits, and start moving us toward a better future.” 

Here are some tips and questions to get started:

  • Start with the facts of your life you want to highlight, like your culture, faith, education, work, family, relationships, hobbies, and places you’ve lived. Look at these details and think about the themes that thread them together. What story do they tell?  
  • What adjectives do you value most in yourself now? Are they the same ones you would want to be included in your eulogy? 
  • What parts of your personality are you most proud of? What parts of your personality are you least proud of, and how have you fought those weaknesses?
  • You might find it easier to write a eulogy from the perspective of if you died today, and then imagine how you’d want it to be different from if you died in years. 
  • Take your time, and take breaks. This can be an intense, emotional exercise. It doesn’t need to be finished in one attempt. 

Remember that this exercise can be for your eyes only. It isn’t intended to overhaul your life completely. Instead, it can serve as a guiding light for making small changes in your everyday life that inspires you to remember what is truly important.