If today was the last day of your life, would you be doing what you’re doing?

Death - the only certainty of life

Death – the only certainty of life

“Fear not that life shall come to an end, but rather fear that it shall never have a beginning.” ~John Henry Cardinal Newman

“I wish I could stand on a busy corner, hat in hand, and beg people to throw me all their wasted hours.” ~Bernard Berenson

There’s an abundance of quotes available about making the most of life.

I often wonder what it would take for some people to realise that the choice to live it fully everyday is primarily theirs.

Granted, our circumstances and upbringing will have an affect on our choices, but at the end of the day, we can choose to be limited by them, or we can discover the gifts we’ve gained on our journeys, and use them wisely.

Death as an agent of change 

I’m extremely fortunate in that I’ve only ‘lost’ my grandparents – no-one else in my immediate family has had any serious illnesses or died.

I have however, had the experience of friends dying.

One in particular, in her 40th year, had a huge impact on me. I remember the shock that someone I’d only recently spent time with, could suddenly be gone, never to be seen again. Her death was one of the decision makers in my choice of travel to New Zealand initially in 2001.

“The more side roads you stop to explore, the less likely that life will pass you by”. ~Robert Brault

In 2005, I met the man I would marry in 2009. His first wife had sadly died in 2003, also at the age of 40 (ironically isn’t that when life is supposed to begin?). It took a long time after we got together for him to commit to me, he’d never imagined a life without her. Once he did make the choice, he opened up to so many opportunities to make the most of life, knowing from personal experience how suddenly it could all end.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.” ~Mark Twain

Living before you die

In June 2005, at a Stanford University commencement speech, Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple and Pixar, talked about pursuing our dreams and being open to the opportunities in life’s setbacks. It’s an amazingly inspiring presentation,  titled ‘How to live before you die‘.

The part that really resonated with me, was that he looked in the mirror every day, and asked himself “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’  If the answer was ‘No’ too many times in a row, he knew it was time to change something.

“Begin doing what you want to do now. We have only this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand, and melting like a snowflake.” ~Marie Ray

Writing your eulogy

If you could write our own eulogy, what would it say?

I was recently touched by another untimely death. A midwifery colleague who’d been instrumental in bringing the option of water births to the West Midlands area, and possibly to the UK and elsewhere, through her unwavering passion and purpose.

She’d heard about the concept at a study day, and from that had made it her mission to find out more and introduce it to the Trust she worked at. The results of her three-year audit ‘The Tide Has Turned‘, was published in The British Journal of Midwifery in 1998.

Sadly I didn’t get to see her before she died, but I did send a letter to the Hospice which was read to her on the eve of her death. I told her what an inspiration she was, how she’d made an indelible difference to the lives of so many midwives and childbearing women and their families. Her daughter phoned me the next day to tell me she’d passed away, and that they’d all been touched and comforted by the words I’d written.

Why had I waited so long? Why hadn’t I made more effort to contact her while she was alive when I’d heard she was unwell in April? I guess my own life took over, with the huge changes I was making this year, and the priority of spending time with my family. So that’s ok. But it did motivate me to set up a Facebook Group for people who had worked in the maternity department at the Trust, and many people from that wrote heartwarming tributes too.  Now we can keep in touch, rather than wait until someone else dies before telling them how amazing they are.

Talking about death

I’m intrigued about the ways we talk of death, if we even venture to do so.

I have a fascination with graveyards, and reading headstones. People ‘pass away’, are ‘lost’, they ‘go to sleep’, rarely do they ‘die’. Why is that? I’m a member of an organisation called Dying Matters , which helps to get the concept of embracing our own mortality out into the world. Death seems to have overtaken sex as the taboo subject.

Delving into the book ‘The Five People You Meet in Heaven‘, you can explore how things you do or say, actions you take or neglect, can potentially have a life-chaging effect on others, even though you may not be aware of it at the time.

“Minutes are worth more than money. Spend them wisely.” ~Thomas P. Murphy

Points to consider

  1. Don’t wait until you’re dying before you start living – be wary of delaying your ‘bucket list’ until that ‘magical age’ of retirement (the one governments and employers keep changing!). Many people don’t make it that far.
  2. How frequently do you tell the people who are important to you, how much they mean to you – and why.
  3. Are there people who’ve made a positive impact on your life, that you can talk to and tell them – now, before it’s too late?
  4. How will you be remembered? What would you like your eulogy to say?
  5. If you’re not living the life of your dreams, what steps can you take towards that path, and who can support you along the way?

Live each day fully

“Many people die with their music still in them. Why is this so? Too often it is because they are always getting ready to live. Before they know it, time runs out.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Don't delay - live today!

Don’t delay – live today!

My daughter recently sent this image and caption to me – that’s how I plan to grow older, and just in case I don’t make it that far, I love surprising people frequently.

If you want a supportive coach to challenge you to change and awaken to living each day fully, please get in touch and see if I can walk alongside you (go to my contact me page to book a suitable time and day).

What’s your belief of ‘normal’, and how is it affecting your life in the twenty-first century?



Normal is nothing more than a cycle on a washing machine.”~ Whoopi Goldberg

What’s your definition of normal?

Mine’s been changing, and will continue to, in the light of differing perceptions and realities.

I recently commented on a fellow coaches facebook page that I’d left my ‘normal’ life in Gisborne, New Zealand, to live on a narrowboat on the waterways of England. She, quite rightly, challenged me as to what I classed as a ‘normal life’, and that she’d imagine many live-aboard narrowboaters would consider their lives to be ‘normal’.

As humans we can be quick to judge others and the way they live their lives, especially if it’s far removed from our reality.

This got me thinking once again about that six-letter supposedly innocuous word that we often bandy about thoughtlessly …

‘Normal’ birth

For 26 years of my life I had the privilege of working as a midwife, supporting and empowering women to grow, birth and nurture their babies.

Midwives are known as ‘wise women’ in France (Sage Femme), and are considered in most western countries as the ‘experts’ in normal birth. I’m not good with the word ‘expert’ – a colleague once suggested that an ‘ex’ is a has been, and a ‘(s)pert’ is a drip under pressure! I’ve also changed my perspective on what a ‘normal birth’ is many times. If the surgical birth rate (aka Caesarean section) is an astounding 50 to 80% in some countries, then that inevitably becomes their ‘normal’ birth. Of course there’s lots of evidence to suggest that this will in turn cause other complications, but this isn’t the place to debate that.

During my midwifery training, we were told ‘normal’ birth should theoretically encompass around 75% of all deliveries.  This was described as one where there are no interventions, where the woman spontaneously begins labour (prompted we believe by the baby in some way), her womb contracts and relaxes periodically and the baby slowly descends the birth canal until she/he puts so much pressure on the bag of fluid cushioning her/him that it breaks, washes the passage and emerges into the world through it’s mother’s spontaneous pushing. The only pain relief is the woman’s natural endorphins which work magically. The lights are dim; noise and any interaction with the woman is kept to an essential minimum.

In reality (sadly I feel), this scenario is a rare event – and I challenge anyone who watches the TV programme ‘One born every minute’ to inform me when they ever saw this miracle, or anything similar, portrayed.

We’ve had to invent a new word for this rare occurrence – ‘physiological’ or ‘natural’ birth. The new ‘normal’, is whatever occurs most frequently, as a dictionary definition of normal is ‘usual and typical, what you would expect, the normal state or condition.’

‘Normal’ children

Continuing on the theme of birth and babies, what do you believe is a ‘normal’ child? Due to the increasing availability of termination of pregnancy for anything not within the parameters of ‘normal’, many people, possibly under the pressure of society and their peers and family, opt to have every test available to check whether there is any ‘risk’ of their baby not being ‘normal’. Even if this in itself risks miscarrying a ‘normal’ baby.

Having Down syndrome is like being born normal. I am just like you and you are just like me. We are all born in different ways, that is the way I can describe it. I have a normal life.”~ Chris Burke

‘Normal’ life

Changing the subject (which I’m aware can be emotive), whilst continuing with the theme (!), I recently had the opportunity to view and appreciate the artwork of L.S.Lowry in Salford Quays, Manchester.

His ‘normal’ life was different to most people in the twentieth century. He lived at home with his parents until they respectively died, then spent the remainder of his 88 years living alone. He’d never been abroad, hardly travelled from his home town, spent all his working life in the same job as a rent collector – pursuing his passion for painting only in the evenings – and it’s believed he never had a relationship with a woman (or a man I hasten to add!).

He craved feedback about his artwork from his mother, but it was never forthcoming. Before he died, he questioned what his life had been about and whether ‘he’ had brought any value to the world. His collection of around 4,000 works showcase his indescribable talent and has brought pleasure to millions of people – yet he questioned whether his life had any purpose.

I wonder what changes he would’ve made to his ‘normal’ life, had there been a life coach around to support and inspire him; encouraging him to believe he was amazing and didn’t need anyone else to tell him so?

In the two years I’ve been coaching clients, I’ve been in awe at times of the changes people have made to their personal beliefs around what they can and can’t do with their lives.  They’ve been (mostly) strong enough and ready to take the time to look inside, reflect on where they’ve been, what unhelpful patterns they’ve been repeating, what’s been stopping them from changing and stepping out of their comfort zone – even when it’s been anything BUT comfortable – and taking action towards where they want to be. Their future ‘normal’.

Thoughts on ‘normal’ to consider

  1. What’s normal to one person isn’t necessarily what’s normal for someone else.
  2. It’s okay, and probably empowering, to change your perception of normal from time-to-time.
  3. If you try and hold on to what you believe is normal, you may be limiting the opportunities available to you.

I’d be interested to hear what your ‘normal’ is, and how often you’re open to this changing – or if you resist moving out of your comfort zone at all costs to retain your ‘usual’ life.

Consider what the reasons could be for wanting to remain ‘the same’.

What fears does change bring up for you and why?