A thought for November

November already. Where is the year going? It is a gorgeous autumn. Beautiful crisp mornings and some sunshine on the trees as they change colour. Wonderful, provided there is somewhere warm to return to! The children had an enjoyable Hallowe’en and now are starting rehearsing for nativity plays. We are making lists and wondering if there are two Christmases a year these days!

As the days are shorter I was indoors doing chores listening to the radio and along came a trail for an interview with Ken Dodd. Apparently Doddy is 90 at any minute so there will be interviews and shows to celebrate. I am not a Doddy fan – not my sense of humour but I admire his longevity! However, something that was said did catch my fancy. When asked what he would like his epitaph to be he thought and said, “He did his best”. It struck me that this phase can be said in two ways. “He did his best” in a very downbeat way implying it was a poor effort; or “He did his best” as a great compliment implying he was continually good.

Doddy’s humour looks so effortless he must work very hard to produce it. Certainly after all these years he knows how to work a crowd. He presents long shows even at 89 and still leaves the fans wanting more. He values each of his fans and is famous for giving one person a show as he would 2000. So, his best is superlative. It would be a great epitaph.

Two questions then. Would people say you do your best? And what would you like your epitaph to be?

“Your best” is always a difficult question to answer especially as I asked what other people would say rather than what you would say about yourself. We are much tougher on ourselves than others are; we put up unreasonable barriers to our own success and create standards that are far too high. Leave that to one side, think about the last time someone congratulated you on doing something well? What was it? Did you really hear what was said to you or did you try to brush off the feedback? Mostly people thank us or compliment us for something we did because they mean it, not to ingratiate themselves. Next time someone says something nice about your performance please take notice of it and treasure it up. There are plenty of times when we deserve praise and we don’t get it so use it then!

Do you put yourself in situations where you can use the best of you? If you are good with people are you using the skill or flogging away at something else and ignoring the strength? Doing what you are good at is so easy; doing what you are poor at is a chore. Why do chores if you don’t need to!

What about your epitaph? What is the sentence that would best sum up your life? What might your partner say or one of your children write? What would a work colleague say or a customer? Would it be something you have already thought of or would it be something new? Someone said to me last week “you’re such an ace at thinking things through”. That was not something I had thought about myself, but it might make a good epitaph!

Of course, the other way of looking at this is what is the epitaph you are working on making your own. We are all a work in progress. We are growing and changing all the time. What might you be working on? When my mother was a young woman she had a period of depression and hardly spoke to a soul. As part of climbing out of that dark space she set about becoming a good friend so that she would find good friends. Fifty years later when she died I had dozens of letters telling me what a good friend she had been and giving me countless examples – she grew into that intention.

So, come on…. what are you going to work on? For what do you want to be remembered? And what are you doing about it today?

None of this is original.  Your relationship with yourself is unique. I think understanding yourself is the first step on the road to wisdom; and thinking about your epitaph does not mean you are going to die!!!!!!

If this has been interesting, please share it. Think about working with a mentor and please chat with me about what you are hoping to achieve. I might be the right person for you or I can help you find someone who is. In the meantime, life is good; let’s live it to the full and be the best we can be.