Here lies the body of Mary Ann Bent,
She kicked up her heels, and away she went.
What do people say about you?
What will they say when you’re no longer around?
Did you ever have secret names for people when you were a child? My siblings and I used to call one neighbour “Mrs Dominoes and Solitaire”, because she once babysat for us and in an attempt to reassure my mother of her ability to look after us she asserted in a cut-glass voice, “Oh, everything will be just fine: I have dominoes and solitaire!” The name summed up beautifully for us her complete lack of understanding of us children together with her not entirely successful air of upper class respectability.
People reveal themselves by what they say. I used to perform around the country with a musician from Stoke on Trent, and whenever we visited a new town, he would ask, “What do people do here?” To someone like me who came from Surrey the question was a mystery. Surely a town had doctors, postmen, lawyers, nurses, teachers and the rest – just like any other town? I had a sort of Mr Bun the Baker “Happy Families” idea of what comprised a town; I never thought about where the money came from to support all those jobs. My friend wanted to know how the economy worked, what industries supported people: coming from the Potteries, he knew about industries in decline and wanted to know how people got by.
My father was very handy around the house, from painting gutters and repairing the car to fixing electric wiring and mending watches. When talking about any of these projects afterwards he always said, “It was harder than I thought.” When I grew older, I used to think that surely he should have the measure of difficulty for any job by then. But now when I think of him, I wonder if it was a gentle request to be praised for his effort and skill, even though he would have shrugged off any plaudits. Or was it his summing up of life in general?
I think in my own history, one overused word was “just”, as in “I’ll just pop this letter in the post and then I’ll be with you.” “I’ll just finish this report – I won’t be a moment.” In other words, I was always in a rush, cramming in things in, and fearful of letting people down. Or was it that I wanted to be seen to be busy? I see my epitaph now, “Time just ran out.”
The title of the story of your life
We are defined by what we say most often. Those words could be seen as the title of our life’s story.
Someone I know used to say, “Life’s out to get you” – a fantastic formula for meeting trouble if ever there was one. Imagine that line running through your head as you embarked on any project or went to meet anyone. And the final epitaph: “Life got’im in the end!”
Another I’ve heard often is “Can’t complain”, which I read as, “Just look at my wordless suffering and the word ‘victim’ emblazoned on my forehead!”
The favourite word of a public services department in which I once worked was “they”, as in, “They’ve changed my hours!” “They’ve cut overtime!” “Look what they’ve done now!”– “they” representing all the reasons for people to feel resentful. Have you come across working cultures like that too?
The words we say most frequently show what we give attention to. If we give attention to everything that’s going wrong, we’re feeding those negative parts of our life and encouraging them to multiply. Try encouraging the opposite with questions like, “What was good yesterday?” “What’s working for me at the moment?” and “What do I want to happen?”
You may be familiar with three important areas of attention, time, money and energy. They all pose questions:
You may feel that you don’t have much autonomy about your use of time, but how you spend your time determines who you become. If you don’t spend any time on what actually matters to you, you’re going to find life dissatisfying.
What would you have to do or indeed not do to free up more time for what you really care about?
It’s easy to see inconsistencies in other people when they declare that they haven’t money for a certain thing and you notice that they spent freely on something else. How you accumulate and spend money announces loud and clear your priorities in life.
What is your attitude to money, and what does it say about who you are?
How you expend your energy determines what you attract in life, be it abundance, joy, worry, need, excitement or peace.
What drains your mental or physical energy and what would you like to give more energy to?
What’s your life’s story called?
We spend our attention on certain things and so we create a whole life. What would you like people to say about you after you die? Here are some epitaphs:
- “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty that I’m free at last”
Martin Luther King’s epitaph sums up his life’s quest for freedom.
- “I told you I was ill” (in Irish)
Spike Milligan’s gives us a final taste of his alternative humour.
- “I had a lover’s quarrel with the world”
Robert Frost gives us a poet’s insight into the paradox of living.
I once played a game with friends making up epitaphs for ourselves and each other – it made us all laugh a lot – and proved revealing at the same time. Have you tried it? What is the story of your life called? What would you like it to be called? Ah, yes, what would you like it to be called?
Go well. Enjoy the promised spring sunshine!
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I’m writing a new book and it’s very slow! Meanwhile, do dip into my other books. If you’ve enjoyed any of my books, would you write a review on Amazon?– short as you like.
– How to Get People to Love to Listen to You …a fascinating mind-body approach to finding your authentic voice and expressing yourself with integrity, presence and passion. (Judith Lowe NLP Trainer) Should be on the reading list of anyone who wants to learn how to communicate more effectively and how to be more authentic and charismatic in putting across their messages.(Celia Morris, T & D Mgr Railways, MottMacDonald)
– 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence … I love the elegance, accessibility and clarity of this book and shall certainly be recommending it to clients and colleagues alike. (Kate Burton, coach and author of For Dummies guides to NLP, Coaching and Confidence) If you’ve ever faced the fear of public speaking, this brilliant book is essential reading! Judy Apps provides super strategies for becoming a confident communicator. Her easy-to-learn and thorough approach tackles every aspect of speaking with great examples, stories and exercises. (Arielle Essex, author of Compassionate Coaching)
Not another presentation or public speaking primer, this book schools you in timeless principles that work equally well when addressing packed stadiums, in intimate gatherings and even during one–to–one conversations.
– Change Your Life with Confident Communication … What is it that some people have naturally which enables them to converse comfortably and easily, to engage people and build better relationships? The Art of Conversation will show you step by step how to converse skilfully and enjoyably with other people, at home, at work, on the phone and in the street- even if you’re daunted now, discover the difference good conversation can make in every aspect of your life.
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It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.
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