The 5 Minute Exercise That Can Change Your Life: The “Eulogy Exercise”

The other night, I was eating dinner in Hollywood when something crazy happened.

I was with a group of people at a nice Japanese restaurant called Katana. We were seated at the outside patio area facing Sunset Blvd and I had just finished eating my last piece of sushi, when all of sudden…

BOOOOOM!

I heard brakes screeching and the crunching sound of metal on metal.

Next thing I know, everyone in the restaurant was jumping out of their seats and running toward the street to see what happened.

I followed suit.

Leaning over the edge of the patio railing, the first thing I saw was a big black SUV stopped in the middle of street with the driver door swung wide open, and a huge dent on the side of the back door.

Not too far behind the SUV, I saw a motorcycle, knocked over on its side, and a group of beginning to form a circle in the middle of the street.

Cars were slowly passing around them.

Amidst the circle of people in the middle of the street, I saw a man sprawled out on the floor, lying on his back. He was wearing a black leather jacket, grey jeans and black combat boots.

He was screaming.

After a few seconds of commotion, it was clear what had happened—the motorcyclist had just gotten body slammed by a 6,000 lb SUV. And it happened no more than 50 meters in front of us.

Everyone in the restaurant was in complete shock.

Eventually, the ambulance came, the street cleared, and people returned to their seats.

But there was an eerie feeling left in the air.

With time, conversations resumed, and the rest of the night continued as if nothing had ever happened. Around 9 pm we said good bye and everyone went home.

That was Sunday night.

The next morning, I went to work and I was having a fairly average day.

I had almost completely forgotten about the incident that happened the night before, until lunch time.

I was scrolling through Twitter when I came across the news that Scott Dinsmore, creator of Live Your Legend, had died in a freak accident climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.

The climb was part of a yearlong trip Scott was taking with his wife to travel the world.

I was shocked and deeply saddened to hear about Scott’s death, but at the same time I was inspired and deeply moved.

I never had a chance to meet Scott, but I started following his blog a few years ago and he’s been a huge inspiration to me ever since. I remember at one point during my junior year of college I had printed out his ‘Creed of Living Legends’ and put it up on the ceiling above my bed so that it’d be the first thing I saw every morning when I woke up.

Scott may have died young, but at least he lived a meaningful life.

He lived more in his short 33 years than most do in a lifetime,” – William Dinsmore (Scott’s father).

Scott died doing what he loved to do, and he made an impact on thousands, if not millions, of people’s lives. He was truly a living legend.

After hearing about Scott’s death, I was reminded of the motorcycle accident I witnessed the night before.

Witnessing that accident, and then hearing about Scott’s death the next day, reminded me how fragile life can be.

We pretend like we’re invincible. We act like our time is unlimited. We waste time stressing over things that don’t matter, procrastinating on the things that are important to us, worrying about what people think of us, spending time with people we don’t like, pushing away the people that we love, and putting off our dreams for tomorrow.

We imagine a better future. We tell ourselves that one day, things will change.

Time changes everything.

That’s what people say, but it’s not true.

Doing things changes things.

Not doing things leaves things exactly as they are.

eulogy exercise

If you found out that you had cancer today, what would you change about your life?

Whether you want to acknowledge it or not, the diagnosis is terminal for all of us.

Whether that’s tomorrow, or 50 years or 100 years from today, the fact remains: our time is limited.

Use this knowledge to your advantage.

Thinking about death doesn’t have to be depressing.

It forces you to prioritize what actually matters to you, and to stop wasting your time on the things that don’t. It creates real perspective and urgency.

Time is the most precious gift we have.

Reminding yourself that you won’t be here forever helps you remember to treat it as such.

It’s easy to get caught up in the daily chaos of our lives, going through the motions day after day, but never really stopping to think about what we’re actually doing—or, more importantly, who we’re becoming.

Seriously, take a second right now to think about it.

Are you the person you want to be? If not, are you making an effort every day to become that person?

Or maybe, the more important question, is this one:

Do you know who you want to be?

I mean, do you really know who you want to be?

I used to have a vague idea of who I wanted be, but it wasn’t until I came across an exercise called the “Eulogy Exercise” on Phil Drolet’s blog that I really knew exactly who I wanted to be.

If you want a clear vision of who you want to be in this world, too–a vision that can guide every decision that you make every day of your life from now on–then make the best 5 minute investment of your life and do this:

Imagine you’re at a funeral.

You look around, and you see all your friends and family are gathered.

Suddenly, you realize you’re at your funeral.

One by one, your family, friends, and loved ones go up to the stage to make their eulogy to you.

They talk about all the great memories they have of you, the adventurous life you lived, and the wonderful legacy you have left behind.

Now, come back to the present, and think about what you really want people to say about you when you’re dead.

How do you want to be remembered?

How do you want to be described?

What kind of a life do you want to have lived?

Take an honest look at the way you’re living your life right now and ask yourself: does it line up with the vision you have for yourself?

Are you actively seeking to become that person, or are you just going through the motions?

I first did this exercise during my freshman year of college at USC.

It changed my life. Not overnight, but over the next four years, I became obsessed with becoming the person that I wanted to be remembered as.

It gave me a whole new way to look at my life. I realized that I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by aiming to better.

I started devouring books and blogs and everything I could get my hands on about how to improve my social skills, how to improve my learning, how to better manage my time, how to better manage my stress, how to overcome my fears, and, above all, how to be happier.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing as there has definitely been some rough patches along the way, but it feels great to know that I’m becoming the person I want to be a little bit more everyday. I’m still a long way from where I want to be, but I’ve come a long way from where I used to be, and I know that things are only going to get better.

I’ll never be perfect, but it’s not about being perfect. It’s about striving for perfection. It’s about continuous improvement.

Kaizen: a lean manufacturing principle that refers to continuous improvement, and a principle I try to live my life by.
Kaizen: a Japanese word and lean manufacturing principle that refers to continuous improvement — a principle I try to live my life by.

As cheesy as it sounds, it’s never about the destination; it’s about the journey.

I think it’s also important to recognize that our vision of who we want to be in this world will likely change over the years. I don’t remember exactly what I wrote when I first did this exercise four years ago, but I’m pretty certain my vision has changed since then, at least slightly.

So, when I decided to write this article, I decided to do the exercise again.

Here’s what I wrote this time.

When I die, here’s what I want people to say about me:

  • Stefano was a go-getter.
  • When he committed to something, he committed to it 110%.
  • He always had a positive attitude, even in the toughest situations. He didn’t see problems, he saw opportunities.
  • He faced his fears and did things most people only ever dream of. He did them to show people that it is possible.
  • He saw potential in everyone, and loved to inspire people to live up to their fullest potential.
  • He was a great host and friend. He always went out of his way to make sure that everyone was having a good time.
  • He enjoyed living large, but had a genuine appreciation for the little things and loved exploring nature.
  • He lived life to the absolute fullest and made a huge impact on the world in the process.

Now it’s your turn.

Go grab a piece of paper and a pen, and write down exactly what you want people to say about you when you die.

Write everything that comes to your mind. Don’t hold back.

The more specific and clear you can be, the better. You can’t hit your target if you don’t know what it is.

Once you’ve written everything down, I want you to leave a comment answering this one question:

What’s ONE thing you can do today to start becoming that person?

For example…

  • If you want to be more social, one thing you can do today is talk to a stranger.
  • If you want to be more relaxed, one thing you can do today is meditate for 5 minutes.
  • If you want to be happier, one thing you can do today is write down 5 things you are grateful for.

Having a vision is only half of the equation. The other half is taking action to make that vision become a reality.

About Stefano

Stefano Ganddini

Hey there! I'm the creator of Collegetopia and the guy who writes all these articles. I'm here to help you live BIG, do EPIC shit, & be HAPPY. Click here to read more.

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  • Guayito Hernandez

    Dear Stefanito,

    Very inspiring!…. you make me think a lot with all the wonderful articles that you write.
    I’ll start thinking as to what I want people to say when I die. Thank you very much for making me THINK!

    Love you!

    Guayito

  • Aida Ganddini

    Congratulations on this article and also on sharing your Eulogy Exercise. It will bring a higher awareness to people for the need to advance their lives in the direction of growth. Continuous improvement is necessary if we are to live an effective and fulfilling life.

    This is a wonderful exercise, the Eulogy Exercise that I did when I was certified to teach The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Seminar, by Stephen Covey. . (A Three day seminar) However it took it one step beyond, to ask and write, what would you want to be remembered as, what would people say about you at your eulogy, by your family, your friends, your co-workers, your community, so that we would have a vision, The End In Mind, in all relationships in our life.
    I facilitated this seminar for several years. After that people were more equipped to take action in the direction of their own vision, commitments and start to write their Life Mission Statement. Lead by the “Fire Within” of inspiration and aspirations. My Life Mission Statement (printed on my business cards) “Building A Better World By Helping People Build Themselves, By Igniting The Desire For Discovery In The Power Of Proven Principles, So That people And Organizations Achieve What Matters Most”
    The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People transformed my life, as when you teach it is when you learn the most. The principles guide my life and I am committed to live by them, not perfection, but as you mention “pursuing perfection”. We never finish learning. Life is a continuous improvement process of researching, discovering, creating and distributing wherever it is needed, A never ending process, an energy infused, exhilarating life experience.
    You are well on your way to experience the awesomeness of living each day to the best of your ability, in all areas of life, human interactions and circumstances. How fun is that!
    Love and blessings on your journey.
    Mita

    • I like the idea of taking into consideration how you want to be remembered in regards to the different relationships in your life. They may overlap in some areas, but they will certainly be different. Thank you, Mita!

  • Lonnie

    Great post Stefano, really enjoyed reading this one. Never dissapointed by the content you’re putting out man!
    One thing I can do today to start becoming my ideal self is to finally have the networking talks I’ve been putting off with people out of my comfort zone. Keep up the good work buddy.

    • Thanks dude! Glad you liked this one. What do you mean by networking talks? Like, informational interviews?

      • Lonnie

        Yeah kind of like that, more of a reaching out for potential opportunities to people who are friends of friends.

        • Gotcha. Well, let me know if you need any help. Guessing you probably don’t and it’s simply a matter of just doing it, but let me know if you do and I’ll be happy to help anyway I can.

  • Great post, Stefano! I recently found your blog and I love reading your insightful posts.
    The one thing I’m going to do today in order to become the person I want to be is to evaluate my priorities. Not daily or weekly small tasks, but the priorities I’m focusing on for my life in general. Using this web app I found has been quite helpful in doing so: http://onlyone.io/ .
    Nonetheless, thank you for the post. I’ll continue to see how I can implement these tips into my life.