In Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” he suggests visualizing your funeral, imagining what people might say about you when you die. “Begin,” Covey tells us, “with the end in mind.” This is potent advice. Energy to get things done coalesces when we get clear about who we want to be and what we want to accomplish.
But I come from a tradition that is preoccupied with life, not death. In volumes of shared wisdom, rare are the occasions when preservation of life does not take precedence. “Choose life,” scripture implores. Why picture my funeral? Isn’t that a bit morbid? Isn’t that taking things too far? Jewish tradition prescribes purification rituals for those who come in contact with death. This is about more than hygiene. Death represents cessation of growth, absence of potential. It is the antithesis of all that we strive for.
And yet, it turns out that awareness of death holds a very special place in our tradition. Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, unlike all other Jewish holidays, are not connected to historical events impacting the Jewish people. The days of awe are set aside for reflection, on both life and death. Paradoxically, concentration on mortality brings renewed aliveness. We clarify what matters most. We gain a hopeful vision for what we may yet become — what we may yet accomplish. We renew our stores of motivation and regain focus.
May this season of reflection and renewal empower you to be and do your very best in the coming year.