Tools

Memo Mori: Define Your Legacy to Revitalize Your Present

What impact do you want to leave behind? Set aside time to write your own obituary, and use it to guide your day-to-day.

In times gone by, people used to buy a skull and put it in their desks to stay focused. Today that’s probably a little awkward, depending on your office layout, but we think there’s still enormous value in taking a moment to pause and reflect on the life you’re living and more importantly, what you want to leave behind. In fact, we ask every new hire at NOBL to think about this as part of their first 30 days. 

Inspired by our namesake, Alfred Nobel and his own premature, fortuitous brush with death, everyone has to write their own obituary. While this may appear morbid, we firmly believe that thinking about this inevitability can give us a very helpful jolt—be it becoming more aware of the urgency of our times, or simply, more grateful for what we have right in front of us.

Thinking about our death need not make us despair, but can shake us into re-committing to pursuing the life we know we need to lead.

Inspired to do the same? We’re captured our process and top tips into a new Memo Mori tool. Follow the steps below for a powerful session in self-reflection, to deepen team bonds, or to give a kick start to visioning with a whole lot more purpose.

  1. Set aside time. Find a quiet space and at least an hour. Grab your notebook and a favorite pen. 
  2. Let the tone reflect you. Whether you’re serious or silly, rigorous or rousing, you’re the teller of your story, so the tone should see your unique character and personality shine through. Looking for inspiration, we give you romantic, hilarious and heartfelt. Decide, too, if you want to write in the first or third person. 
  3. Visualize the future. We often limit our imagination when we think in a straight line, so instead, take a leap into the future and think about the age of your passing. You might be drawn more naturally to a year or a given point in time. What’s happening in the world? How will you be living? Who else is around? Who has already gone? How will you be spending your days? 
  4. Work backwards. With context added, start to walk back through time, pausing at key dates like birthdays or other life events. Consider what got you there. Who brought joy to your life? What has given you the most fulfillment? Writing your own obituary allows you to emphasize the people, relationships, events, lessons learned, and unforgettable moments that have meant the most to you. 
  5. Get personal. Maybe it’s your life-long punctuality, your legendary apple pie, or the sense of calm during a crisis. What makes you, you? What are the personal attributes that you hope others remember? Weave these to bring life to your story. 
  6. Take a break. Once it’s feeling like a good draft, let it sit for a day and revisit with fresh eyes. Make sure your thoughts are conveyed in the way you’d like, and that there are no major gaps. Remember this is an opportunity to preserve your world-view for those left behind—and those yet to come.
  7. Share. At NOBL, we made the obituaries part of a dinner at our last offsite. Reading our teammates’ obits aloud was a moment of much laughter and tears. For teams, we know that understanding each other’s source of meaning is a proven fast track to greater effectiveness. And like intentions, the act of sharing can bring useful clarity and accountability. 
Published October 6, 2019

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