If you are a personal development aficionado you likely are familiar with the Eulogy Exercise. In this article I am going to marry that exercise with the Start, Stop, Continue exercise. I will briefly explain both of these practices and offer a few examples of how creating a union between them can be helpful. I will end this article with a range of questions and I hope you will take the time to sit down with a paper and pen and do a little reflective writing.
First, why are we combining the two exercises? Simply because there is more value to be had in the combination. We are taking creative license here and practicing innovative thinking. This should resonate with you if you are familiar with my stance on the importance of becoming a solution-focused amateur social scientist. That mindset is highly congruent with our goal of becoming the confident CEO of our lives and building a stronger belief in the self.
Now, remember we married the metaphors of gold nuggets with the mental filing cabinet in the article “can you be your own role model?’ We did that because fiddling around with metaphors and ideas can produce an unexpected synergy.
We often need that kind of energy to wake up our primitive mind and blast us out of our comfort zones. We are moved to ask “what on earth does a gold nugget have to do with a mental filing cabinet!?” And, when we ask questions, we engage our curiosity. This moves us into learning mode.
So, what we are going to do is blend the intention of the eulogy exercise with the more action-oriented focus of the Start, Stop, Continue method.
Let’s start by briefly looking at the two different exercises:
1. Eulogy exercise (insight focus)
Ultimately, the intention of the eulogy exercise is to help us escape regret by offering insight. This exercise is intended to get us thinking about our lives. It might shake us up a bit and offer some motivation to burn the boats and get us cracking on making our lives a masterpiece. Insight into the GAP between where we are now and what we want for ourselves can be motivating.
That’s it in a nutshell.
Let’s move on from deathbed thinking to the next exercise…
2. Start, Stop, Continue Exercise (activity/action focus)
You may be familiar with this exercise within the context of leadership training or planning business activities. However, this exercise can be used quite nicely with just about any private personal goal. We simply begin with a specific topic or area of our life that needs adjustment.
What do you really need to start DOING in order to move closer to your vision? What new action or activity do you need to begin executing? What would make the most sense given your present circumstances and resources? What action is aligned with your goal/vision?
What do you need to stop DOING? What is no longer relevant or getting in the way of your goals/vision? What’s consuming your time and energy but offering no positive measurable return? What might be simply a distraction being used to manage your state? What are you doing that is being fuelled by an outdated belief that has not been tested and refined?
What do you need to continue DOING? What’s working? What’s moving you forward or closer to realizing your goals/vision or at the least closer to a realistic milestone?
While the eulogy exercise can be excellent for stimulating insights, the intention of the start, stop, continue exercise is to generate action or activities.
That’s, it in a nutshell.
Let’s combine these two exercises
As you may know, I am a huge fan of big goals/visions but an even bigger fan of incremental change that can be digested more readily by the primitive mind and measured by short term milestones. Remember that our ways of being, or as I like to call them “cow paths” (thoughts, feelings, and behaviors) become rutted, deeply anchored and easily triggered. So, real change requires a committed gentle consistency.
There may be an area or several areas of your life that you need to make some adjustments to. Forget about what your family, friends, spouse, employer or employees might say. I am sure that each of these individuals would have suggestions about what it is you need to change, modify, work on or get better at.
I would also like you to forget about making a huge list of all of the things you should start, stop or continue. Instead, I encourage you to think of just one area of your life that would benefit from one small active change. By using the start, stop and continue method you can begin to write a better eulogy.
After you review the examples spend a little time playing around with the intention of the ideal eulogy and action/activity-based focus of the start, stop, continue method and come up with your own examples.
Start-parking the car when I get home and before going into the house taking a 20-minute walk, getting my feel-good chemicals activated.
Stop-coming home from work in an agitated state and polluting the home environment of those I love and being easily triggered by the noise and demands.
Continue-to go to work each day and feel proud of how my efforts take care of my family.
“On my deathbed-I didn’t love my job, it took a lot out of me, I often left feeling like a piece of shit, with little emotional or mental energy left at the end of the day. But, looking back, I am grateful that I began to take better care of myself after a long workday. By getting out for a walk and moving my body, I learned to get my head on straight before walking in the front door. It didn’t always help, but most times it lowered my arousal level enough to go home and be a better spouse, humanoid or pet parent.”
Start-remembering that most people are too busy to spend much energy judging me and if they aren’t then maybe they should get a hobby.
Stop-assuming the worst when it comes to the intentions of other people, do not assume everyone is out to judge me or take advantage of me.
Continue-focusing on and expressing gratitude for the people in my life whose presence genuinely uplifts me.
“On my deathbed-I still think that people can suck and that human beings are generally selfish, but, when I quit spending so much time and energy on what people are thinking or doing, and started spending more time an energy on how I could make my piece of the world better, I started noticing different things. Some people see the litter on the pavement but I learned to see the fluffy clouds in the sky. Over time, I became a little more open to the good of humanity but mostly I am grateful to the people who made my life richer, and I’d like to think that my shift in attitude helped to build those relationships.”
Example 3-one last example:
Start-I am going to start using a bit differently, maybe wait till the kids go to bed, and get better at calling a cab or uber, drink two big glasses of ice water before I get started, find a sponsor, join a supportive online community, take a half-hour walk before I start using etc.
Stop-I am not ready to stop using, but I can decide and make plans to stop exposing others to my inebriated state.
Continue-to keep doing good things for myself like the healthy snacks, brushing and flossing, getting to bed on time, keeping in touch with people I love, drinking lots of water, getting to work every day, etc.
“On my deathbed-I either stopped using completely or I managed to find a way to use that had fewer negative repercussions. I had no more impaired driving charges, missed less family events, had more significant conversations. I engaged in countless activities that honored my potential and I took care of the people I loved.
So, let do a little recap
Thinking of our eulogy can feel a little morbid. It can also be overwhelming to think of all the changes we might need to make in our mindsets and behaviors to actually lie on our death bed and think to ourselves:
“Wow, what a wonderful life. I wouldn’t change a thing. I am ready to go!”
But marrying the deathbed focus with start, stop, continue idea can offer a little relief. We cannot change our whole way of being overnight. But I think most of us are capable of looking at our lives, noticing the gap between where we are and where we want to be. Then we can ask ourselves what is the one thing that I can begin stopping, starting or continuing?
1. What one small change, now, would make the biggest long-term
change in your life, so that you have one less regret?
2. How can you use the start, stop, continue idea to break that one thing down into actionable items?
3. If you start doing something new what impact might this have on others besides you, immediately, in the near future and longer term?
4. If you stop doing something that does not serve you what impact might this have on others besides you, immediately, in the near future and longer term?
5. If you continue taking some positive action what impact might this have on others besides you, immediately, in the near future and longer term?
6. What does any of this have to do with building self-confidence and a stronger belief in the self?
In this article we have blended the intention of the eulogy exercise with the more action-oriented focus of the start, stop, continue method. I hope you will take some time to review the examples and come up with a few of your own.
Here is a huge bonus-one well chosen consistent action always compounds over time and seeps into other areas of our lives.
Terri Lee Cooper MSc. RSW