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Writing One’s Obituary – Today

September 12th, 2011 · 33 Comments

I was talking to a friend recently, and the topic turned to what to do with the rest of one’s life. It was then that I suggested that he should write his obituary and then work backwards from there.

Let me explain. We normally think incrementally forward from where we are – the next few months or the next year, and so on. Another approach that I had once read was to think of what one would like to be remembered by. Imagine if The Economist wrote a 1-page obituary after your death – what would it read like. Or, what you would like it to read like. And then live life to accomplish the things you have written.

I did this a few years ago, and it helped me think of life differently, and got me started on the track to helping bring about change in India.

Try it out. There is little to lose. On the one hand, it could just end up being an intellectual exercise. On the other, it could help give a new meaning and perspective to the rest of your life.

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33 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Statspotting // Sep 12, 2011 at 7:27 am

    Never thought about it. Sounds like an amazing way to look at long term vs. short term, much better than the usual “if you were to die today” –

  • 2 abhishek // Sep 12, 2011 at 10:13 am

    I too did this few years ago and found that it changed the way I behave and work on a daily basis. It forced me to think about my actions today and question whether they fit my tomorrow’s profile.

  • 3 harsh roongta // Sep 12, 2011 at 11:18 am

    Wow. That’s a lovely idea Rajesh….

  • 4 Subba Iyer // Sep 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Not only I wrote my own obituary, I also embarked on a very bizarre experiment. I picked 33 people in my life (from my school friends to my current colleagues) who have known me and asked them to write an obituary for me in 500 words. The respondents were all independent; in that no 2 respondents knew each other. No family member was a respondent.In fact, when I made the request, I had even lost active contact with a few. The results were interesting to say the least.

    Most of them described me with the same descriptors that I would have described myself

    Almost 30 of them highlighted the same qualities that I would probably describe myself honestly. All of them highlighted the values that I cherish most.

    Finally, there was hardly any difference between the obituary that I wrote (which contained how I would like to be remembered in fair amount of detail) and the obituaries that I received.

    It was perhaps the most fulfilling moment of my life and I still keep the documents that I received.

  • 5 Pravesh Biyani // Sep 12, 2011 at 4:22 pm


    While I understand the well meaning motivation behind your idea of writing one’s own obituary, I do have some “philosophical” comments to make. I believe if we base our actions by the legacy that we would like to leave behind, those actions would not reflect the true nature of our soul. I would rather suggest an alternate and interesting exercise. What would you still do even if you receive minimal material fruits , no recognition and certainly no economist obituary after your demise? Those acts/work will be your true “dharma”. Getting motivated by the legacy you leave behind will add noises to what your soul really wants to tell you.

  • 6 Akanksha // Sep 12, 2011 at 6:11 pm

    It’s really a nice idea… I agree with StatSpotting

  • 7 Bala // Sep 21, 2011 at 3:43 am

    Hello Rajesh,

    I had written to you way back in 2007, before I embarked on a cycling trip thru Southern India. (I live in frankfurt).
    I have this “to do” list before I die… One of the things I would like to achieve is … to get onto an ocean rowing boat and row the Atlantic !!! Use this experience and turn into a speaker (motivation) – alternating between Corporate India and channel some of the funds earned towards sustainable education in the villages. What is coming in my way is a 12,000 pound crew fee for the atlantic row… Regards, Bala.

  • 8 mallikarjuna // Sep 22, 2011 at 11:59 am

    Thank you,
    Let me too try this out.

    Each passing day, spirit soars high, but body & mind drags it down.

    Hopefully, this exercise will lift it up.

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