Be Here Then

why and how to write & create an ethical will, hospice card, or other legacy

What matters and how much: visual exercise 1.1


For those of you preparing to write your ethical will, or even just trying to refocus your energies and simplify your lives, here’s an exercise in visualizing what matters, and recognizing how much things matter in relation to each other.

What you need for this exercise:

  • biggish piece of paper (unless you have tiny handwriting) and
  • masking tape and
  • a pencil and eraser or
  • Post-It sticky notes and
  • a writing tool of your choice.

Start here: Tape the paper up on a wall where you can easily write on it, and where you can leave it up while you mull it over, if needed.  Write the word “Me” in the center of the paper.  There are two ways to go from here: (1) write directly on the paper and then erase to reposition things, or (2) write directly on your Post-Its and then position the stickies, moving them as needed.  (Some people like to use different-colored stickies for color-coding different areas of their life.  This can come in handy if you proceed to the next part of this exercise, 1.2.)

Think of you as the bull’s-eye, and the people, things, activities and places or issues you care about as the additional rings to the target.  If you prefer to draw some concentric circles around “Me,” go ahead, but really you don’t have to.  Just start writing in what matters most to you in a position closest to you.  As you think of other people and things, etc, write them on your paper (or on your stickies) in the position you think best — closer to you for the things that feel “closest to your heart” and further away for things that feel more peripheral in your life.

Obviously everything cannot be “first” or “most important” in your life.  As in life, in this graphic there isn’t room to cram everything in on that first and most important level/position.  You have to make selections, decisions.  For a lot of people, this exercise is probably very easy and quick to do.  But for others, maybe not so much.  Pay attention to how you feel doing this.

Put everything on the paper that feels at all important to you: reading, hiking, golf, Rotary Club, alone time, fishing, knitting, coffee with friends, boys’ night out, dinner out with partner, puttering in yard, travel, going to the movies, writing my novel.  Everything goes on.

When you have no more to add to the paper, I suggest walking away and doing something else for a while.  Come back to this later, with fresh eyes.

Continue here: Now come back to the paper and analyze your graphic, and how you feel about it.   Are you having a little trouble putting one person farther from you than perhaps you have put another?  (Is your ex-wife still feeling closer to you than your new girlfriend?  Did you have the impulse to put “work” closer to you than some family members? Is fishing more important than grandchildren?)

Ask yourself these sorts of questions:

  • Do the things that matter most to me show up closest to me on the paper?
  • Are there any surprises for me here?
  • Relationships between things I didn’t think of before? (e.g., Does gardening feel as important to you as writing your novel, since you put them both equidistant from you?)

Make a few notes for yourself to use when you do sit down and create that ethical will.

Visual exercise 1.2 will go further on how to manipulate your information to obtain new insights.

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