On Life and Living
With great respect and
apologies to Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, it is time to take the
concept she pioneered of identifiable stages in the process of
grief and reverse it. The reversal is to focus on essential
stages in the process of living a great and joyful
It was in 1973 that
Kubler-Ross articulated five stages that occur in the process
of grieving over the death and dying of a loved one. Decades
later, her work is in worldwide use.
Those stages of grief
begin with denial and isolation. We cant imagine that this
loss has occurred, and we may want to remove ourselves from
our friends or our social contacts. Although this denial may
last very briefly, it gives way to the next phase a period
of anger that the persons life ended prematurely due to
disease, being a gun violence victim, at the hands of a drunk
driver or in a war. We may be mad at ourselves for not having
prevented the tragedy. We may be mad at our leaders, at God,
even at the person who died.
That gives way to bargaining, in the
sense of offering God a deal, such as, If I do penance or
donate to charity, will you make this grief and loss go
Next in Kubler-Ross construction of
grief comes a period of depression where the person cant
believe that this loss happened and begins to realize that
there is nothing they can do to change the event.
Finally, acceptance occurs
as anger or denial gives way to the reality that what has
grief as a healing part of life, as something unavoidable but
something that can be mitigated by having certain philosophies
and approaches to taking care of yourself and your own health.
A support system of friends, exercise and a focus on a tribute
to the memory of the person who died are all a part of the
return to a more normal life.
What about creating
another and much happier concept of living a life that is full
of joy, excitement and giving? Might there also be stages in
such a living? Might living this kind of life also be
something we can all think about in a more structured way and
consciously move toward? The HR Doctor believes strongly that
this is the case.
What are the stages of living a
triumphant life? The first is an abiding sense of curiosity.
Curiosity means challenging the status quo. It means asking
questions about how to do something differently, or asking
What would happen if
Newtons first law of motion describes inertia, a favorite
subject of the HR Doctor. It is inertia that limits our
progress as individuals, as communities, as a country and as a
species. Learning to overcome inertia means learning to
broaden your horizons, to take in what the world has to offer.
It leads directly to the next stage in the creation of a
triumphant life, inspiration.
Ask challenging questions,
especially ask them of yourself. This can lead to thinking
about how to make a different outcome happen. It can lead to
the inspiration to try a new recipe, a new life experience, to
continue to learn and grow in school, in work and in family
When any person, but
especially a young person, begins to think about a career and
gets inspired by a person theyve met, such as a mentor or a
work supervisor, and acts on the advice mentors often give,
the results can be an inspired person doing amazing things.
That advice may well be for the person to be an explorer, and
not to be afraid.
Inspiration is an innate human
capability that completely transcends gender, race, economic
status, disability and anything else that Congress or even the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission can possibly think of.
But even the most curious and the most inspired people will
squander the future that they could make possible for
themselves without entering the third stage in the recipe for
an amazing life.
That element is having and acting on a
compelling sense of urgency. If you are inspired to learn a
musical instrument, the time to follow a direction set by that
inspiration is now. Always wanted to write a book? If you
wait, you open the door to a myriad of excuses. If you really
want to lose weight, or travel to a different part of the
world, learn a language or learn the skills and knowledge to
seek a promotion, the time to do it is now.
A compelling urgency directly attacks
the scourge of inertia. Push ahead to follow that inspiration.
Push ahead to satisfy curiosity. Do it so that you avoid
looking back years later and using contractions such as
couldve, shouldve and wouldve.
The fourth stage is a basic HR Doctor
philosophy, Dont postpone joy. Be on a constant search for
ways that relationships, avocations and objects can make you
happy. Develop a better sense of humor no matter how good you
think yours may be right now. Do things that make you
In the course of doing that, you are
making deposits into a bank account of passion and memories.
Joyful memories are to be hoarded. Out of this bank account
later, you may make what could be unlimited withdrawals to
help you overcome disappointments, grief or the various
curveballs thrown directly at us by forces in our
We cant control aging and
we cant control our own death. But as the HR Doctor has
pointed out in another article, When You Die Your In-Box Will
Still Be Full, the basic idea is to look back after you have
died and smile a lot whether you end up in heaven, hell, or
return to life as a yellow Labrador
service dog. Get to a point where you can reflect
on a life well-lived and opportunities not
Finally, a life to be sought after and
looked-back upon with amazement is not at all a product of an
egocentric focus. The final stage is humility and
A life in which our own arrogance has
been imprisoned and surrounded by contribution is truly a
life well lived. Recognizing and appreciating others, praising
and encouraging, engagement in the community by acts of
charity and acts of volunteerism tangibly improve your own
life. Ironically, you might even think of appreciating and
contributing as a form of selfishness. Truly what you reap is
what you sow over time. Create a legacy in which you are
thought of, or ultimately remembered, as a person who cares
and who acts on that caring.
The surprise in looking at
these five stages of the triumph of life is that what works
for you as an individual also works to create a family full of
amazing, engaging people like the HR Spouse Charlotte and
amazing HR daughters Elyse and Rachel. It works to create a
community in which people pay attention to the quality of the
life of the least fortunate members of the community as well
as the most fortunate.
Another amazing result of recognizing
these stages and making the most of them is that, once you
start, a cycle is created in which your ability to be curious,
inspired, act with urgency, be joyful and appreciate grows
Soon a network is created in which you
are a prime contributor to improving the lives of your
colleagues, your neighbors and others. We are all role models.
Be a role model for an extraordinary life.
Accept the gift of these
stages of a triumphant life in the spirit in which the gift is
intended. Go out
and do something enjoyable and spectacular and hurry up
The HR Doctor