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Jan 9, 201911:58 PM Live Well, Work Well

with Debra Lafler

In business and life, resolve to live like you're dying

(page 1 of 2)

Did you create any New Year’s resolutions? For yourself? For your company? I’d like to invite you to go deeper than you usually go, and do things differently this year. I want you to make your plan as if you are dying.

Lacking roots

The majority of us don’t follow through with our New Year’s resolutions. Gym memberships skyrocket in January and attendance tanks by March. Business plans get set in motion, but continuous engagement is challenging. Interesting, isn’t it?

The word resolution means a firm decision. And to be resolute means to be unwavering in our decision. It means that we’ve not only decided to do something, but that decision is rooted in something deeper that makes it unmovable. In fact, we could even say being resolute is the same as being headstrong, willful, strong-willed, uncompromising, persistent, tenacious, and stubborn. Our decision is what is going to happen. Period. End of story.

Now think of our typical New Year’s resolutions. Are you (or most of us) resolute in doing or achieving them? Not usually, right? Saying something loosely like, “I want to lose weight,” doesn’t have any roots. There is no grounding there. There is no personal deeper meaning.

The physical illusion

As a culture, we tend to focus on the physical — physical bodies and physical things. We think we want to or should do things that affect the physical like get in shape, have nicer things, perform in ways we can quantitatively measure, have more business or monetary success, and so on. But the pursuit of these physically based goals tends to be exhaustive, not motivating. We do them at first, but after a while we get tired. We may even ask ourselves, “Why am I doing this?”

In order for engagement and evolution to occur, personally or professionally, we need our plans and actions to be deeply, intrinsically meaningful. Even if they have extrinsic components or outcomes, we still need the intrinsic reasons to “ignite” us and “keep the engine running.” This means even if you want to do something that is extrinsic, like losing weight or making money, you can. But you need to have reasons why if you want to be successful at it. You need to know why this is important to you, who it will help you be, or what it will help you do. Otherwise, it will feel like you are running on a hamster wheel in your efforts to achieve it.

Our reasons also need to transcend the physical. While the physical provides us with the material proof that we are doing or achieving something, the reasons that inspire us are emotional, spiritual, relational, social, and cultural.

We need to feel like:

  • We are inspired by something about it;
  • It is representative of who we are or who we want to be;
  • It connects us with others, or helps others;
  • It is important, personally meaningful, or socially meaningful; and
  • It is positive, making a difference, and by doing so, I am making an impact.

Interestingly, do you know the time of our life that we start thinking this way and planning our future accordingly to these guides? When we are dying or losing a loved one.

Death and grieving lessons

This topic is coming up for me right now (and I’m seeing the connection to resolutions) because my family lost a loved one this past holiday season. The loss brought my thoughts to living — truly living — as if we were dying.

From my education on grieving, death and dying, and working with people who have lost loved ones and/or who are dying themselves, there are common lessons. After the pain of loss or fear of losing life, most say that the situation has provided them with the opportunity to let go of trivial worries and frustrations. They choose instead to pay attention to things that matter to them.

According to the book, Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware, there are five common regrets that seem to come up at the end of life. Those are:

  1. I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me;
  2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard;
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings;
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends; and
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.


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About This Blog

Debra Lafler is a Madison-based wellness consultant, coach, and speaker with over 20 years of experience in the field. She currently works as the employee wellness and employee assistance program manager for the Wisconsin State Department of Health Services, and as an adjunct instructor for the University of Wisconsin’s Health and Wellness Management program. She also is available privately to hire as a business consultant, personal coach, or motivational speaker. Debra has a doctorate degree in Divinity & Spiritual Studies from Emerson Theological Institute; a master’s degree in Health & Behavior Studies specializing in Health Education from Columbia University; a bachelor’s degree in Communication, with certificates in Wellness and Coaching from The University of Wisconsin—Parkside; and certificates in Worksite Wellness, Holistic Stress Management, Grief Support, and Yoga. She can be reached at or



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