Why Concern Yourself with Advanced Planning?

by | Jul 17, 2018

Your Rocket Ride to the Unknown:

Imagine that at some point in the next few years you will with 100% certainty get strapped in the cockpit of a rocket aimed at the furthest distances of the uncharted universe. Just before lift-off, your conversation with ground control in Houston goes something like this:

You: Where am I going?

Houston: We don’t know.

You: What will I experience as the rocket takes off?

Houston: We don’t know that either.

You: Is anybody coming with me?

Houston: No.

You: What will I find when I get “there”?

Houston: We haven’t got a clue. Talk to your religious leader.

Get the picture? At some point in your future, perhaps at any time, you will with 100% certainty take the grandest, scariest, most adventurous, least predictable rocket trip of your life. If you were an astronaut with NASA, would you plan for this trip?

Hell yes, you would!

Planning for the Trip

It seems so simple, don’t it? But if you are like me, you naturally avoid doing things you don’t enjoy or for which you lack skills. That’s normal and understandable. I also understand we are all crazy busy, and most of us would rather have a root canal than think about that time when the party is winding down.

But if you are getting old like I am (I was born in 1956), then you need to take some time to think about this stuff, if for no reason other than to not leave a mess for your kids. Help them help you by getting in front of this.

Spiritual Goals

Most of us avoid thinking about death for all sorts of understandable reasons. All of my early shows were spent digging into those reasons (pun intended). With help from my amazing guests, I learned a fair bit about death, dying, and the afterlife. You’ll find links to some of those shows at the end of this post.

Freaky and weird I may be, but morbid I am not. My belief is that an honest, unflinching look at death, a perfectly natural and unavoidable process, helps us live fuller and more abundant lives ~ an idea I borrowed from the Buddhists.

Analysis of death is not for the sake of becoming fearful but to appreciate this precious lifetime. — Dalai Lama

Doing that soul work helps one to accept death, plan for a beautiful one, and most importantly, embrace every precious moment of life as a miraculous gift to be savored and cherished.

The most important goal is the soul work, for as author and psychiatrist M. Scott Peck said in his landmark book The Road Less Travelled:

The ultimate goal of life remains the spiritual growth of the individual, the solitary journey to peaks that can be climbed only alone.

That goal has nothing to do with how many toys you collect or what positions you’ve held but has everything to do with what kind of person you are becoming. Life is a spiritual journey ~ everything else is secondary.

Practical Steps

Even so, there are some very practical tasks that deserve your attention, and as I’ve said, if you don’t plan your life (or your death) then someone else will plan it for you. If you’re like me, then having someone else drive is NOT what you want. I want to chart my own course and sail it, thank you very much.

Planning ahead offers flexibility, not just for you, but for those you leave behind. I have three kids, and I don’t want to be a burden to them as I approach end-of-life, so I choose to make my preferences known now while I am still able to consider my options and decide for myself.

Options. That’s the keyword here. You want to keep as many options open for yourself as you can because ya’ know, things can change (and will) in ways you can’t anticipate, and you don’t want to get boxed in (pun intended), figuratively or literally. So get started now by moving to the next step.

Helpful Resources

"Caring for America's Most Vulnerable," an interview with John Maycroft, an expert on Advanced Planning. In this very short interview with John, recorded live at the 2017 Coalition for Advanced Care annual conference, you'll benefit from his perspective on the importance of Advanced Planning. John is the one who turned me on to The Conversation Project, a good (and free) resource for getting started.

"Let Go of Fear and Cut a New and Better Life Groove" with Jon Underwood, founder of the Death Cafe. Jon, who recently passed away, was a beautiful man with a beautiful idea: Have coffee and cake and just talk with a few friends. So simple, and yet, so powerful.

"How to Get Started with End of Life Planning," an interview with Rachel Zeldin, Founder of Funerals 360. Rachel provides insight into the workings of the funeral industry and helps you avoid some of the traps they set for grieving families. 

"Let's Have Dinner and Talk About Death" with Michael Hebb, TedX speaker. Pop the cork on a bottle of wine with a few trusted friends, and have an honest, intimate conversation. Talk through your preferences...listen to how others think. Weigh the options. It's so important to know what your options are so you can make informed choices.

On a Personal Note

I’m sure some of you may be wondering: Why and how the hell did I get interested in end-of-life issues? To answer that oft-asked question, I produced this video. Take a look.

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