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Tom Berliner: What if this were your last week to live?

Tom Berliner

Tom Berliner

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Updated: March 6, 2014 6:16AM

Did you ever wonder what you would wish for if you had but one week to live? From time to time, I think about it. I don’t do it as an emotional downer but as a reflective exercise.

Although this practice doesn’t make for a radical change in my behavior, it does inspire changes, some minor but, every once in a while, some more substantial. I sincerely believe that it is a good exercise and well worth all of us doing periodically.

Your vision

For this undertaking to have optimal meaning, we need to be serious with this setting. In other words, for all practical purposes, we need to take on the mindset that this is our last week. We can’t just be flippant about it. Given such a realistic condition, it’s not likely that many people would ask for more “things” — money, possessions, even celebrity status. (It’s that semi-humorous measuring stick: “He who has the most toys when he dies wins the contest of life.”)

I believe that those who trust in God would seek his heavenly kingdom. I’m not certain what others would want. What I am certain of is that the wishes that emanate from this exercise should play an ever-larger role in our everyday lives. We should run the race with the same finishing tape in mind. Sure, the path will change. Sure, gifts and challenges will appear. Sure, we will be pulled hither and yon. Sure, our milestones will occasionally be adjusted, either by us or by others. But, if we truly have a personally understood view of where we are going with our lives, the interim “events” can be handled or at least put into focus.

“Lovely,” you may say, “but what has that got to do with leadership?” You might even follow that up with: “Also, if I do subscribe to this approach, where do I start?”

Fair enough. Let’s take these one at a time.

Concerning leadership, I hope that you don’t live life solely for yourself. (If you are truly a hedonist, I guess that this is where you stop reading.) As a team leader or a team member, you have influence and power over others — family members, co-workers, social colleagues, community relationships and so forth.

When others understand your eternal objectives, it can help them approach decisions from a similar perspective while also contributing to the betterment of their day-to-day lives. In the New Testament, Jesus stresses devotion of our hearts to God and to fellow humans … in that order, by the way. Embracing that instruction can make both small as well as huge differences in how we behave.

As for where to start, the here and now is as good as anywhere. Make that best. Don’t wait for the first of the month or year, some as-soon-as condition or an indefinite I’ll-get-around-to-it promise. Tell yourself what John Paul II reminded us: “The future starts today, not tomorrow.”

I’m certain that you know a million other clichés, both applicable and humorous. Still, the message is the same: “For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2)

One more thing

If you would, consider one more thing. You can take care of your personal life to the exclusion of others or you can have a greater influence on others, the pay-it-forward concept. Maybe you can help just one person. Maybe two or three. Maybe a dozen or even many more. Think greatness. You have it in you.

If you have occasion, read over the parable associated with Luke 12:48: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.” I’m hoping that it will be inspiring for you … or re-energizing, if you are already familiar with it.

For me, I have been given much. How about you?

Now, what are we going to do about it?

As always, if there is anything that I can do to support or encourage you, I would be delighted to assist in your success.

Tom Berliner is chair of the Servant Leadership Program at Aurora University. He can be contacted at or 630-844-6895.

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