Is Your Work Here Finished?

You’ve probably heard stories of people who’ve had a near-death experience state “my life flashed before my eyes.”

Well, my experience this weekend wasn’t quite that dramatic, but it did provide me with an opportunity to do some serious reflection. For most of the past few months. I have been sheltered in place due to COVID-19.

On Saturday evening, I had made plans to go to a lovely restaurant with friends. I was feeling pretty good about social distancing and being outdoors at a restaurant that is surrounded by beautiful gardens and known for serving a lot of delicious, fresh-to-table dishes.

We were laughing, enjoying the evening and our main courses had just arrived. I chose a healthy option of a chicken salad (trying to combat the effects of putting on the COVID 15). I had taken maybe 2-3 bites when something lodged in my throat and I could not breathe.  

We were close to a railing, so I headed there; but was unsuccessful in catching my breath or dislodging whatever was choking me. Thankfully, two of my friends are doctors. I made the universal sign that I couldn’t breathe and Greg performed the Heimlich maneuver, not once but twice. His swift actions moved the foreign body enough to allow me to breathe a little. After failed attempts to get eliminate the blockage, we headed to the hospital.

Unfortunately, “Keep Calm and Carry On” isn’t always my motto when it comes to medical emergencies; but this night it was! I can remember thinking …I know I’m just passing through this life so if this is where it ends – I’m good with that. This was the first of two coherent thoughts I remember having that evening. (I’ll share the second thought a little later.)

Obviously, I’m still here which is a great testament to my friends, the doctor, the hospital, a great staff and no doubt, a little help from above. I won’t bore you with the whole story or share the graphic details, but I do want to share my “morning after” insights.

The second coherent thought or message on Saturday evening was … you’re not done yet – you have more work to do. On Sunday, those words were echoing in my head along with a number of unasked or unanswered questions.

Answer These Questions to Help You Know for Sure

How am I defining work?
What’s the work that I am doing?
Had I consciously or subconsciously thought (or believed) my work here was finished?
Had it even crossed my mind?
How do I feel about the work I am doing?
Is it work that makes my heart sing?
Is it work that is making a difference in the lives of individuals and in organizations?
Is it work that I’m proud of?
Is it purpose-driven work that is part of something bigger than myself?
Am I leveraging the knowledge, skills, abilities and talents that I have?

As if the past and present questions weren’t thought provoking enough; the most challenging questions were yet to come:

How do I want to define work?
How much time and energy am I willing to dedicate to my it?
How can I serve others in a way that is most helpful to them?
What impact could the work I do make on the lives of others and the world?
Do I have what it takes to successfully do this work?
If not, what will I need and from whom?

My challenge to you and my hope for you is that you won’t wait for a near-death or harrowing experience before you reflect on WHO you want to be, WHAT you want to do and HOW you want to do it.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have all the answers … but I am getting clearer. As I step up to the challenge of what I want the rest of my life to mean and look like (starting right now); I am reminded of the movie It’s a Wonderful Life.  You might remember Clarence, the angel who was trying to get his wings. With childlike innocence, Clarence says to George; “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he? … you see… you’ve had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?”



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    1. Joan Clark

      Mike, I hope you and your family are fairing well in these crazy times. All good on my end. Hunkered down and trying to stay safe. Thanks for supporting my blog and all the support through the years. I hope to see you here in PS once this crazy covid is over! Take care – jc

  1. Ed Feick

    So glad it all worked out Joan. Great time to self reflect and thank you for sharing your poignant messages.


    Joan–altho Harlan and I are no longer working, we feel life is still worthwhile and we hope the impact we have on others in our senior living facility is worthwhile. It “makes my heart sing” when I am able to help someone do something or write a note of appreciation to a member of the household or just put a smile on a neighbor’s face. I remember all the good times we had together in Kentucky.

  3. Paul

    Joan – first, so glad that you’re OK! Sounded a bit harrowing! Thank you for sharing your thoughts on all of this. As usual, you are asking some really big questions that are so worthwhile to contemplate! Thank you!

  4. Your article gave me a lot of inspiration, I hope you can explain your point of view in more detail, because I have some doubts, thank you.

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