Ed Jacobson, PhD

In Memoriam: How do you want to be remembered?


As some of our readers already know, and others are just learning, Ed Jacobson passed away peacefully on September 19th. Ed was my business and life partner and a loving friend, teacher, and touchstone for so many of our readers.

Fortunately, Ed captured the essence of his call to mindful practice and loving kindness in the chapters of his timeless book, Appreciative Moments: Stories and Practices for Living and Working Appreciatively.

When Ed was in the hospital, I read to him from some of the pages (I hope he could hear me). One chapter struck me deeply, and it feels like the right time to share it with you.

It is my hope that each of us will have the opportunity to enjoy a life fully lived and the gift of touching others – just as Ed did and continues to do.

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Appreciative Moments

by Edward A. Jacobson, PhD, MBA

Chapter 10: Envisioning Your Life Fully Lived

How do you want to be remembered?

What would you like your legacy to be?

What would you like people to say about you at your funeral service?

Imagine it’s ten years in the future, and you’re living a full, vibrant, happy life.  What is your life like at that time?

These are four wonderful questions for stimulating our thinking about how we want to lead our lives.  On a personal level, it’s important for all of us to look beyond the details, beyond the joys and sorrows of our present lives, and dare to envision the lives we wish to craft for ourselves.  Look at it this way: there are craft shops, there are specialty stores, there are things called artisan breads (whatever those are).  Why shouldn’t we each craft a wonderful life for ourself?  For those of us who work in helping professions such as counseling, coaching, financial planning, education, and the law, we owe it to our clients to engage them in such conversations and guide them in creating clear, vivid, positive statements of what their highest and best lives might look like.

Of course, we can’t count on these vision statements, and the resulting plans, to materialize exactly as we specify them.  You may have heard expressions such as “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans” and “If you want to make God laugh, tell Him your plans.”  Nonetheless, we can create an intentional picture of our lives as we aspire for them to become.  We can also base that picture on a clear view of our abilities and our potential, a deep honoring of our aspirations, and a bold and daring view of our future.  As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.”

Too many of us have become aspiration-deprived.  We have been taught to aim too low, to accept as our mantra, “Who do we think we are, anyway?”  Marianne Williamson answers that question beautifully in A Return to Love:

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure … We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?  Actually, who are you NOT to be? … Your playing small does not serve the world.  There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won’t feel unsure around you … As we let our own Light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

I believe that those of us in helping professions are in a wonderful position to help our aspiration-deprived clients reclaim their right to dream, and to exercise the pursuit of happiness.  And we don’t have to be professional helpers to do this.  In our committed relationships—marriages, life partnerships, and so forth—one of the wonderful ways we can support each other is by holding the flame and keeping the faith as our partners pursue their dreams.

Here are three ways to embrace that right to dream and engage in hot pursuit of happiness:

  • In your personal life, imagine, or re-imagine, your future as you wish it to be. Follow up by specifying some goals and actions to get you moving in the direction of your dreams.  Be bold and daring in your imagining, and be specific in your goals and actions in pursuit of them.
  • In your work with clients, answer these three questions for yourself: Does this person have a vivid, compelling, positive view of where he is headed, and what it will look like when he gets there? Do I know what that picture looks like?  Am I basing my service to him on that vision?
  • And the same applies to your committed relationships. It’s like those public service announcements that say, “It’s ten o’clock.  Do you know where your children are?”  Here, the question, as applied to your intimates, becomes: “Do you know what your partner’s dream is?”

If the answer to all of or most of these questions is “No,” can you work with this person to create a picture of his life fully lived?  How would such an image enrich what you two are there to do?  How would you get started in that visioning process?

To answer that last question, you can initiate the conversation by using any of the four questions posed at the beginning of this chapter.  Or you can search your memory bank for the best questions about a fulfilling life that someone has posed to you—or the best ones that you have ever posed to someone else.  Alternatively, use your imagination.  Grow your own great questions.  And have fun with them.  The more imagination and  creativity you can bring to developing them, the more vibrant and compelling the resulting vision will be.


  1. Imagine that Marianne Williamson had you in mind when she wrote the quoted passage.  Ask yourself, “What is she trying to tell me that I need to know?”  Think about it.  Journal about it.  She may be on to something that you need to know.
  2. Answer one of the following four questions that most appeals to you.
  • How do you want to be remembered?
  • What would you like your legacy to be?
  • What would you like people to say about you at your funeral service?
  • Imagine it is ten years in the future and you are living a full, vibrant, happy life. What is your life like, at that time?

Write down your answer or, if you are so inclined, make an artistic representation: a drawing, collage, or sculpture.  See what you learn from this activity.

Then put aside your answer or artistic response for one week.  At the end of that time, answer one of the three remaining questions.  Compare your responses to the two questions.  See what insights this comparison provides.

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