Seeing your epitaph unfold while you’re alive is a recipe for joy and meaning

Zoe Weil is a blogger for Psychology Today, and we share her blog posts here.

Last week, I had the opportunity to experience the power of my epitaph. How is that possible given that I’m not dead yet? It happened because I deliberately wrote my epitaph 10 years ago. 

Writing one’s own epitaph isn’t something people typically do. If we’re lucky, someone else sums up our life through a meaningful epitaph after we die. But writing our own epitaph long before the end of our life can be a powerful thing to do. If we consciously decide how we’d like our life to be described at its end, we then have the opportunity to live accordingly now.

The epitaph I wrote read: “Zoe Weil played a significant role in transforming education so that its purpose became to educate a solutionary generation, ready and able to address and solve the world’s challenges.” This epitaph stemmed from my belief that a just, humane, and healthy world is possible if only we learn how to become skilled critical, systems, and strategic thinkers who eagerly and compassionately collaborate to solve the problems we face.

Watching my epitaph unfold

Last week, at an educational conference streamed from India, which reached nearly 2,000 teachers across India and in other countries, I was able to witness my work taking hold. The creator of the event, Sayyid Duja, is the founder of the Springs Continental School — a solutionary school based on the principle of doing the most good and least harm for all people, animals, and the environment. Springs Continental School offers itself and its curriculum as a model for other schools across India and beyond.

Student after student spoke about their solutionary work. They talked lovingly about their school and its founder. They erupted in applause during my keynote every time I mentioned their school and its mission. And their words were reinforced by Indian leaders who also keynoted the event. I realized I was witnessing the unfolding of my epitaph, and it felt pretty great.

psychology today