Recently, I saw an item on the BBC News featuring Garry Jones, the choirmaster of Warwickshire County Boys Choir here in the UK. Although the choir was only formed in 2008, it has already achieved significant success in getting to the semi-finals of the national Choir of the Year competition earlier this year. But what really struck me about the item was Garry’s personal story. He had been a senior manager at Warwickshire County Council and had also been an Ofsted inspector. One day, when he was out for a jog, he collapsed and would certainly have died had it not been for the actions of a passer-by who also happened to be an off duty paramedic.
Garry is in no doubt that this unknown person saved his life; he says that, apparently only 1 in 5 cases actually survive the condition. However, it is what happened following his recovery that I found to be the most interesting part of the story. It was because Garry realised that he could easily have died that he reconsidered what his life was all about. As a consequence, he has dedicated the remainder of his life to his mission of ‘getting boys to sing’. That, he says, is what is most important. That one dramatic event is what led Garry to discover his life purpose and, as a result, he has now completely refocused his life around his mission.
Sometimes, it takes a shock, such as the one Garry experienced, in order for us to truly consider how wisely we are spending our time whilst we are here. But, you don’t need to wait for something like this to happen for you to evaluate your life and how you are living it. We can do this at any time and, of course, right now, at the beginning of a new year, is a good time to do so, whilst we may already be thinking about our goals. When we know what is most important to us and have genuinely recognised our life purpose, then, like Garry, it becomes possible to set our own mission and dedicate ourselves to the process of making it happen.
In Stephen Covey’s best-selling book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, he actually does encourage people to think about their own funeral and what they would like to have said by others about their contributions to their profession, vocation and communities. It may seem a little morbid, but it is just the author’s attempt to impress the importance of considering the relatively short amount of time we have here, on Earth, in which to make those contributions.
Perhaps being morbid is what it takes for us to wake up. Perhaps we need to realise that our time here is finite. We will never know exactly when our time is up. Somehow, we all need to come to that same realisation that struck Garry when he narrowly survived his heart condition. So do try to remember that on their death-beds, very few people have ever been known to utter the words, “you know, I really wish I had spent more time in the office.”
Well, I hope that makes you think a little. Isn’t it time you got serious with your life?