One thing I guarantee will happen to you
Death. It really is inevitable. And it may seem like a strange topic for me to write about, given that I usually write about self-improvement, confidence, productivity, and so on.
But I recently read a book which I felt was rather profoundly important: Being Mortal, by Atul Gawande. Gawande is a surgeon who decided to investigate the modern experience of mortality.
I guarantee that this book will be directly relevant to you and your loved ones. It’s not about making money, being productive or achieving success. But it could make a massive difference to the quality of life of your loved ones. And, given that we will all age and eventually grow frail and dependent on others, it will ultimately make a big difference to your quality of life too.
I began reading the book because I thought it would be good for me. I had read the many excellent reviews and thought that I might learn something. But I was pleasantly surprised to find that I quickly began to want to read it too. Although the subject matter might seem macabre, I found it engaging and interesting. I began to think about how I want to look after myself and how I would like my final days to look like. I also began to think about the health, well-being and future days of my parents too.
I recommend this book to anyone who likes well-written, intelligent non-fiction. But here are some of my own, very personal insights:
- The biggest risk for loss of freedom in later life is having a fall, breaking a bone and being confined to a walker or wheelchair. And the three primary risk factors for falling are muscle weakness, poor balance, and taking 5 or more prescription medications. To me then, that really does emphasise the importance of exercising, keeping bone density high and trying to stay fit.
- In business, people are often taught Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which argues that people most cherish basic values such as security and safety. But it seems that this is not always true: many people would rather forsake safety to feel in control of their own lives. Maslow was wrong. This has big implications for the kind of care home or hospital care that people want for themselves.
- There is a big difference in the type of care provided by different types of care home. Many care homes focus in their marketing literature on the facilities they offer. But it turns out that most people would rather have fewer facilities and organised activities in return for greater freedom over how they live their lives.
- In our final days, we may need to make choices about whether we want to extend life or enjoy better quality of life. For example, cancer patients often have the choice between trying combinations of drugs which often only extend life by a matter of months as opposed to curing the cancer. Or they can choose to live their final months and years with as much freedom and as little pain as possible. There’s no right answer here. But these are choices that are worth thinking about before we are forced to.
- Finally, the book was a good reminder about what ultimately matters in life. Success as measured by financial and material achievements only matters to a point – in terms of allowing us time and money to do things we enjoy. Otherwise though, what matters is people: my family, my friends, my most important relationships.
Being Mortal is a book about frailty, ageing and death. This book has influenced my thinking and affected me more than any other in the last year or so. Perhaps you may wish to try it – do let me know what you think.