When my father, now 92, turned a mere 80, my family held a party to celebrate. We were fortunate enough to have the entire family and several of his closest and longest friends in attendance. At one point we did a roast, going around the room as people told humorous or touching stories about our father.
Once the festivities had died down, I had the great privilege to stay up late into the night with my father, one of his oldest friends, Cal, and a bottle of Scotch. I heard many things about my father that I had never heard before—stories that made it obvious he was an adventurous young man. At one point, after a contemplative sip of Scotch, Cal said, “You know, this was way better than a funeral, because you got to hear it.” My father laughed, raised his glass, and the two of them clinked.
That small exchange was a pivotal moment in my life. So often we don't take the time to express our feelings in meaningful ways, even to the people closest to us. We no longer even take the time to look someone in the eye and say “Thank you.” If we say anything at all, it’s usually “Thanks” with a partial glance. And while our thanks may be sincere, it’s not mindful—or impactful.
Likewise, we don’t often strive to give or receive real feedback in our relationships. If things are going well, there's little attention paid, and if things aren’t going well, we might get some feedback, but of the negative variety. And because many of us push off real connection and meaningful feedback during our day-to-day lives, far too often we find ourselves saying everything we wanted to at someone’s funeral, when it’s too late for them to hear.
Which brings me to my main point. I’ve spent the past year and a half working on my book, Just Be Well, and the movement that surrounds it. Now that I’ve been sharing it with my colleagues, my patients, and the world at large, I’ve received some incredible feedback, much of it from people whom I greatly admire and respect. It humbles me to know how they feel about the book, the message it shares, and my life’s work. The whole process of hearing what people have to say has been like attending my own funeral. It’s been an opportunity to get real feedback from the people who matter most—and fortunately, I didn’t have to die to get it.
When something is going well in your life, when you’re truly appreciative of something, make sure the people around you know it. Don't save the communication for only those times when things are going poorly—or you may find all the positivity you have to share will come when it’s too late to have a real impact.