Death and dying are challenging concepts for most of us. When I founded and directed a Health Psychology Department, working with seriously ill and dying patients in a San Francisco hospital, most people outside my work believed my job was depressing, difficult, and enormously taxing. But actually, I considered that job as one of the most uplifting and fulfilling I’ve ever had.

People Facing Life-Threatening Illnesses See Life Differently

Many of the patients I worked with were – sometimes for the first time in their lives – crystal clear about their viewpoints and priorities, and they lived each moment in furtherance in those values. They lived with a heightened awareness of what truly mattered to them.

I found their clarity of conviction quite enviable, and my work with those patients is what ultimately inspired me to develop Connection Theory as a way to help others reach that same level of self-knowledge, peace and purpose.

The Most Important Things in Life

What was most interesting to me about these patients was the similarity of themes they cared about. Whether they were weeks from certain death, or starting a new lease on life after a near-death experience, they shared largely the same key values. Spending time regularly with family and close friends. Being emotionally available and open to new connections. Healing old wounds and rifts. Speaking truth. Being present to everyone and everything in their path. Gratitude. Slowing down and simplifying their activities, and taking stock.

They wanted to reflect on what had meant the most to them in their lives, who and what touched them, and what unfinished business they still had. Most of the time, they didn’t care about their work identity, their accomplishments, their belongings or acquisitions. They didn’t waste their energy on disagreements, disappointments, or resentments. They were adamant that connecting with loved ones, expressing their feelings, and living their remaining days in alignment with what mattered to them were more important than anything else.

Connect with Your Truths

These are lessons and values we all can learn from, and that we all can cultivate in our lives no matter how much time remains for us. Connecting to these deeper truths within us, and living our lives according to our values is something we can do without waiting for a near-fatal incident to galvanize us.

The satisfaction and fulfillment we gain from connected living is the ultimate gift we can give ourselves and our loved ones, regardless of our stage of life.


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