101 Great Ways to Pack Meaning into a Lifetime

by Belinda Munoz on October 19, 2009

meaning

This past weekend, I was a complete grown-up and did a tough thing:  I attended a colleague’s daughter’s funeral service.

I was sensible to hitch a ride with a dear friend who has two more kids than I do.  She, like me, understood the gnawing fear that I imagine all parents have:  the fear of losing a child.

Plus, I knew one of us was bound to have tissue on hand.  Top shelf commodity that runs out far too quickly when you’re in charge of wiping eyes and noses and mouths other than your own.

WHAT I KNEW

Coming into the service, I knew a few things about the girl, *Mimi.  I knew she was very young.  I knew she was special.  I knew she was loved dearly.  I knew she had the brightest blue eyes.  I knew she made her parents proud as I’ve heard them speak about her and recognized that tone of unmistakable overwhelming pride in the voice of every parent speaking about their child.

I also knew Mimi was a fighter.  She had Apert’s syndrome, a congenital disease that affects 1 in 160,000 live births.  This disease manifests in the body as malformations in the skull, hands and feet.  Mimi required numerous surgeries throughout her short life.

WHAT I DIDN’T KNOW

What I didn’t know about Mimi was how profoundly affected and inspired I would be by this beautiful girl.  I was so moved by her life story I ran out of tissue.  And so did my friend.  And our kids weren’t even with us.

This special girl who had a young body had an old soul.  A beautiful old soul.  She read voraciously.  She learned avidly.  She had a boundless sense of curiosity.  She enjoyed skiing and hiking.  She loved theater.  She loved her friends and she had many.  She had a sweet singing voice and she used it often.  She was generous with kindness and smiles to all.

She was an activist.  She volunteered her time for top politicians.  She fought for equality and human rights.  She was an advocate for children with disabilities.

She worked hard.  She was courageous.  When she wanted to go away to boarding school for high school this past summer, she persevered, enrolled and got accepted on her own merit.

She painted her lifetime with bright shades of meaning and intense hues of happiness, all on a piece of canvas of 15 short years.  The result:  a luminous legacy.

Sitting in that crammed synagogue amid the sniffling and the overflowing tears, Mimi’s incredibly beautiful soul filled the room with love.  Her presence was palpable in the tears, laughter and songs.  Without a doubt, she moved every person in that room.

Mimi’s impact on others is unstoppable.  In her short life, she gave so much love and wisdom and courage to others.  In her death, she continues to give love and wisdom and courage to others so that they may be inspired, by her example, to live life to the fullest.

In Mimi’s spirit, below is a list of 101 ways to pack meaning into a lifetime:

On relating to others

1 let love rule
2 share your talents and gifts
3 be generous with genuine smiles
4 express kindness every chance you get
5 treasure your loved ones
6 befriend someone you’re not fond of
7 understand someone who’s misunderstood
8 find common ground with someone you perceive to be different from you
9 find the good in others
10 bond often with laughter
11 remember the power of sharing great wine and food with others
12 forgive the seemingly unforgivable
13 help those in need
14 ask for help when you need it
15 defend those who can’t defend themselves
16 interpret coldness in others as sadness
17 and attempt to bring those people a little warmth
18 pay attention to the quiet/boisterous ones
19 and distill the simple truth in their message
20 engage someone who seems disinterested
21 and encourage her/him to discover her/his fire in the belly
22 curb the attitude
23 pump up the patience
24 practice humility
25 reciprocate negativity with positivity
26 realize that you’re part of a continuum
27 remember that your actions (or inaction) impact others

On philosophy and learning

28 seek truth (ask a lot of questions)
29 make mistakes
30 take a stand on the issues
31 dare to be right
32 dare to be wrong
33 dare to be an activist for a cause you’re passionate about
34 be a leader (see Justin Dixon’s ideas on What Makes a Great Leader)
35 lead by example
36 find someone you’re philosophically diametrically opposed with
37 and meet them halfway
38 read a lot; write a lot
39 teach others what you’ve learned (and be open to learning while you teach)
40 open yourself to wisdom from unlikely places
41 write or talk to people you admire
42 emulate someone you admire
43 and when you find yourself in a situation where you’re unsure, ask “what would _______ do?”
44 broaden your horizon and put things in perspective
45 find the lesson in an undesirable experience or situation
46 deflect negativity with indifference (if not with positivity)
47 remind yourself often that you don’t have to believe what others believe; even those you admire

On being true to oneself (or keeping that connection to your core)

48 count your blessings
49 know your power and don’t underestimate it
50 write a mission statement
51 and live it (and revise it accordingly as you evolve)
52 don’t neglect good health (see Anastasiya’s list of 101 Healthy Habits that Anyone Can Follow)
53 listen to the song in your heart (and don’t be afraid to sing it and dance to it)
54 recognize the noise and tune it out
55 say what you mean and mean what you say (see Karlil’s thoughts on improving body anguage)
56 open your mind (see Steven Aitchison’s list of 100 Ways to Develop Your Mind)
57 open your heart and let the light in
58 eliminate hypocrisy by looking at yourself before judging others
59 give yourself a break (go on retreats, getaways, vacations, or at least take a lunch break)
60 know that life isn’t always about productivity
61 so let go of guilt and do nothing once in a while
62 feel every emotion fully (as opposed to repressing it) then let it pass
63 understand that impulses can be controlled so control those you have that may be negative (we all have them)
64 seek and maintain balance without compromising passion
65 make a decision (don’t let others decide for you)
66 nurture your spirituality

On relating to material or non-essential things

67 give a portion of your money away to a cause you believe in (for ideas, visit Global Giving)
68 savor the good feeling that comes from this generous act
69 give a treasured object away
70 and embrace the power of letting go
71 throw out the literal and proverbial garbage
72 make space for meaningful things
73 remember others who don’t have the basics
74 and think twice before buying things just because you can (read Leo Babauta’s ideas on the true cost of stuff)
75 appreciate the luxuries you have
76 pass on possessions you’ve outgrown that are useful to others
77 know that your identity is separate from your material possessions

On adventures

78 go on adventures
79 be bold with your adventures
80 dream big
81 and take baby steps to realize them
82 visit another country as often as you can (read this piece by Chris Guillebeau for cautionary tips)
83 and feast your senses in its culture
84 dine on various cuisines
85 step out of your comfort zone (take risks, let yourself be challenged)

On art

86 pay attention to aesthetics
87 and let beauty bathe your senses
88 Experience all forms of art
89 and allow yourself to be transported by its power
90 once in a while, view things through an artist’s lens
91 and let your imagination roam free
92 express your inner artist (by drawing, painting, sculpting…)
93 and revel in your power to create

On paid and unpaid work

94 love what you do
95 do what you love
96 do something you’d do anyway without getting paid
97 give what you do your best effort (read Jeffrey Tang’s 10 Excuses I’ve Used Up This Month)
98 value your time and energy

On relating to the planet and the universe

99 notice and appreciate the infinite beauty of nature (read Fr. Michael’s piece Have You Noticed?)
100 think about the future generations and what the world will be like for them because of how you treat the planet now
101 remember the universal laws when you’ve done everything you can

I would love to hear if you have any comments, thoughts or anything to add.

*Mimi’s name has been altered to protect the privacy of her family.

Image by Meanest Indian

Recommended Reading:

Giving Thanks for 21 Blessings in Disguise

50 Simple Ways to Pay It Forward

Got Soul?

Minding Micro Meditation Moments

Five Critical Skills We Must Never Lose in the Information Age

Life Is Art

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Ben Leon Guerrero October 19, 2009 at 6:47 am

Lovely Belinda,

Thank you again. This is a long one but very much useful for me because if I cannot do one item I can attempt another item. I think I am older than most of your readership but I will say even at my age it is battle to choose to do these things, maybe even it is harder. Your inspiration keeps me really trying and I am also inspired by Mimi and her story.

Now to sleep!

Ben

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2 Malo October 19, 2009 at 8:37 am

This is one of those posts that made me cry! Everything in the list has full of meaning. If I can live up to a few of them, I’d be happy.

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3 Positively Present October 19, 2009 at 8:49 am

LOVE this post! What a great idea and what awesome examples of how we can live our lives to the fullest.

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4 Ideas With A Kick October 19, 2009 at 9:26 am

Wow… 101! This made me realize how many options there are for us. Gonna pick up 3 of them I find reaaly useful for me and try them out. Thx.

Eduard

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5 Patty - Why Not Start Now? October 19, 2009 at 11:51 am

Hi Belinda – Making meaning is my absolute favorite topic, and framing your list with Mimi’s story is heartrending and touching. Your list illustrates so well that meaning isn’t something to seek or find, but rather something to make right now, and that we have opportunities to do so immediately. This is often very hard for people to do though, and even as important as meaning making is to me, I do struggle with it myself at times. Thanks!

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6 Fr. Michael October 19, 2009 at 4:48 pm

Belinda,
A really beautiful, passionate, spirit filled post, all inspired by a young girl who was fully alive. Although I don’t believe God wills bad things to happen, I do believe he allows people like Mimi to come into the world to inspire us to be “the best version of ourselves” (as Matthew Kelly likes to say).

Thanks for this great, thoughtful post.

Peace!

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7 PC Munoz October 19, 2009 at 9:20 pm

I love this one. Your description of the impact of Mimi’s memorial service is a powerful thing as it is…and then to follow it up by reminding us how we can locate and create meaningful experiences in our daily lives….awesome!

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8 Belinda Munoz October 19, 2009 at 10:24 pm

@Ben, so glad to hear you are inspired by Mimi’s story. My list may seem, I admit, a bit daunting, but the power of human beings is not to be underestimated and I kept that in mind when I created it.

@Malo, thanks for letting me know that you were moved. It’s so easy to let the days pass doing the bare minimum but if this girl could pack a lifetime in a few short years, why not the rest of us?

@Positively Present, thank you so much! The list is, to me, a dare of sorts. These are all things we are capable of. The real question is, do we take action?

@Ideas with a Kick, how nice of you to drop by. I think it’s great that you are attempting to pick three things from the list! Do let me know how it goes.

@Patty, I hear you. It all looks great on paper but in reality, this is very hard for people to do. My hope is that this piece will get people thinking, at least those who feel they are lacking a sense of meaning and want to do something about it…

@Fr. Michael, many thanks! It’s exciting to know that we all have an opportunity to become better versions of ourselves, not alone, but by relating to others.

@PC, glad you love it!

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9 Karlil October 20, 2009 at 1:56 pm

Seeing the young leave before the old is always a sad sight to see. Condolence to your friend’s family Belinda. Thank you for the post.

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10 Jai kai - SharingSuccess.TV October 22, 2009 at 6:48 am

Great points and also a great reminder on how blessed we are. This really makes me appreciate my life. Thank you

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11 Bilal Jaffery October 22, 2009 at 2:50 pm

Great post! Love it.

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12 Arvind Devalia October 23, 2009 at 4:41 am

What a wonderful list Belinda – and despite the story, so heartwarming. And one of those stories that make you cry – and you don;t mind either.

I am going to print off your wonderful list and keep with me during my daily travelling.

A while ago, a neighbour lost their 6 year old daughter – she complained of feeling ill and weak and passed away the same day in hospital. The inquest retained an open verdict bit it was likely to have been meningitis.

I saw the parents the same night and it was one of the saddest thing I have ever experienced. I really do not know how any parent can cope with such a loss. I still carry the loss myself after all these years.

You have so eloquently written about Mimi and I found your words therapeutic for my own healing.

Thank you.

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13 Steven Aitchison October 23, 2009 at 12:54 pm

Belinda, what a beautiful story. Yes, it’s tragic that she passed away, but what a legacy to leave behind, and I am sure she has inspired so many more people just like the inspiration for this post. Thank you for sharing this story with us, it really did touch me.

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14 Krishna October 23, 2009 at 4:40 pm

This is an inspiring tale of courage and selflessness, Belinda. Thanks so much for sharing this with us. Its so wonderful to see all that Mimi has packed into her life of 15 years and so sad that she is not here with us. Comforting to imagine that she is in a better place.

Take care and thank you,
Krishna

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15 Solange October 25, 2009 at 11:04 pm

Lovely!! Thought-provoking and beautiful. Thank you!

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16 Belinda Munoz October 26, 2009 at 8:42 pm

@Karlil, you’re right. It’s one of the most feared possibility known to any parent. But when you stop and think, we never really know how much time we have which is all the more reason to pack meaning into each day.

@Jai Kai, absolutely! Me, too. Thanks for chiming in.

@Bilal, glad you loved it. Thanks for stopping by.

@Arvind, thank you and I’m happy to hear this post has helped you with your healing. I was definitely crying through each paragraph. The list is one I try to follow, as hard as it may be, because any other way seems pointless once we learn how gratifying it is to let love rule.

@Steven, thank you. As tragic as it is, her example reminds us how it’s not too late to aspire to live as passionately as she did.

@Krishna, thank you. I know I didn’t pack as much as she did in 15 years. She was a bright star whose legacy will live on.

@Solange, thank you for your comment and for stopping by.

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17 Patrick @ unwrapyourmind.com October 29, 2009 at 7:41 am

Belinda, this really touched me. Although I am not the greatest fan of list posts (most are pretty superficial) this one touched me. And there are so many truths hidden in that list that you could (and should) write at least 1 article about each one – so your next 101 articles are secured 🙂 Thank you very much. I tumblr’d it.

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18 Nea | Self Improvement Saga March 15, 2010 at 8:30 pm

I’m so inspired by mimi. Sounds like her family has some awesome memories to hold onto, including the sheer joy of just knowing a person of such great character.

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19 el sheila kanavathi April 8, 2010 at 10:31 pm

Thank you for this. Something i truly needed at this point in my life

Cheers
Sheila

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20 Malyka July 21, 2010 at 6:34 am

Dear Belinda,
I stumbled on this website and read the wonderful story you wrote of courageous inspiration. I just had a grand daughter yesterday and have been toiling with what name to be called. I’d thought about Mimi which means beloved, and after reading this, even though her real name wasn’t Mimi, know that your story, reflections and list of meaningful life experiences is confirmation for me. Thank you for the gift of inspiration that flowed through her and you.

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