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The Tombstone Test

January 14, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 114

It's amazing how life works sometimes. I came across this quote today from Ralph Waldo Emerson;

"Our chief want in life is somebody who will make us do what we can."

It reminded me of something a client once said to me. I'd only been working with them for a couple of weeks when they came bounding through the door, smiling from ear to ear, declaring that they had just landed their first role in a West End show. She said; "It's all down to your Tombstone Test". (I'll tell you more about that in a moment.)

Anyway, having decided that I might write a few words to share the Tombstone Test with you, I then searched for for some more information about the great Ralph Waldo Emerson and one of the very first pictures that appeared was one of his tombstone! Coincidence? Probably. Poignant? Definitely.

You see, my client had been struggling with self belief. Not only had she convinced herself that her dream of appearing in a West End show was no more than that - a dream; but her more recent diversion into routine jobs had also convinced everyone else around her that it was probably no more than an old dream. However, I was someone new to her and I could see that every fibre in her body was screaming out to be on the stage performing for people. Every time the topic returned to this area of her life that she was trying desperately to suppress, her eyes would light up and her whole face became animated and alive! So I decided to set her the Tombstone Test.

The Tombstone Test is no more than answering the question; "What would you like written on your tombstone?" Or, more simply, what do you want people to say about you when you pass on from this world? Of course, being a bit mischievous, I offered her one suggestion; "How about, 'Here lies Juliet...a first class administrator'?"Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with administrative roles per se, but I knew it wasn't making her happy. Anyway, our conversation ended and she went away to consider the question more deeply. I thought no more of our conversation until the next time we met. Unknown to me, she had auditioned for three shows in just two weeks and, as I recorded earlier, had landed one of the parts.

Quite often we are closer to achieving our dreams than we know or can even begin to believe. The key though, is to keep believing, and when our energy levels are low, find some way to re-ignite the fire. Find someone who, in Emerson's words, will make you do what you can. In Juliet's case it was the conversation with me and thinking through what she really wanted to be remembered for. For you, it might be something completely different; an inspirational song, an uplifting book or a hug from your best friend. How you spur yourself into action is unimportant, knowing it is critical to your success is vital.

So, what's your answer to the Tombstone Test?

Simon Phillips is a personal development specialist who helps individuals, teams and whole organisations to double their effectiveness and build the mindset and skills to make a difference in their world.

To find out more, head on over to or for some free videos on overcoming the three most significant barriers to personal success go to

Source: EzineArticles
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Tombstone Test


Ralph Waldo Emerson


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