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What really matters at the end of life | BJ Miller


BJ Miller: Death as Part of Life

Despite best intentions, today’s fractured healthcare systems largely compound our collective fear of the end of life as a time of suffering and disconnection. San Francisco’s Zen Hospice Project Senior Director, Advocate and palliative care physician BJ Miller invites us to think about and discuss the end of life through the lens of a mindful, human-centered model of care, one that embraces death not as a medical event but rather as a universally shared life experience. Having had his own near-death encounter, Miller powerfully advocates the roles of our senses, community and presence in designing a better ending.

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MRM Lecture Series Presents Dr. B. J. Miller - Chicago, May 23, 2017

On May 23, 2017, MRM Lecture Series filled the Greenhouse Theater’s MainStage for Dr. B. J. Miller’s presentation – THE POWER OF IMPOSSIBILITY: RETHINKING END-OF-LIFE CARE. What is a good death? How do you judge? In the end, what matters? Addressing questions such as these is central to the new model of end-of-life care pioneered by B. J. Miller. Featured in the New York Times article “One Man’s Quest to Change the Way We Die,” Miller speaks about death and dying at medical schools and professional conferences and his inspiring TED Talk ”What really matters at the end of life” which closed the 2015 TED Conference, has been watched more than five million times.

What Really Matters At The End Of Life - Inspired Motivational Videos

What Really Matters At The End Of Life - Inspired Motivational Videos

One night, sophomore year of college, just back from Thanksgiving holiday, a few of my friends and I were horsing around, and we decided to climb atop a parked commuter train. It was just sitting there, with the wires that run overhead. Somehow, that seemed like a great idea at the time. We'd certainly done stupider things. I scurried up the ladder on the back, and when I stood up, the electrical current entered my arm, blew down
My father wears it now in solidarity.

That night began my formal relationship with death — my death — and it also began my long run as a patient. It's a good word. It means one who suffers. So I guess we're all patients.

My purpose today is to reach out across disciplines and invite design thinking into this big conversation. That is, to bring intention and creativity to the experience of dying. We have a monumental opportunity in front of us, before one of the few universal issues as individuals as well as a civil society: to rethink and redesign how it is we die.

So let's begin at the end. For most people, the scariest thing about death isn't being dead, it's dying, suffering. It's a key distinction. To get underneath this, it can be very helpful to tease out suffering which is necessary as it is, from suffering we can change. The former is a natural, essential part of life, part of the deal, and to this we are called to make space, adjust, grow. It can be really good to realize forces larger than ourselves. They bring proportionality, like a cosmic right-sizing. After my limbs were gone, that loss, for example, became fact, fixed — necessarily part of my life, and I learned that I could no more reject this fact than reject myself. It took me a while, but I learned it eventually. Now, another great thing about necessary suffering is that it is the very thing that unites caregiver and care receiver — human beings. This, we are finally realizing, is where healing happens. Yes, compassion — literally, as we learned yesterday — suffering together.

We can design towards it. Parts of me died early on, and that's something we can all say one way or another. I got to redesign my life around this fact, and I tell you it has been a liberation to realize you can always find a shock of beauty or meaning in what life you have left, like that snowball lasting for a perfect moment, all the while melting away. If we love such moments ferociously, then maybe we can learn to live well — not in spite of death, but because of it. Let death be what takes us, not lack of imagination.

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What Matters In Life?

Most people don’t want to “do nothing’ all day. We have hopes and dreams, goals and ambitions. We want to contribute to the world, make it a better place, not “retire” from it to a life of “leisure”. For most of us, the prospects of sleeping in late, lounging on the beach, improving our golf scores, living on cruise ships, and lazing about all day may sound good for a short time, but they hold little allure for us in the long-term.

So, what really matters in life? I can boil the answer to this question down to six major themes:







First a little discussion on the themes.

Wealth – some have more than others, some have less, but most of the people I run across agree that while it can be used to pay for nice homes, fast cars, and fine dining, it can’t purchase meaning. Beyond a middle-income level, the amount of money you have bears little correlation to how happy you are.

Health – is critically important to enjoying life. Good health is a combination of luck, a healthy lifestyle, and medical care.

Relationships – are very important. Everyone I meet clearly values their relationships with friends and family members and sees that these relationships are key to their emotional wellbeing.

Contribution/Achievement – for most of us reading this blog we are fortunate in life and seek to give back, make a positive contribution, even leave a legacy. Helping others as we’ve been helped is important to us.

Meaning – work that has meaning is important to our sense of well being. We want to feel that we are making a real difference in the world.

Happiness – everyone I’ve ever met wants to be happy. True happiness can’t be bought – it has to be lived!

As you contemplate these themes and set your goals for 2015, you might choose to volunteer or work on projects that make the world a better place. You might choose to change to a job or a career where you have more opportunity to serve. For me, I still teach and give classes, but I focus more on advising people how they can have a great rest of their lives rather than just work harder and “make more money.”

Reflecting on life’s purpose should start when you’re young—and never stop. I served on the board of the Peter Drucker Foundation for 10 years, so I had a chance to observe Peter personally. He worked until his death at age 95! He was never interested in retiring. He was interested in working to make the world a better place. Through his example, I learned that making a difference means more than, and is very different from, making a living.

Think about your life. Now’s a great time to start planning the rest of it. How can you make a contribution? How can you find meaning? What will make you happy? How can you make this time count—for yourself, the people around you, and the world?

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith was selected as one of the 10 Most Influential Management Thinkers in the World by Thinkers50 in both 2011 and 2013. He was also selected as the World’s Most Influential Leadership Thinker in 2011. Marshall was the highest rated executive coach on the Thinkers50 List in both 2011 and 2013. What Got You Here Won’t Get You There was listed as a top ten business bestseller for 2013 by INC Magazine / 800 CEO Read (for the seventh consecutive year). Marshall’s exciting new research on engagement will be published in his upcoming book Triggers (Crown, 2015).

Reclaiming The End Of Life As A Human Experience | Dr. BJ Miller

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BJ Miller, MD reminds us to consider the fullest view of what it means to be human - from the messy, uncomfortable issues that arise around dying to the delight of being alive in our bodies - as a path to understanding the possibilities available to open to design for the end of life experience.

What really matters at the end of life?


Death helps us love life | BJ Miller, MD | End Well Symposium

BJ Miller, MD, reminds us that if we never suffered, we might not really know what passion and joy felt like.

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We believe all people should experience the end of life in a way that matches their values and goals. End Well is a dynamic gathering of individuals committed to generating human-centered, interdisciplinary innovation for the end of life experience.

We are a diverse group of people who listen and learn from each other. Our goal is to create a cultural shift that supports new collaborations, systems, protocols, and products to foster new and existing networks of support to make the end of life more human-centered for all. Join us.

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Atul Gawande: "Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End" | Talks at Google

Surgeon, public health researcher, and MacArthur fellow Atul Gawande discusses his #1 NY Times bestseller, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.

Modern medicine has transformed the dangers of birth, injury, and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But when it comes to the inescapable realities of aging and death, what medicine can do often runs counter to what it should do. Through eye-opening research and gripping stories of his own patients and family, Gawande reveals the suffering produced by medicine’s neglect of the wishes people might have beyond mere survival. To find out what those wishes are, we need to ask. We haven’t been asking, but we can learn. Riveting, honest, and humane, this remarkable book, which has already changed the national conversation on aging and death, shows how the ultimate goal is not a good death but a good life—all the way to the very end.

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Moderated by Tom Smith.

Conversations on Compassion with Dr. BJ Miller

In this conversation, CCARE’s founder and director, Dr. James Doty, will ask Dr. BJ Miller about his life’s work and how compassion has played a role.

Dr. BJ Miller is a palliative care physician at UCSF and a leading voice reframing society’s discourse on the field of death and dying. His interests are in working across disciplines to affect broad-based culture change and in cultivating a civic model for aging and dying. He invites us to think about, and discuss, the end of our lives through the lens of a mindful, human-centered model of care, one that embraces dying not as a medical event but rather as a universally shared life experience.

Informed by his own experiences as a patient, BJ powerfully advocates the roles of our senses, community and presence in designing a better ending. He brings a unique blend of training, experience and commitment to furthering the message that suffering and dying are fundamental and intrinsic aspects of life and is widely recognized for his efforts in cultivating a larger dialogue on this full scope approach to the reality of life and death.

His TED Talk, “What Really Matters at the End of Life” has been viewed over 8 million times and his work have been the subject of multiple interviews and podcasts including Oprah Winfrey, PBS, The New York Times, The California Sunday Magazine, Krista Tippett, Tim Ferriss, and the TED Radio Hour. BJ’s practical guide for preparing for death, entitled A Beginner’s Guide to the End, co-authored with Shoshana Berger, will be released in July 2019.

What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness | Robert Waldinger

What keeps us happy and healthy as we go through life? If you think it's fame and money, you're not alone – but, according to psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, you're mistaken. As the director of 75-year-old study on adult development, Waldinger has unprecedented access to data on true happiness and satisfaction. In this talk, he shares three important lessons learned from the study as well as some practical, old-as-the-hills wisdom on how to build a fulfilling, long life.

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BJ Miller (Full Episode) - Feisworld Podcast

BJ Miller - How do we reframe suffering and find our unique joy?
Show Notes:


About BJ:
Dr. BJ Miller is a Palliative Care physician at the UCSF Medical Center. His Ted talk in 2015, What really matters at the end of life was watched by nearly 5 million people worldwide. Death has never been a popular subject, why would so many people want to listen?

“BJ Miller thinks deeply about how to create a dignified, graceful end of life for his patients” because we need embrace the subjective. People are transformed by illness. Death is in fact part of life. It is one of the few things we all know for certain. What do we do about this?

BJ answers all the questions you too should know more about. The knowledge and wisdom of how we live and how we die can benefit everyone. Not just the people who are suffering.

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Feisworld Podcast was created by Fei Wu in 2014 to celebrate stories of sung and unsung heroes, from all walks of life.

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Focus On What REALLY Matters In Life - Gary Vaynerchuk | Motivational Talk

Gary Vaynerchuk talks about the huge importance of focusing your attention on the things that really matter in life and why having a positive perspective on life is the key to true success & happiness.

Gary Vaynerchuk is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of VaynerMedia, a full-service digital agency servicing Fortune 500 clients across the company’s 5 locations. Gary is also a prolific public speaker, venture capitalist, 4-time New York Times Bestselling Author, and has been named to both Crain’s and Fortune’s 40 Under 40 lists.


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What really matters?

Behind her smiles and spritely personality, health is a worry for Mdm Teo. She is not alone, as individuals with multiple chronic conditions are set to increase as our population ages. Beyond care in hospitals, these individuals often need follow-up care at home and yearn for easy access to healthcare when they need it.

The SingHealth Regional Health System aims to look beyond hospital walls for solutions and pool resources with community partners, to enable patients to be cared for adequately at home and in the community.

what really matters

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What really matters in life

What really matters in life

A question that we often find ourselves wondering during times of crisis.
After a week back in Scotland, Laura and I's trip ended with a realisation, What really matters in life is... We started our journey in London and spent the weekend there, our trip ended in my beloved Glasgow.

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End of Life | Aging Matters | NPT Reports

Most Americans say they prefer to die at home. However, 70% of deaths occur in a hospital, nursing home or long term care facility. NPT Reports: Aging Matters: End of Life weaves personal stories of families alongside interviews with scholars, doctors, and medical ethicists to explore the complicated experience of dying, and why so few live the death they say they want.

Produced and presented by Nashville Public Television (NPT), the program explores how the culture of death and dying in America has been radically transformed by medical science, how the medical system reinforces our culture-wide unwillingness to face death, as well as efforts to change how Americans understand and talk about dying. Among the topics addressed in Aging Matters are the roles of advance directives, palliative care and hospice in an end-of-life strategy. Kathy Mattea, the Grammy® and CMA® Award-winning singer-songwriter and advocate for a number of causes, including AIDS awareness and research, global warming and Appalachian mining practices, hosts the show.

In facing death, this doctor sees a way to live well

Dr. BJ Miller does not work to heal patients, but to ensure quality of life amid advanced or serious illness. Sometimes people suggest his job is depressing, but Miller doesn’t see it that way. When people are dying it changes how they live, he says. Miller gives his Brief but Spectacular take on dying and living.

What Really Matters? - In the End

The pursuit of proof of anything paranormal is always like the carrot held out in front of one but ever just out of reach, at least to most of us and certainly the masses. Really does it matter to ones personal inner life?


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Doctor Asks Terminally Ill Kids What Really Matters In Life Here Are Their Answers

Dr. Alastair McAlpine saw negativity in the world wherever he turned, so he decided to tweet some of the wisdom he’d learned from his terminally ill patients. These kids were all between the ages of four and nine years old, but they still managed to pinpoint exactly what it is that made life worth living for them — and their answers might surprise you.

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