This time of year, it’s worth considering several valuable lessons we can learn from Charles Dickens’ memorable miser, Ebenezer Scrooge. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge comes face-to-face with the effects of his lifetime of negative habits and attitudes when a series of ghosts show him the past, present and potential future. The first apparition to pay him a visit is Scrooge’s deceased business partner, Jacob Marley, who tells Scrooge: “I wear the chain I forged in life. I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it."

The links of Morley’s chain sound like they could well be the same negative habits and attitudes that also shackle poor Scrooge.

After Scrooge encounters disturbing scenes in the Past and the Present, the ghost of Christmas-Yet-To-Come transports him to a time just after his own funeral. He is forced to endure the painful, unvarnished truth of what people really think of him. It’s an alarming but valuable wake-up-call for the stone-hearted curmudgeon.

“The Spirit was immovable as ever. Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.”

Spurred on by this shocking, up-close-and-personal rendezvous with his own mortality, Scrooge exclaims to the Spirit: “I am not the man I was. I will not be that wretched creature any longer.”

And he is indeed transformed overnight. He awakens the next morning, Christmas Day, a changed man. “I am as light as a feather,” he cries. “I am as happy as an angel. I am as merry as a schoolboy!”

That’s the power of what I call the “Ebenezer Effect.” And it’s one important lesson we should all learn from Scrooge: Personal transformation can happen quickly, even overnight, if you believe it can and if you have the right motivation.

Another life-changing lesson is that we all have the ability to project ourselves into the future and imagine what people are likely to say about us after we’re gone. Scrooge almost waited until it was too late. The good news is you don’t have to wait for a ghostly escort service. You can take this journey anytime you want through the power of your own imagination.

Write Your Own Eulogy
As I describe in my book HabitForce!, there’s a great way to maximize the positive impact of this imaginary excursion to the future: Sit down, grab a pen and notepad, and write your own eulogy.

Say what? Yes, I know that to some this may sound a bit morbid. But I assure you it’s an extremely enlightening, worthwhile and motivating process.

Now, before you exclaim, “Bah, humbug!,” let me explain how this will benefit you.

They say nothing focuses the mind like the guillotine. In the same vein, writing your own eulogy will help you jumpstart and sustain positive change in your life by establishing a clear blueprint for the life you want to lead, what you want to accomplish, what kind of person you aspire to be, and how you want to be remembered.

It’s important to put your life into perspective. First imagine what you think your friends and loved ones will say and think about you when you’re gone. Be brutally honest. There’s no point lying to yourself about this. Now imagine what you would WANT them to say and think about you. Is there a gap? Then start closing the gap right away, just as Scrooge did that Christmas morning. He had a lifetime of crotchetiness and selfishness for which to atone. But he had the courage to break the chain that linked him to his unhappy past.

As you write your eulogy, record your life’s accomplishments in the past tense. Did you write that book you’ve been talking about? Did you set a positive example? Did you donate and volunteer to help those less fortunate? Did you raise a wonderful family, start that business, travel the world, or learn another language? Did you make a positive difference to your family, your community, your country and the world at large? In short, did you live up to your potential or did you fall short?

Be as specific and concrete as possible. Don’t spare any details. It may be difficult, but try to see yourself as others see you. Don’t sugar coat things.

This eulogy exercise helps to focus the mind on long-term goals and on big questions about your life’s purpose. The sooner you write your eulogy, the better. Jacob Marley never got around to it and he ended up chained and condemned to eternal purgatory. Scrooge almost waited until it was too late. So don’t put it off. This is something you should do right now!

A Mission Statement You Can't Ignore
Remember this. The eulogy you write today isn't etched in stone like Scrooge’s name on that tombstone. You can always go back to the document periodically and make some edits, add new goals or even remove things that no longer apply. The main thing is to get something on paper that reflects your long-term goals, heartfelt values, and deepest principles. Those things shouldn't change very much over time.

Basically, your written eulogy amounts to a uniquely powerful “mission statement” for your life, designed intentionally to get and keep your attention over time. Once written, this eulogy is a document that you ignore only at your peril.

At one point, Scrooge makes this pledge to the ghost of Christmas-Yet-to-Come: “I will honor Christmas in my heart and I will try to keep its spirit all year. I will live in the Past, the Present and the Future. I will not forget the lessons that the Spirits of all three have taught me.”

Likewise, we should not forget the lessons Scrooge can teach us. In fact, Scrooge should be seen as one of the great literary role models for personal change. He shows us that it’s never to late to change and that change can happen literally overnight. There’s no time like the present to project yourself into the future, write your own eulogy, and harness the power of the “Ebenezer Effect.”

It’s a great way to clarify what’s most important to you and to set your life’s course in the direction you want it to take -- before it’s too late. You sure don’t want your written eulogy to be late for your own funeral.

So this holiday season, go ahead ... be a Scrooge!

Author's Bio: 

Matthew Cossolotto (aka “The Empowerment Pro”), author of HabitForce! and All The World’s A Podium, is founder and president of New York-based Ovations International ( A member of the National Speakers Association, he conducts Podium Power! and FAILURE-Proof Your Life™ programs for corporations, associations, nonprofit organizations, schools and community groups. Visit