How you conduct yourself along your life journey, determines how your story will unfold. This is a basic law of the universe—we get what we give and, ultimately, we are what we believe. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy. If we think negatively, we open ourselves up to negative experiences. If we lead from a place of general optimism, we set ourselves up to experience more positive events.
Which got me thinking about the concept of our legacy. What is someone’s legacy? It is the culmination of the richness of the individual’s life, including what that person accomplished and the impact he or she had on people and places they touched.
Ultimately, the story of a person’s life reflects the individual’s legacy. Although we often talk of someone’s legacy at the end of their life or when someone is reflecting back on a long career and their achievements, your legacy is actually the lessons and messages you want to share with those that matter most to you.
Several readers in the Outside Insights community commented that I think about and discuss the topics that they typically wouldn’t have the time in their day-to-day life to consider or work on. I add value by bringing these concepts to life through simple exercises that can ultimately make a big life impact. I do this work so that others can benefit from the lessons, no matter how busy their lives may be.
A good exercise for deciding what kind of life you want to lead is by considering the type of legacy that you want to leave behind. It doesn’t matter where you’re currently at in life, taking the time to define your legacy is a great way to identify if you’re on the right track, and if so, what do you need to be doing more of to continue down the path.
In my life I’ve made a point to identify and learn from people who have done the work to define an intentional legacy, and have done the work to make it happen. Through meeting with these people, I have identified four areas that help create legacies:
Traditionally, this has looked like how much money someone has made or the different milestones they’ve achieved in their career. Something along the lines of: They made a million dollars and became chair of their company and received countless industry awards!
I’d like to challenge this definition.
To me, legacy is about so much more than business and economics. Have you done “the work” to identify and define your true purpose in life? Are you living that purpose authentically? That is true success and that is where your real legacy lies.
Write a speech dated 10 years from now as if you were addressing your family, children or future children, community, friends, etc. During this speech, what are you toasting to? What accomplishments are you most proud of? The act of writing it down gives the opportunity to work on those outcomes in further planning.
Impact on others:
Every successful person has been profoundly impacted and inspired by others at some point in their life—whether that be family, community and or calling. While in Idaho recently I found myself in line at the grocery store looking for a certain clerk who had helped me bag my groceries before. This clerk, Adam, had a disability. Even so, Adam worked circles around other clerks and knew just how to make every customer smile. Adam simply created a unique Nth degree experience in the middle of what could be a mundane exchange. Impact is how we treat others when no one is watching and when you’re not trying—Adam left a lasting impact on me.
To me, I also regard impact as helping to lead, teach and develop those around you. As a leader, can your people say you positively impacted them? Are they operating by the principles that you’ve established for your business? Are they bringing these values to life in their day-to-day interactions with others?
Many of us impact others based on the lessons or values we share. This is where grandparents, teachers, mentors and coaches can really make a difference that last lifetimes.
Doing good deeds:
The good works that a person does throughout life can establish a legacy of kindness, generosity and social responsibility. From helping others who are less fortunate or in a vulnerable population, those who do good work throughout their lives establish a positive legacy that helps make life better for others. Whether it’s volunteering, completing small acts of kindness or donating to good causes, there are countless ways that good deeds leave a mark on the world.
I have come to understand that this is the role Placers and our foundation, Placers Cares, does for me and my employees. We are blessed to have abundance in resources, relationships and knowledge about careers and being an agent to the workforce and get to do a good deed every single day. We get to help people define their own legacy!
They say the best way to help yourself is to help someone else. Take inventory of the different ways that you help others. Are you filling your tank and giving back? Are you doing enough good deeds?
The resources we share are a big part of our legacy. No this isn’t just about money, either. True wealth is not limited to money. I think people who generously give their time, talents and expertise are well on their way to creating a positive legacy of good even if they aren’t going to have a library or civic building erected in their name any time soon.
We can share our talents through service.
In my own small business we allocate time for volunteerism. If you’re in a position to use your resources to give back, how can you direct them so they can be shared and do more good in the community?
To be perfectly honest I don’t day dream of my legacy. I do, however, take time to reflect on how I am stacking up against the plans that I have laid out for my life. We all only get one try, we need to do the work to make sure we’re going to make ourselves proud at the end of the road. And friends, I promise this sense of pride will not come from the numbers in your bank account or the memories you have from climbing up the corporate ladder. No – what do you really want your legacy to be?
In summary, defining your legacy doesn’t have to be a challenge:
– Know what you want for yourself and accomplish it.
– Do good deeds even when no one is watching.
– Share your resources and talents liberally and without expectation.
Take your time and make sure everything is coming from a genuine place. You have one life to live and one legacy to share – make it great.
Until next time, friends.
If you enjoyed this article, I recommend reading these past Outside Insights posts:
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