When it’s Academy Award time, we see people in the news making history, achieving their dreams, and living their legacy. But what about you? Life is short. When your soul begins its journey to the other side, what legacy will you leave behind?
If you’ve never given that question a second thought, you’re not alone. Most people are so caught up in their day-to-day activities that they seldom consider how their behaviors and actions will influence the legacy they leave for their friends, spouses, parents, and citizens of humanity.
“Yeah,” you say, “But does my legacy really matter?”
Of course it does.
Your every thought and action are like pebbles lofted over an unbroken plane of water; the ripples you make have the power to shift the current of life for those you love. As the character Maximus proclaimed in the movie Gladiator, “What we do in life echoes through eternity.”
Know Your Mission
Leaving a legacy worthy of pride and remembrance first requires an overriding mission in your life-a personal mission statement. Many people have heard of mission statements for business, but having a mission statement for your life is a little different. Think of your personal mission statement as a strong motivational message that directs every aspect of your life.
Ideally, your personal mission statement should be a written, easy-to-remember sentence, short list of bullet points, or paragraph illustrating your life’s goals and purpose. It has one primary function: to guide you in making critical decisions that affect the direction of your life. While you may choose not to tell everyone you meet what your personal mission statement is verbatim, those around you should be able to sense what your mission is based on your words, deeds, and actions.
When creating your personal mission statement, think of the following:
Your purpose: What inspirational purpose appeals to you? What higher calling do you feel you were put on this earth to accomplish?
Your values: What core values do you refuse to compromise on? What principles would you die for?
Your behavioral standards: What behaviors do you deem of value in everyday life? Which of your actions would you want others to imitate?
Your character: What forms the basis of your personality, disposition, and moral fiber? What makes you you?
Whether you focus on one key area or all four is completely up to you. The goal is to create a personal mission statement that reflects who you are and encompasses everything you want to be known for.
Live Your Mission
Once you’ve crafted your personal mission statement, you can use it to guide your life. That’s when legacy creation really begins. After all, you can have a great personal mission statement in mind, but if you don’t live that mission every day, no one will know what you stand for.
One way to ensure you take an active role in shaping your legacy, sit down and write your own eulogy. Morbid? Not really. In fact, it’s a smart way to think with the end in mind and chart your life’s course accordingly.
As you create your eulogy, reflect on the following areas:
Who you are: Go beyond any societal roles you may fill, such as father, sister, employees, business owner, etc. Instead, focus on who you are inside. Who are you at your core?
What your goals are: Everyone wants to accomplish something in life. What do you want to accomplish before you die? What contributions do you want to make to society, to your family, to your profession, etc.? If your goals aren’t clear, it’s hard to reach them.
What’s important day-to-day: The old saying that someone “can’t see the forest for the trees” is a reference to people who get so involved with the details of an issue that they lose sight of the larger issue. The same concept can apply to creating your legacy. If you only focus on the daily minutia of life (the trees) you can lose sight of your overall mission (the forest). When that happens, it’s easy to get lost and wander aimlessly, resulting in missed opportunities for living your legacy.
What your ideal life is: If money, time, education, and any other perceived obstacles were no longer an issue, what would your ideal life look like? How would you spend your time? Whom would you associate with? What causes would you align yourself with? Get clear on your ideal life, for only then can you make strides to attain it.
The Legacy of a Lifetime
Get started on your life’s mission and legacy today, but don’t rush the process. Creativity and identifying a meaningful purpose can take time. So be sensitive to the process as well as the end result. The last thing you want is to feel that you’re performing an exercise of futility. That’s a surefire path to frustration. Rather, think of this as your unique opportunity to create the life of your dreams.
Do you think great people like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Theresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Walt Disney, or Susan B. Anthony and Academy Award Nominees and Winners just “happened” to leave a lasting legacy? More than likely, they fixed their gaze on their overarching goals and took the time to plan and work toward the legacy they achieved. You can-and should-do the same.