During Academy Award season, we see people making history, achieving dreams, and living their legacy. What about you? Life is short. When your soul begins its journey to the other side, what legacy will you leave behind? In fact, most people are so caught up in their day-to-day activities they seldom consider how their behavior and actions influences the legacy they leave for friends, spouses, parents, and citizens of humanity. “Yeah,” you say, “But does my legacy really matter?” Of course. Your thoughts and actions 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 requires a personal mission statement. We’ve heard of business mission statements, but a mission statement for your life is 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 a paragraph illustrating your goals and purpose. It has one function: guide you in making critical decisions affecting the direction of your life. While you may choose not to tell everyone what your personal mission statement is, those around you should 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 area or all four is your choice. The goal is to create a personal mission statement reflecting who you are and encompasses everything you want to be known for.
Live Your Mission
Your personal mission statement can guide your life. That’s when legacy creation begins. One way to ensure you take an active role in shaping your legacy, write your own eulogy. Morbid? Not really. 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:
• Who you are: Go beyond societal roles, 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 “can’t see the forest for the trees” is a reference to people who get so involved with the details they lose sight of the larger issue. The same concept applies to your legacy. If you only focus on the daily minutia of life you can lose sight of your overall mission; then it’s easy to wander and miss opportunities.
• What your ideal life is: If money, time, education, or 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.
Get started on your life’s mission and legacy today. Creativity and identifying a meaningful purpose takes time, so be sensitive to the process. Think of this as your unique opportunity to create the life of your dreams. Do you think 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? Likely, they fixed their gaze on their overarching goals and took the time to plan and work toward the legacy they achieved. You can do the same.