What’s Your Legacy?
We hear a lot about carbon footprints, but what about our own? Not so much. And yet we have the ability to impact our own footprints far more.
Oh, when people get a certain age, and surely soon before they die, they think about their lives and wonder about their legacy and how or if they’ll be remembered. But during our lives we think too little about the legacy we’re leaving in the minds and hearts of others as we live.
Years ago, I heard a speaker at a conference workshop insist on succeeding at any cost. If someone was prone on the floor between her and what she wanted, she’d walk over the body and keep going. I still cringe, thinking about that. I think the intention was to exhibit determination. Not knocking determination—it’s important—but to many, that remark translated as cold and callous. I seriously doubt that was the intention, and I know this person. She is not cold and callous. Yet, that is the footprint she left that day.
Since only we know our objective and our motives, let’s give others the benefit of doubt and worry not about their footprint legacy but about our own. Any clue what yours will be? What you want it to be?
Probably not. We don’t much like thinking about these things until we need to, and then we wish we had thought about them earlier. We regret.
Regret is merciless and we’re better off to do our best to avoid deliberate encounters with it. Few of us welcome another nag in our lives to gnaw on our bones. Most have plenty of that already without inviting more. So let’s get over the ick factor and look at what we really want.
OUR LEGACY: WHAT WE WANT
People want different things—and that is a blessing to us all. What’s significant to some might not be significant to others. That’s fine. This isn’t about others. It’s about you. This is about what you want.
Many years ago, I was walking through a historic cemetery and saw a tombstone for a woman. “She was the sunshine of our home.” That’s what was written on it. I knew right then that was a legacy for me. I wanted and still want someone in my home to feel that way about me. Seeing that headstone was a defining moment in my life. And that brings me to this question:
What is the defining moment in your life—your legacy moment?
Don’t just whip off a response. Think about it. If your defining moment hasn’t yet come, hold the thought so that when it does, you’ll recognize it.
When you know what you want, you can then set out to embrace it. You deliberately choose specific things, specific ways of doing things that encourage that footprint.
Maybe you want your legacy to be that you were always there for your friends. You tried your best to help others whenever you could. Maybe it was to be a fantastic parent—to your own kids, or to kids who had no parents.
Maybe your legacy is that you always told the truth, were there for a neighbor, a widow who needed handyman jobs done. Maybe you were there, coaching Little League.
You’ll find clues as to what it is in what most matters to you. Start your search there. Odds are, you’ll find it. Here’s a tip: it likely won’t be in your work or in anything vague. (Have you ever seen “He was good at his job” on a tombstone?) It’s typically always about people. Relating to other people. Helping or loving others or making their lives better.
Only you can define what you want your legacy to be. Others can only call the question. You have to answer it.
And I hope you will. Because odds are really good that your purpose in life is tied to your footprint legacy. And each step you take during your life toward fulfilling your purpose infuses your life with more meaning—and more contentment because it’s infused with more meaning. You’re living in harmony with yourself, and that’s about as good as things get in the real world and real life.
Here’s the thing: we all touch lives. Some we know we touch, some we don’t, but none of us are totally isolated. We impact others. For better or worse. We influence others. Again, for better or worse. We establish and adopt our standards and what we most value. Others do the same.
The bottom line is that we’re all going to leave a legacy. In the memories and hearts of others, so long as they live, our legacy lives in them. When you think about that, doesn’t it signal us that what legacy we choose to leave matters?
Will yours be a chaotic jumble of footprints? Clear and sharp footprints? Ones where your heels slid and the back half of the print is smeared and undefined?
The choice is ours to make. We can ignore knowing we impact others and will continue to impact them, leaving messy footprints, or we can embracing knowing it, and deliberately choose the exact legacy we leave for others . . . one free from regret.