4 Questions To Help You Define Your Legacy

This past week as been emotional and thought-provoking for me. I lost a dear friend unexpectedly from a heart condition. While we had not been close recently, our families had been really close during our children’s childhoods, full of fun, heart-warming memories. Almost every Friday night and Sunday afternoons, we were all together.

We were just a few months apart in age … and now he is gone from life here on earth.

My husband was asked to do a eulogy and as we were pouring through our memories, it brought a lot of emotion to the surface but also brought a sense of urgency about my own life. It was a stark reminder that our time is really short here and we need to make the most of the time we have.

As one person reflected, “when reading the dates of his lifetime, it’s clear the dash, between his birthday and the day of his passing, was big!” He lived with a sense of urgency. He had a really strong work ethic, sense of humor, amazing creativity, was entrepreneurial and with that combination of talents, he made a huge impact on many people.

Through his efforts he achieved a position of influence and power and he used it for good! The common theme I heard from many people was, “He changed the trajectory of my life.”

Wow! That’s impressive. Of course it got me thinking about my own mortality and questioning how I was using these precious days.

What is the legacy I want to leave?

How about you? I’m not trying to be morbid, but we don’t know when our story will end so we better get crackin’ and get on with it.

Is this a question worth pondering?  If so, here are some probing questions that may be helpful in getting to an answer:

  1.  What does success look like for me?  It’s important to define this and create the vision of what it looks like. Knowing where you want to go is the first step in figuring out how to get there.
  2. What do I want to be known for? What reputation do you want to have? What is the key theme you would want to hear at your funeral…or the words etched on your tombstone?
  3. What are my top 3 values?  What is most important to me? (Hint – take a look at how you spend your time and money. You may not like what you see, but that is a real indicator or what’s important to you)
  4. Am I living in a way that represents those values? If not, what changes do I need to make so I’m aligned?

It may be overwhelming to answer that original question – What legacy do I want to leave? However, for me, it makes it easier to break it down by realizing that the legacy you leave is built one day at a time, one person at a time, over a lifetime. So ask yourself …

What do I want people to say after I leave a room?  

… finish a conversation?                

… read my correspondence?

When you think about it that way, it helps you wrap your head around it, right?

Are you ready to label your legacy?

We’re burning daylight here so it’s time to get started!

Martha Duesterhoft is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@www.people-results.com.