I was doing a workshop at a youth shelter I volunteer at and the topic for the day was Values. One of the exercises was borrowed from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: write your obituary. The purpose of this exercise is to give you an opportunity to think about how you want to be remembered and to get you to think about whether or not the way you’re living your life today reflects that vision.
For me, this was a great exercise! It really helped me to start thinking about what I could do RIGHT NOW to make my future legacy a reality. If I wanted to be remembered for giving back to the community but wasn’t currently volunteering, when did I plan to start? The truth of the matter is that we don’t know when our time on this earthly plane will expire, so when do we start creating our legacy? If we really think about it, we are creating our legacy every day, the question is, “is it the legacy we truly want to leave?”
We don’t often give much thought to our legacy. We might have some vague ideas about how we want to be remembered by our loved ones; however I wonder how many of us think about whether the life we are currently living reflects that desire? We want to be remembered as kind, loving and generous but is that how we treat the people we encounter on a daily basis? Was giving the finger to the driver that cut you off an act of love? What about the homeless person who you walked past, trying to avoid eye contact with them? Was that an act of generosity or kindness?
Feeling guilty about our weak moments isn’t going to help us build our legacy. What we need to do is simply be more mindful of our actions. Considering what we want our legacy to be provides us with an opportunity to give some serious thought to our values. What’s important to us and the way we live our lives? When we have a clear picture of what we hold dear, what the foundation of our lives is, we gain perspective.
The perspective we obtain provides us with clarity which we can use to guide our actions. When we are clear on our values, decision making becomes a little easier. If the end result doesn’t support our values, then it’s easy to say no. When we are unsure about what’s important to us, it can be easier to act according to what’s best for others whether or not it’s in our best interest.
Legacies are important to a lot of us. It’s the mark we leave behind long after we’re gone. If leaving behind a long lasting legacy is something we desire, shouldn’t we spend more time on its creation? I believe that we should do at least one thing every day that helps you to be the person you want to be remembered as. Instead of becoming frustrated with strangers or loved ones, treat them with patience and kindness. I’m reminded of a Gandhi quote that I love:
Keep your thoughts positive because your thoughts become your words;
Keep your words positive because your words become your behavior;
Keep your behavior positive because your behavior becomes your habits;
Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values;
Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.
I would add, keep your destiny positive, because your destiny becomes your legacy. May we all leave behind the legacy that our hearts’ desire. ♥