I’ve been reflecting on a coaching session I recently had with a client. Like most people I coach, she came to me because she had goals she wanted to achieve and had come to the conclusion that she could do with some help so that her journey could be quicker and more effective. Thinking about my time with this client, it struck me that a recurring theme with my clients is the heartfelt desire to make a difference; to leave behind a world that is a better place because of their contribution however small. Now it’s not always obvious that the goal of building a profitable business, or progressing in their chosen career path or even forging a new path because the old one is no longer working, has legacy building at its centre. But as I probe deeper into the reasons for wanting these and other ‘improvements’ in their lives, what my clients really want is to be remembered for having lived a meaningful life, or done some good to individuals or groups that matter to them.
I believe this is the way we are all fundamentally wired. If you take away life’s disappointments and traumatic experiences, and if you exclude the small minority of individuals that can appear wrapped up in their own self-importance, most people want to leave a legacy of some sort behind. That’s often why they get an education, start a business, invent something, volunteer for a worthy cause etc. Yes, having enough money to pay the bills and have a decent life, scores highly among the reasons people want to do the things mentioned above, but it’s often more than just about the money.
It is for this reason that I love the concept of living life backwards – beginning with the end in mind. What this looks like is this: you think about how you would like to be remembered after you are gone from this world and live your life accordingly. Some have taken it even further– they write the eulogy they would like read at their funeral and then ensure the life decisions they make and actions they take culminate in their becoming the person described in the eulogy. Extreme, you might think, but what a way to live life intentionally. It would certainly make making decisions easier, helping you say no to those things you know won’t lead where you want to end up and yes to the things that will. When you recognise that life is a series of moments – some seemingly insignificant at the time – like threads in a tapestry, taking actions that make those moments count becomes incredibly important.
Who would you like to be remembered as? What would you like your friends, colleagues or family members to remember you for? Will the thought of you bring a smile to peoples’ faces or a grimace? Will you be missed or will people be glad you are finally gone? When we start living with this level of intentionality, having these questions at the back of our minds, our priorities will no doubt change. We will find ourselves letting go of things that don’t really matter and embracing the things that do. We will be influenced less by what others think and more by our convictions. What freedom this will bring to many of us bound by society’s spoken and unspoken constraints!
Take some time today to ask yourself what legacy you will leave behind and whether you need to change course if you discover you aren’t headed in the direction you would like. One small adjustment can have huge ramifications. A ripple has the potential to become a mighty wave. It could be the difference between regret and satisfaction.