As this year winds down, many achievers and leaders begin to think about big picture issues. What did they accomplish this last year? What are their goals for the coming year, both personal and professional? What are their strategies to achieve those goals? But one area that oftentimes we forget to evaluate is just what kind of legacy are we leaving behind for those we love and care about?
While this is a word we are familiar with, we oftentimes spend very little time focused on it. What is it that we want to leave behind once our days come to an end? Perhaps the reason our legacy oftentimes gets such little attention is that too often we act as if our days are unlimited, or at least we don’t see them coming to an end anytime soon.
But if we are honest with ourselves, we can think back over the last year or two and we can name at least one person and perhaps several friends and/or family, who were with us then but have now passed on. And it’s likely we can also identify young friends who believed they had many more years to live. Yet they too have passed on.
Our days are numbered. For some, that will mean that 2016 will be the year in which their days wind down. For others, it will be further into the future. But for all of us, that final day is sure to come.
Now my intent is not to be morbid or to cause us any discomfort. Rather it is to simply recognize the obvious and to plan for the day after our final day. You see, the day after our final day on earth will be the day our legacy will be revealed. But the days leading up to that final day will be the days in which our legacy is created.
In order to create a legacy, though, there are several steps one must consider.
To create suggests intentionality. It infers that there is a plan with a desired outcome. Intentionality is a trait that is found in the most successful leaders of our day. And so it stands to reason that when it comes to our own legacy, we must give thought to what it is we desire to leave behind. What are the qualities, attributes, and values we desire to communicate to our loved ones and sphere of influence that will impact them in a manner that will outlive our life? We must identify those values and then begin to make choices that prioritize and advance them.
It’s a mistake to think that one must be older in life to focus one’s attention on their legacy. The truth is one is never too young to begin to establish their legacy and we never know when our legacy will be permanently etched. I recently read of Sergeant Dennis Weichel, a 29-year-old soldier with the Rhode Island National Guard, who gave his life to save a young Afghan girl. He was described as “the living embodiment of the Army’s core values: courageous, selfless and loyal.” In his short 29 years, Sergeant Weichel established a legacy that most of us would be honored to leave behind.
Re-chart your Legacy, if needed
While it’s true that now is the time to start one’s legacy, it’s also true that it’s never too late to re-chart one’s legacy. Too often in life we find ourselves down a road that we never intended to travel, yet one choice after another leads us to a destination we regret. Thankfully, so long as we are breathing, we have the opportunity to reverse course and re-chart a new destination. And as we do, we can begin to redefine our legacy.
I’m reminded of the criminal on the cross who hung next to Jesus on that seminal day for all of mankind. We have no background on the two criminals who hung there with Jesus. But we do know the ultimate outcome of both. And literally billions of people since that day know of the decision made by the one criminal who addressed Jesus with these words: “Lord, remember me when you come into Your kingdom.” While no doubt this man’s past was one of shame and failure, with that one final choice, his legacy was established not only for the rest of recorded time but more importantly for all of eternity.
If your past is checkered and one you would rather forget, refocus your attention on the here and now. Make a decision today to change your legacy and begin on a new path of victory and success.
Find Legacy Role Models
Oftentimes the best way to achieve success is to find someone else who is succeeding and duplicate what they have done. Similarly, there is no shortage of men and women who have passed on but who left behind glowing legacies for us to follow and duplicate. I think of one such man, my father-in-law, Terry Morgan. Terry passed away nearly ten years ago and was someone who, from the world’s standards of financial abundance, would never be written up in any business journals. However, as Lori and I celebrated his life in the days following his passing, we were not only amazed but encouraged beyond words as person after person approached us and shared with us how Terry had impacted their lives. His consistent service to others because of his love for God, had such a broad impact on so many that there is no question that Terry left a glorious legacy, eternal in nature. And I’m certain that Terry has served as a role model for many he impacted.
As we wrap up this year and begin to think of the new one, let’s not overlook the importance of our legacies and what it is we want them to be. I trust the above steps will assist you as you seek to establish a legacy that will shine years into the future and influence many for good.