In my last blog, 3 Steps to Uncovering Your Purpose, we focused on how you want others to remember you, and how you want to live your life so you could take control of your legacy. If you haven’t read that article, I highly encourage you to do so first and then come back to this article.
Your legacy is how others will remember you. It’s the stories that will be passed on to future generations about who you were and how you lived your life. Whether you choose to create a legacy or not, you will have one. Everyone does. The question is, will we be remembered with love and respect or will we just be remembered?
Have you read or seen “The Last Lecture” by Randy Bausch? Randy was a professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University when he discovers he has pancreatic cancer. Knowing he has only a limited time left to live, he becomes very deliberate in how he spends the days he has left.
Randy decided to dedicate his final days to teaching his children the things he wanted them to know. He focused on the lessons of having fun and living life to the fullest because you never know when it will be over. He said he would rather have pancreatic cancer than be hit by a bus because at least this way he was blessed with the ability to say goodbye to his friends and families in his way.
The best way I know of living up to your personal standards and leaving your legacy is by creating what I call a Life Contract.
If we break a contract, there is usually consequences. In business, the consequences are usually monetary. In our personal lives, however, the effects are usually more personal. What if we have decided that one of our highest moral values is to be a mentor to our children? If we don’t live up to the standards we have set in our life contract; our natural consequences will likely be to feel guilty or shameful. We may be able to make excuses to those around us, but we will know in our hearts that we are breaking an ideal that is important to us.
A Life Contract should reflect who you are at your core. It is your foundation for making decisions and becomes your standard for living. While circumstances in our lives will change from year to year, we get married, have kids, build a career, our values and standards should remain stable. This stability will always give us a personal sense of who we are and who we want to become. It provides us with a changeless foundation in our constantly changing world.
Your Life Contract need not be a formal document. It can be something as simple as a poem, a phrase, a song, or a quote. What it looks like is up to you. I do suggest you make it memorable and personable, so it quickly comes to the top of your mind when needed.
To write your Life Contract, reflect on your purpose statements from the funeral exercise. Notice what common themes are present in all of them.
- What character traits do you hold most dear?
- What do want to be the center or the focus of your life?
- How do you want to be remembered after you die?
- What do you want to be your contributions to the world?
- How do you want to live each day of your life?
Here are a few examples of Life Contracts:
- To live, to love, to laugh and to become!
- I am a loving and supporting mom, wife, and community leader who is always leading others by example. I follow the principles of kindness, compassion, understanding and responsibility.
- To be a teacher, expanding the paradigm of others and inspiring them to make their lives a masterpiece.
- To treat other in a way that makes God proud.
- To develop my gifts so that I may inspire others to do the same.
Don’t confuse your purpose or your Life Contract with goals. Proper goals are an extension of who you have decided to be. They reflect what is important to you, and are a way to live out those ideals, but they are not what your life is all about.
Goals have an end in mind and are activity based while purpose is ongoing. My goal is to write and publish my books and make them available to anyone seeking to improve their lives. It is an expression of my purpose which centers around contributing to the happiness of the world.
Now it’s your turn. Go back and carefully inspect what you wrote in the funeral exercise. Look for what you want others to say about you and how you want to be remembered then write them into a Life Contract.
By deciding now what you want your legacy to be, you get the chance to make sure your lessons are taught. The great thing is you don’t have to wait to get cancer to do it. The truth is none of us have a clue as to when we will pass. We do, however, have a fresh opportunity every morning to start living life to the fullest. Decide right now to begin creating positive memories doing what you love with the ones you love.
Question: What legacy will you leave the world? You can leave a comment by clicking here.