You, my friend, are going to die.
What? What kind of motivational tool is that? Real inspiring! In fact, it is. Our mortality may perhaps be the ultimate inspiration and motivation! If we lived on this earth eternally, we could be procrastinators extraordinaire! We would never have to get anything done because there would always be tomorrow. But, alas, we pass on and all we leave are the memories and the lives of others we affected while we were here. Sound gloomy? In actuality, it is exciting! You see, this gives us purpose (and a deadline, pun intended). We can choose how we will live on in the hearts and memories of others. We do this by proposing to live lives NOW that make changes happen, in ourselves and those around us.
What kind of legacy will you leave? How will your family and friends remember you? How will you leave your descendants in the following areas? Give some thought to them and make some changes. In doing so, you will begin to lock in your legacy.
- Emotionally: Have you ever stepped back and asked yourself how you treat other people and how that affects them emotionally? I have four children, all under 10. I am acutely aware that they are being shaped emotionally by how I treat them and teach them how to deal with the world. I am especially aware of this from my own background. I can directly trace my emotional shortcoming to the emotional coolness I felt from my own family. Are you raising emotionally healthy kids who are both independent as well as interdependent. Are you helping your spouse to grow emotionally? Give this some serious thought.
- Spiritually: In my mind, the "God" question is the most important. You know, I often hear people say that they are just going to let their kids "figure it out on their own." These same people will show them how to shoot a basketball, trade stocks, and build a tree house, all simply temporal issues, but leave the answers to the biggest question up in the air! Now I am not advocating cramming anything down their throats, just taking the time to help them find their way. Are you helping and encouraging those around you to find their spiritual life? Are you living an authentic spiritual life that will be your legacy? Give some serious thought to this.
- Physically: Now I know what you are thinking: I canít change my genes. They got what they got and theyíll have to live with it. To a certain extent this is true. I am 5í11 for the rest of my life. I will never be 6', and neither will my kids. What I am talking about though is to be examples of taking our physical health seriously. The statistics prove that whatever bad habits you have, your kids are likely to do them as well. Why? Because you are their example. This is why I work to stay physically fit. I work out. I lift weights. I eat right (most of the time - I am a sucker for Breyerís Vanilla Bean Ice Cream). I donít smoke. I want to leave a legacy of health behind for my kids. True, they can still go astray, but I will do my best to give them a good example to follow. Give this some serious thought.
- Financially: There are two primary ways you can leave a financial legacy. First, teach your loved ones about how to handle money (some of you may need to learn yourself first). There are just so many good books on the subject, there is no excuse for not knowing. Rich Dad, Poor Dad is a good book to start with, or perhaps The Millionaire Next Door. These will teach you the basics. Secondly, you can leave an inheritance. Now let me be clear on this. This does not have to be after you die. In fact, the more you have, the more I believe you ought to give away while you are alive. Letís face it, the older you get, the less need you have for money once the basics are taken care of. It always cracks me up that by the time you can afford a big house, your kids are gone and you donít need one! Turn the money over early so you can watch the joy of your loved ones spending, investing and giving it! This is of course predicated upon the assumption that you have first taught them how to handle it. If you have, then you should give it away while youíre alive so you can enjoy seeing your legacy in action! Give your financial inheritance some serious thought.
- Relationally: What kind of legacy will you leave in regard to how people you know interact relationally with others? When people look at how you interact with others, will they be better off if they develop the same relational habits? Will your legacy be one of love, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and forgiveness? As you live this life, you will see that your legacy grows after you in those you influence day by day. Give the idea of influencing others relationally some serious thought.
- Intellectually: I donít know about you, but I want to challenge people to deeper intellectual thought. In a day and age of People Magazine mentalities, we need people who will challenge us to think deeper. Are you doing anything that will challenge your sphere of influence to intellectual gains? Will those left after you are gone say that you made them think thoughts they hadnít before? That you challenged them to be smarter? Give this issue some serious thought.
- Functionally: Functionally? Yep. Itís a catch-all word. It is how they function. It is all of the above, rolled into one. How will those you influence actually function? This is to a great degree how you function. Are you well-rounded? Are you balanced? Do you keep the main things the main things? Is your life functioning well? Make it your goal to live a balanced, functional life so you can leave a legacy of such. Give your life function some serious thought.
I ended each paragraph with a challenge so think seriously about each. These arenít issues we will solve immediately. They take a lifetime to build and they will ebb and flow. But as you diligently pursue staying on top of them all, you will be locking in that legacy you desire to leave behind!
Chris Widener is a popular speaker and writer as well as the President of Made for Success, a company helping individuals and organizations turn their potential into performance, succeed in every area of their lives and achieve their dreams.
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