Leaving A Legacy: 8 Important Questions to Ask Yourself (2020 Edition)
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character.” —Billy Graham
The Brevity of Life
I was in Northern Michigan visiting friends a few weeks ago when I noticed the local obituaries flashing across the TV screen. I paused and watched. There was the errant young person who had passed; however, the notices were filled with people in their 50s, 60s, 70s and older. I sat back with a jolt.
“Oh, crap! I’m in my 50s!”
I know I’m not getting any younger, but as I continued to watch, this realization sank in like a bag of rocks dragging me into the depths of self-awareness about my own mortality.
Flash forward a week. I’m visiting my doctor for a well-check, and our conversation leads her to hand me an article written by her former mentor, Dr. Stephen Goldman, who suffers from ALS. The beautiful and insightful article titled, “With A Terminal Illness, What Do You Pray For This Yontef” articulated the emotions I felt up North when my eyes were tracking the ages on the obituaries.
Suggested Read: Vows Versus Your Obituary. Did You Measure Up?
Your Legacy Is More Than Your Bank Account
When we’re young, we arrogantly think we have all the time in the world. The reality is that time goes by quickly, and we waste much of it on the wrong things.
Even as we grow older we postulate our retirement and think about spending sunny days on a golf course, traveling, enjoying time with grandchildren, or leisurely reading the paper or browsing through a magazine over a cup of coffee or tea in the morning.
Our minds are future-oriented and time ignorant, yet life is time sensitive. If we are awake to it, the meaning of life can be discovered in each and every moment from the mundane to the exciting. Too often, we take these moments for granted.
Suggested Read: What Will Be Your Everdays?
8 Important Questions to Ask Yourself About the Legacy You’re Leaving
The impact we have on others in each moment is our legacy. Our legacy is not found in our bank account or in our material possessions. Here are some important questions for self-reflection and guidance toward living your legacy every day.
1. Did I Hug My Partner Today?
As we become comfortable in relationships, we forget to offer the small gestures that keep us bound to one another. It’s necessary to physically connect with each other–reach for your partner’s hand, softly rub the small of their back, embrace, gently stroke their hair. Life can be lonely, even in a relationship, if we fail to express love.
Suggested Read: Why A Hug Is Important For Your Wellbeing
2. Do I Use Kind Words with People?
Disagreements are normal but don’t require sarcasm, raised voices, or blame. Good communication is a practiced skill. Make it a point to unlearn poor communication habits. Sometimes all it takes is a pause and a breath to stop ourselves from speaking regretful words.
Suggested Read: Your Not So Ordinary Self-Improvement Tips
3. Do I Notice the Beauty of the World, and Do I Contribute to It or Detract from It?
Our distracted minds neglect to see the beauty in life. Look at the flowers, trees, mountains, lakes, oceans, or whatever scenery surrounds you. Even if you dwell in the city, there is still nature around you. Search for it; study it; appreciate it. Nature is what gave us life, yet we readily dismiss it as background noise. As you walk by a piece of trash, pick it up, or plant a flower, a tree, or a garden.
Suggested Read: Embracing An Authentic Life
4. Do I Give and Receive Graciously?
It is easy to get wrapped up in ourselves and fail to show appreciation when others go out of their way to help us. Sometimes, we may even act entitled and expect assistance. Conversely, we may know someone who is having a difficult time, but do we pick up the phone and call or take time out to visit them?
When we give, is it out of obligation or resentment, or do we put our heart and goodwill into the act?
5. Do I Ask for as Well as Offer Forgiveness?
Reach out to those we hurt, and forgive those who reach out to us. It takes enormous courage to admit fault, but the rewards are immense. Broken relationships can loom over us taking up space in our thoughts–space that could be better used for serving, creating, or loving. When we look back at why we stopped speaking to someone, the reasons are usually insignificant with regard to life’s big picture.
Suggested Read: How To Let Go And Live Mindfully
6. Do I Make a Difference?
We don’t have to change the world in an instant, but we can certainly turn someone’s day around with a kind word or a smile. Change comes from each of us doing the right thing or acting charitable in the moment.
7. Do I Listen?
We can’t make a difference in the lives of others if we don’t pay attention to their words. Set down the tablet or phone; turn off the TV; put away the papers; and listen–deeply. We devalue humans by ignoring them, so look your loved one in the eye and hear them.
8. Do I Consider the Needs of Others?
I passed an elderly veteran on the side of the road. He was dressed in a suit and donned the American flag on his tie. He held a sign asking for help. We are so quick to judge others before knowing their stories. We need to take care of one another. Life can change in a moment, and one day, we may need a little help, too.
Suggested Read: Appreciating What We Have
Living Life with Intention
I see my students caught up in the latest shoe craze or iPhone model. Most of them, including my own children, hope to be rich one day.
There is nothing wrong with money; however, money without love, kindness, empathy, and charity is purposeless and lonely.
Life is not about acquiring the most money or beautiful possessions; this is a lie society feeds us. Life is about loving each other the best we possibly can. Live a life of love, and you will inadvertently leave your mark on the world.
“You could not remove a single grain of sand from its place without thereby … changing something throughout all parts of the immeasurable whole.” – Fichte, The Vocation of Man (1800)
What do you want your legacy to be?
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