A s I sat on a flight home recently, I pulled out my iPad and jotted down some notes on things I both needed and wanted to do. As my brain churned away in this undistracted setting, the list slowly turned into a summary of my life’s mission, life goals and personal goals for the next year.
Many of the areas I thought about could apply to anyone: like financial, health, work and family. The all-encompassing life goals included:
There were, however, two life goals I listed that may not be on everyone’s radar and yet could be the most important:
Often we get so caught up in our daily grind, striving for some far-reaching goal and just plowing through each day in the hope of getting there. On weekends or vacations, we cherish the momentary break. We often lose sight of the present and some of us reach an end goal that we realize isn’t what we really wanted, ending in disappointment and regret.
So what can we do, to put these two really important goals in place?
The following excerpts from the “Twelve Pillars” by Jim Rohn and Chris Widener summarize the concept of leaving a personal legacy very succinctly:
“Live a life that will help others spiritually, intellectually, physically, financially and relationally. Live a life that serves as an example of what an exceptional life can look like.
Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone else’s hands, but not you.
Leaving a legacy is like planting a tree. As that seed grows into a tree, it will provide seeds, so that future generations can then plant their own.”
Don’t let years, decades, even an entire lifetime go by without offering the best of you to those you love most. So how do you go about designing a personal legacy? Here is one suggested method: visualize.
Fast forward to the end of your days and imagine you are on your ‘death bed.’ When you look back on the life you have lived, what do you want to see?
Think about what path to take in the remainder of your life to steer you towards a legacy you will be proud of.
One of my favorites books is 20,000 Days and Counting, by Robert D. Smith. Smith addresses his mid-life crisis at age 54 (when he was 20,000 days old) and how he pledged to live with intense purpose, constant joy and lasting influence for his remaining days in life. His premise is we all know we will die, but we do not know how long we will live; so make the most of every day.
Smith writes about the little known story of William Borden, who died at the age of 25. Borden was already wealthy when he graduated from a Chicago high school in 1904; he was the heir to his family’s massive fortune. While at Yale, he helped rehabilitate drunks forgotten on the streets of New Haven, and then attended a seminary and chose to become a missionary in China. Borden, unfortunately, died in Egypt on his way to China, where he got infected with spinal meningitis.
Borden had jotted down several resolutions each time he faced decisions in his life. The first, when he decided to become a missionary: “No reserves.” The second, when he rejected the high paying job offers: “No retreats.” And the last, before his death: “No regrets.” No reserves. No retreats. No regrets.
In the process of following his dream to become a missionary to the far corners of the world, he had a remarkable effect in his own community. He remained focused on his goal without losing sight of the here and now. Did he reach his goal? No. But he fulfilled his purpose. William Borden made every day count.
Inspired by Smith, I have a routine of marking up the date and the number of days I have been alive on the white-board in my office each day. That simple five-second action helps to remind me that “every single day counts.” His book also reminds me that life is a “series of moments” and there have been only a few really major influencers or people in my life that I have truly counted on, and I am talking less than 50. These include certain family members and friends, but not necessarily people I see all the time. That doesn’t mean we don’t have hundreds or even thousands of contacts or people we know, it’s the ones that are really there for each other that often count most.
On the matter of capturing impactful moments in your day, I suggest you consider a simple exercise promoted by Dr. Martin Seligman, a renowned psychologist, which he refers to as the “Three Good Things Exercise.”
This exercise has also been scientifically demonstrated to be effective in increasing happiness and wellbeing. It is a simple method of redirecting attention to positive thoughts. Humans spend more time thinking of the negative experiences than positive ones. This negative bias is the source of a lot of anxiety and general lack of wellbeing.
Determining the “why” of the event is the most important part of the exercise.
If you could see the good in all circumstances, no matter how small, imagine how it would help you respond. Will you put your best foot forward, or will you whine, complain and accept a negative result? How you see the situation will determine your response and the ultimate result. After all, 90% of the result to any situation is based on one’s attitude; the remaining 10% is what we do with that attitude.
Have fun reflecting on your daily life and charting a path you will hopefully feel very proud of!
If you have any comments on this topic, please share.