This is the time of year when we lose so many that we love. For some reason, so many people die between December and March, with most deaths being in January. It is astounding to me, when I look at my past, how many people I know who have passed away in the month of January. Because of this, during this time of year, I begin to contemplate my own mortality.
Looking at the end of your life can sometimes be a scary task. There are the logical things you can do to take care of business like getting your Wills, Enduring Power of Attorney, and Personal Directive up to date and in order. We often see our financial situation at death as our legacy, but after recently speaking at a Rotary Club in Calgary about this subject, I was reminded that leaving a legacy of meaning is what is most important.
Leaving a Legacy of Meaning
A legacy is about leaving something behind after we are gone. When we think of leaving a legacy we often think of things that have monetary value; however, in our lives we also collect a databank of knowledge, experiences and lessons but when we die this information goes with us unless we have been deliberate about passing that knowledge off to a receptive audience. In this article we will uncover how to use your knowledge, experiences, and lessons in life to discover your next personal purpose and leave a legacy of meaning.
Let me tell you about my father and why I choose to leave my corporate career making $120,000 a year to starting a company where I was making $50 a month for the first 6-months. My father worked for a civic government for nearly 40 years. He was smart, kept his skills up to date and retired with a really good pension. However, when I was speaking to him about his retirement he said he felt like so much of it was wasted. When he left his skills weren’t valued, his ideas weren’t implemented, and he didn’t even want the “retirement party” at the end of it all.What is legacy? (take comments)
Meridian Life Design says: “Often when you think about legacy, it’s something that is left behind after a person has passed. Legacy is more about sharing what you have learned, not just what you have earned, and bequeathing values over valuables, as material wealth is only a small fraction of your legacy.”
A more holistic definition of legacy is when you are genuinely grounded in offering yourself and making a meaningful, lasting and energizing contribution to humanity by serving a cause greater than your own.
What is purpose and why is it important?
Contribution to something outside of you is the meaning of life. Our brains know this to be true as well. Did you know that when you contribute to something outside of yourself you get a chemical response in the body? One of endorphins (that euphoric rush), dopamine (the sense of accomplishment), but more importantly serotonin (the sense of pride and self-confidence) and oxytosin (the sense of community, bonding – also activated by touch). We can’t wait for these things to happen, we can activate them ourselves.
Having a sense of contribution extends our lives, in some cases literally… but even if we are to die earlier than we want, it extends the best part of our life, the part of our lives where we are contributing, the part of our life when we are about to die we look back and say, “I lead a life of meaning”. In fact, it makes life worth living.
Purpose is so important. My life’s purpose is to teach, inspire and motivate all living beings so we can create an even greater world. A world where we find comfort in change, progress and each other. One where I see the positive impact I have made on the lives of every single person I meet. But I also have a career purpose – “To help people live more fulfilling lives through work, the place where they spend the best part of their day and the best part of their life.”
What is your purpose? I guarantee you it includes contributing to something outside of yourself. Not just money, but something where you can actually see the results of what you are doing!
How can you use your knowledge, experiences and life lessons to create your next personal purpose and leave a legacy of meaning?
What is your reason for getting up in the morning?
The Japanese call your reason for waking up in the morning an ikigai. A concept that means “a reason for being”. Iki means “a reason for being” and kai means “an effect, a result, a fruit, a worth, a use, a benefit”. It is often thought of as a reason to get up in the morning, a reason for living. Some research has been done in these cultures and there is speculation that having a well defined and well practiced ikigai extends the longevity of your life.
To discover your next personal purpose and to leave a legacy of meaning you might start by…
- Discovering and writing down your values
- Remembering or discovering where you want to make a difference
- And remember times where you previously felt a true sense of significance and contribution (not just the words and checking boxes, but feeling it – this is why giving money to a cause doesn’t feel as good as gathering money to give to a cause. Instead, try giving time to a cause where you can see the impact of the change you are making.)
You could combine these three things above to discover your very next purpose.
If you struggle with this, consider writing your own eulogy, but write it for when you are 150 years old. Not just what you have done, but talk about the difference you are going to make. Consider mentorship, leaving a will of knowledge and lessons learned. Sometimes your kids are not receptive, but somebody’s kids are… find those kids who want your mentorship (some of those kids might be in their 30s, 40s or 50s.
When you think back to how you started your career, the ambitions you had before you got into the world and reality set it. What inspired you? Where did you want to make a difference? Have you done all the things you have set out to do?
Maybe you are already doing this but you aren’t feeling it. Then ask yourself, what would make an even bigger impact than you are making now?
Meridian Life Design goes on to say: Legacy is where you become aware of the desire to live beyond yourself, focused on making a difference in the lives of others and giving back. The legacy you leave is the life you lead and therefore legacy is the residue of a life well lived. Your life matters as everything that you say and do is a deposit into your legacy. Creating your legacy is a pathway resulting in a deep sense of significance, where true meaning is found somewhere beyond the pursuit of success, which results in a ripple effect that positively impacts society.
Christopher is the CEO and Founder of Change My Life Coaching — a fast growing whole-life coaching company, and the only one of it’s kind. He is also the author of “Go Beyond Passion: Discover Your Dream Job”. Christopher spent 15+ years working in the corporate world with a plethora of industries and companies. His focus was primarily in planning, strategy, and leadership of change management and communication. Christopher is a Certified Master Coach Practitioner (CMCP), trainer and facilitator, and a passionate public speaker who truly cares about the success of each and every single person he comes into contact with. You can reach him at Christopher@ChangeMyLifeCoaching.ca.