This is gradually becoming a ritual for me. Every year on my birthday, I like to share thoughts and ideas that have shaped me and are continuing to do so in the hope that someone who reads it can learn a thing or two on how to move their lives forward.
This year, my thoughts have been around the footprints we make and leave on the surface of the earth. These prints are our legacy. They are the things that the world would remember us for. They are also the things we will be defined by and it is important to pay attention to them.
When Alfred Nobel’s brother died, a local newspaper mistakenly published Albert’s obituary instead. That allowed Alfred the dread of coming face to face with his own obituary. He was confronted with what his legacy was but was also presented with an opportunity to change it.
From a man who was to be remembered as a merchant of death who became wealthy by finding ways to kill many people fast to one remembered as the creator of the prestigious Nobel Prize. Alfred Nobel rewrote his own history.
Two ready lessons from Alfred’s story are these. First, consciously or not, we are all leaving behind a legacy either good or bad. More interesting is that many of us are unaware about what type of legacy we are leaving behind. Second and perhaps more importantly is that it is never too late to decide what we would be remembered for. We can take conscious steps today and rewrite the stories that would be told of us.
I have found that our lives are really a sum total of the decisions we make. We are no better than our daily decisions and actions. The question then is- what informs our decisions?
I believe that a proven answer to that are the values you hold. These are the things that decide what decisions you go with and the ones you discard. They are the unseen litmus test that validate the actions we take. We are just as good as our values. Therefore, to leave behind a great legacy, we must first live out great values.
Your values are things that you must continually do and think to become the person you have envisioned yourself to be. They have such a compelling influence over your actions that they practically define who you are. They are the things you stand for and they are the things that will keep you standing.
To leave behind a great legacy, we must first live out great values.
Note that your values don’t necessarily have to be ‘natural’ to you. Why this is important to know is that we are likely to fall into the danger of thinking about our values based on our past experience- on what we currently are, both good and bad. While that is helpful, it is also important to know that we can also be forward looking when thinking about our values. In other words, they are not necessarily what you’ve always been or done; but could rather be what you will start doing and being.
It is never too late to decide what we would be remembered for. We can take conscious steps today and rewrite the stories that would be told of us.
So you see, leaving a conscious and deliberate legacy starts with identifying and committing to a set of values that align with that legacy. By committing, I mean that you take ownership of those values and you start defining yourself by them. This might require that you recite it over and over again until it becomes internalized like a software that runs your life.
You don’t have to pick every good trait you can remember, you could just pick a few that you can really commit to, and that also best align with your vision and goals. If you work well at those few values, you’d be greatly amazed at how such singular action can transform your life.
My own identified values are Growth, Love, Faith, Patriotism, Humility, Generosity and Service. What are yours?