Eternity. Some of us may have different views about the practical nature of our own personal journey through “forever” as a realistic timeline. I happen to believe there is an eternity for each one of us to experience and, like most things in life, it is our choice about how we experience that eternity.
However, for the purpose of today’s blog, I want to discuss a relevant and practical view of eternity in the form of the legacy we leave behind.
For a variety of reasons, most of us will not have our names in the history books, the world-record books, or any other well-known document read by millions in the next 100-200 years. [Except for things we do on an electronic medium via the web. Sorry, I just had to toss that in there as a warning to all of us that those regrettable emails, the photos that our moms would not approve, and those unkind, off-the-cuff comments online, will live forever. In the electronic world, the “e” does stand for a real eternity. In the workplace and among family and friends, we should all practice the discipline of “pause and think” before we hit “send” or update our “status.”]
Back on today’s message. Most of us have a real and practical knowledge of, and in some cases, vivid memories, of a few key people in the generations of our past. We certainly can remember parents, grandparents, and perhaps great-grandparents, but it starts to get real fuzzy after a few generations. Depending on our level of engagement with parents and grandparents, we may have memories of their friends, maybe coworkers and bosses, but for all practical purposes, there is limited personal knowledge beyond the family tree when we go back a few generations.
So there we have it; a practical view of leaving a legacy is that we probably have a realistic chance that our grandchildren and our great grandchildren will remember us. I can remember a great quote from Cal Ripken upon his retirement from baseball, when he was asked, “How do you want to be remembered?” Cal replied, “Just being remembered would be nice.” In many ways, a great hope for all of us would be to “just be remembered” by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I doubt any of us can recall whether a great-grandparent wore fashionable clothes, drove the finest car of the day, had a great watch, or some other material possession. At most, we remember, or we were told, whether or not they were involved in their family, in their work, and in service to a cause bigger than themselves. We remember if they were kind and helpful or mean and hurtful.
In terms of reaching our potential, it would be great to have a few generations along the family tree not only “just remember us,” but remember us as kind, helpful, productive, and committed to our family and to a worthy cause…the things that matter most.
As we think about leaving a legacy, here are a few practical considerations:
1) We need to be intentional with our efforts to leave a legacy as there is a great risk of being forgotten. Like many important endeavors, intentional effort begins with a big dream or idea, followed by the very practical steps of making a plan and then the discipline to work the plan. Leaving a legacy within our families is too important to just “wing it.”
2) As the saying goes, our thoughts turn into actions; our actions turn into habits; our habits develop our character; and our character becomes our legacy. Leaving a legacy starts in our thought life. When our thoughts, that drive decisions and then actions, are grounded in principles like commitment, loyalty, and sacrifice, we build and strengthen our character and Character Creates Opportunity® to leave the legacy we all desire.
I wish you all the best in leaving the legacy you desire. It is never too early for us to start. We only have that great unknown which is “the rest of our lives” to make progress.