How to Craft a Legacy That Honors the Real YouBy Homaira Kabir
“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” ― Shannon L. Alder
It was 1888. Dr. Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, sat reading the morning paper. Staring back at him from the page was his own obituary. It read: “The merchant of death is dead”. It turned out that his brother had died and the newspaper had mistakenly thought it was him.
Dr. Nobel was fortunate enough to read his obituary while still alive, and thus change it. He decided to set aside the bulk of his estate for the Nobel Foundation and today, he is remembered for the Nobel Prize.
Many of us haven't given much time to thinking about who we really are and how, if at all, the world will remember us after we are gone. Our lives are noisy and fast-paced, and unless we take the time to connect to the person within us, we may live life without a clear path, and leave behind a legacy we did not desire.
Here are 4 steps to getting started on the journey inwards that will enable you to carve footsteps in the snow, not with the fanfare of momentary thrill, but with the earnest and steady process of authentic living.
1. How Do You Want to Impact the People You Love?
Think about the people who are most important to you. We are social beings and our mental mind maps are constructed around the people in our lives. Maya Angelou famously said that people will never forget how you made them feel. How do you want your relationships to be? What are you going to do to make the people in your life feel confident, happy and secure? Nature has made it easy by ensuring that our own well-being lies in the success and happiness of others.
2. What Lights Your Fire?
Think about the work you are most passionate about. Aristotle said that the goal of human existence is to live in accordance with one’s daimon, or highest potential. When what you do in life is strongly linked to who you are, you shape an identity that becomes your legacy. According to Maslow, "What one can be, one must be." What are your passions? What lights your fire? It's up to you to dig them out and make them shine.
3. How Can You Use Your Strengths to Shine?
Think about the strengths that are authentic to you. Martin Seligman and Chris Peterson identified 24 Character Strengths that are inherent in all of us. However, each one of us uses any five of these strengths in unique combinations such that they become our "signature". Take the VIA assessment on Happify to find out yours, and then construct ways to use them effectively in your life so you live by your values.
4. How Have You Dealt with Life's Challenges?
Think about the challenges that you’ve faced in life. No journey is complete without its fair share of difficulties and setbacks. It is the adaptive processes that we use to face them that define our lives and imbue them with meaning. Dr. Paul Wong, psychology professor and founder of the International Network on Personal Meaning, says that in order to live a good life, we have to focus on adaptive processes far more than on the conditions in our lives. What challenges have you faced? What coping mechanisms do you want to remembered by? For it is through the strengths that you muster in the face of life’s hurdles that you slowly pen down your own legacy.
When all is said and done, what will determine the quality of our footsteps is the life we live every day. The narrative that grows out of the relationships we form with others, with work and with life is the legacy we ultimately leave behind.
Homaira Kabir is a Women’s Leadership Coach, a Cognitive Behavioral Therapist and a Positive Psychology Practitioner, whose work expands the breadth of the human experience. She empowers women to become leaders of their own selves in order to become leaders in relationships, at work and in life. You can read more about her work at homairakabir.com or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter (@homairakabir).
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