In an age of unemployment and downsizing, many people are thanking their lucky stars that they have a job at all, even if it’s more busy and stressful than ever. Few people have the luxury of wondering, Is this job helping me to fulfill my purpose in life?
The unexpected death of a colleague can cause us to examine how we’re spending our lives. We ponder our mortality and envision the legacy we hope to leave for the future. Our conclusion is that the most important thing you can do is live your legacy every day. That is, don’t wait until tomorrow to live your values and focus your energies on your life’s purpose. Start with these questions:
What would people say about you at your funeral? If your life ended today, how would you be eulogized? Is it something you’d be proud to hear?
Are your actions and decisions today consistent with how you’d like to be remembered? Not only do you follow the defined rules, but how do you respond in the gray areas – when the ethical boundaries are not as well-defined? As Albert Camus said, “Integrity has no need of rules.”
Are you happy now, or waiting to be happy when…?” The Center for Creative Leadership’s article titled Your Leadership Mojo: Wisdom from Marshall Goldsmith explores the advice that your 95-year-old self might give to you today. Goldsmith’s friend actually asked elderly people who were approaching death to reflect on what is truly important in life. The number one theme that emerged was be happy now. Don’t wait for that big promotion or retirement. Don’t get so caught up in the rat race that you don’t notice the sun is shining today.
Are people your priority? The Leadership Mojo article points out that when the end of life approaches, it isn’t our co-workers who hang out at the hospital. It’s our friends and family, if we’re lucky enough to have both. And doing things today to nurture relationship with people isn’t just important to ensure that you have hospital visitors. It’s the right thing to do, and your 95-year-old-self would tell you so.
Are you accomplishing something meaningful? It can be easy to amass a collection of accomplishments or life experiences, but if they don’t fulfill some aspect of your life’s purpose, they won’t matter much to you in the end. And if you accomplished them at the expense of others, you may not have those hospital visitors after all.
One thing is certain. We’ll all come to the end of our mortal lives. We hope it doesn’t happen soon. George Carlin used to say, “I’m always relieved when someone is delivering a eulogy and I realize I’m listening to it.” The good news is that if you live your values today, your legacy will take care of itself.
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