It’s amazing how much your mindset starts to shift when you realize you’re about to have a kid. You start thinking about things that probably wouldn’t have mattered to you much otherwise. But there’s one thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and it’s something I think everyone should keep top of mind, whether they’re parents or not.
What’s your legacy?
In thinking about the life we have and the life we want to provide for our children, Anthony and I talk a lot about the home environment we want to cultivate, how we envision being their for our son and supporting whatever his interests may become, and what we want to teach him most. We reflect often on the way we were brought up and the things we really admire about how our parents cared and provided for us.
Just the other day I was telling Anthony how my parents always had a way of spoiling us but making us feel like we earned it. We probably got everything we asked for and then some, but my parents were wise in holding on to our gifts until birthdays or after excellent report cards to teach us a sense of appreciation and and value for the things we were given. Funny thing is, I don’t really remember those things we got. What I do remember, though, is the time we had together. My mom has been a flight attendant my whole life, out of town at least three days a week. But I don’t remember ever feeling like she wasn’t there. I don’t remember her ever missing a game or an important event. She was there for field trips, sports games, recitals, you name it. How she did it, I’ll never know, but she was always there. I went to school with a lot of kids whose parents were hardly around. They had everything they could ever want and more, but they had better relationships with their nannies than their own parents. I remember thinking how sad it was. I remember being stunned by the awkwardness of attempted conversations between mothers and daughters who seemed more like strangers. There was even a time that one of my friends told her mom she didn’t want to talk to her, she wanted her au pair instead. Crazy right?
When it comes to the question of legacy, it’s really about impact. We can leave a trail of accolades and acquired possessions behind, but is that what really matters? What’s most important is the impressions we made and the love we shared. The memories. The relationships. Our legacy is the true difference we make in the lives of those around us.
Ask yourself: what’s at the core of your most valuable relationships? What defines that relationship dynamic? What difference have you made, or would you wish to make, in that person’s life? If there was one thing you’d want them to remember you for, what would it be? These are the things that shape your legacy, whether it’s in the eyes of children and other family members, friends, coworkers and clients, fellow church goers… everyone.
Challenge yourself to seek out opportunities to add deeper meaning to your most cherished relationships. Go the extra mile to give of yourself. Give your time, give advice, give a helping hand. Be a mentor, a listening ear, a true friend. There’s only one you in this world, and life is too short to hold back on leaving your mark. Your sphere of influence was crafted around you for a reason; there’s something you have to offer, something those around you need and value that only you can give. Don’t let it go unrealized.