Choosing Change: Leaving a Legacy
(This post is an excerpt from Choosing Change #14: Living, Loving and Leaving a Legacy, which is a chapter in the book “Cultivating Love: Choosing Change” by Dr. Ken McGill
“Choice – Purpose is a choice and the answer to the question WHY?; We are who we CHOOSE to be, so we should be very clear who we choose to be… and WHY?; The essence of our humanness is the freedom to choose our attitude in any given set of circumstances” – Richard Leider
“Life is not measured by its duration but by its donation” – Pastor Greg Laurie, Harvest Christian Fellowship, Riverside, CA
So the final place in your home you’re “finishing out” is your Front Porch, where the rocking chairs are typically located. It was there, usually after a morning or day of hard work on our property that my wife and I sat, rocked, and talked about our investments and commitments (time, financial, etc.) in the home projects we made or were going to make.
Eventually talk would turn toward our children, where we discussed what goals, activities, opportunities, and skills we wanted to contribute and impart into their lives for their personal, academic, athletic and spiritual development. Contextually, having those “planning” discussions on the front porch about how we wanted to purpose our lives seemed fitting, given we were reflecting on how we would expend our life energy so one day we’d sit in that exact spot in our home, reflect about our life and hopefully, be in a place to enjoy the “the fruit of our labor.” You could say those rocking chair experiences symbolized our focus on the work we had done or were going to do, while we also envisioned how life would be when our work was completed.
So symbolically, or perhaps literally, this may be where you are in your life. After a long day (or a lifetime full) of work, whether you’re by yourself or with your partner in life, and you take a moment to sit back and reflect upon the outcome of your work, are you in a place where you’re enjoying the fruit of your labor? Are you at peace with how you spent your time and your energy, especially when you consider your commitment to a relationship, the children who were “stewarded” to you to raise, and the outcome of your actions and work, which reflect what was truly important to you?
When you consider the spirit God gave you to value and infuse life, your brain to visualize and devise plans, your heart to facilitate warmth and connection, your body to build and promote wellness, your sexuality to nurture and enjoy intimacy, your relationships to mentor intentional living and your resources to benefit others, are you satisfied with your outcomes? I pray that you are because all of these choices and actions speak to the legacy you’re creating and the legacy you’ll leave behind.
But get this: No one has or lives a perfect life or lives life perfectly. In fact, even though you may have chosen to live a good and principled life, in return, life may have given you a huge basket of lemons for all of your effort! But at the end of the day or perhaps toward the end of your life, were you able to rebound from those difficult circumstances, marshal your energy and resources and convert your lemons into lemonade? Or take a step further, were you able to deliver sweet lemonade “seasoned” by your values which provided refreshment to others (and yourself) who benefitted from your response?
If you’re able to say “I’m at peace with how I used my life energy to create constructive outcomes over the course of my life” regardless of the circumstances then more than likely you’re experiencing Ego Integrity and the virtue of Wisdom, which are positive outcomes that Dr. Erikson identified in the eighth and final stage of Psychosocial Growth. If you’re not able to make or agree with this statement, then it’s quite possible you may be somewhere along the spectrum but closer to the other side of the pole which he called Despair.
To me, Despair means I missed golden opportunities over the course of my life to impact others in a positive or constructive manner, and I certainly know I’ve had a number of encounters in my life like this that I regret! Moments where I not only blew it, but I also toxified those experiences with immaturity, insensitivity or inactivity, and I cannot “unring” the bells that were set in motion by my carelessness.
But I have some good news for you. If you’re not (or, even if you are) in the age range of this particular stage of psychosocial development, you have the opportunity to do something about it. As long as you have breath in your lungs, and the ability to comprehend and communicate, you can still engage in processes that will determine the legacy you’ll leave behind.
I’m reminded of a quote that a friend shared to me by a mutual friend of ours, Ken Wells, the author of Dare to be average: Finding brilliance in the commonplace. I believe Ken was quoting novelist Mary Ann Evans who said“It’s never too late to be the person you always were meant to be.” That’s good news! Whether you’ve dished up a tart or sweet lemonade, before you die or while you’re still alive, you have the opportunity to pass along something refreshing to others.
The three questions I asked in Choosing Change #10 when you began this journey to change the course of your life by building (and now leaving) a house on the rock applies to you now more than ever; Who are you? What is your purpose? How shall I live? To these three questions we add a fourth: What is my legacy?
Your legacy could mean a number of things. Some may think to leave an inheritance or financial resources through trusts or wills to children, family members or to communities at large comprise their legacy, which are commendable and noble contributions that culminate in a life well-lived. But Dr. Erikson infers there is more to leaving a legacy than the sum totals on a ledger. Erikson’s research indicates the virtue Wisdom, which I’ve defined it by its ancient Greek meaning “to be(come) skilled at living” is inferred here.
Wisdom infers you’ll make choices to gain, use, apply and impart your knowledge, skills, resources and energy to create well-being in yourself and others, whether they’re in the next room or on another continent, or whether you’ve spent your life by their side or if its someone you may never meet. Wisdom also infers when mistakes are made, you’ll learn from them and engage in “course correction” processes and activity to reduce the likelihood of making similar mistakes again in your future.
So as I conclude this book on Choosing Change, let’s bring the subject of legacy, wisdom and becoming skilled at living closer to home so when you’re in your rocking chair reflecting on the life you’ve lived, you’ll be able to enjoy some very good, sweet and refreshing lemonade, especially to be shared with those who are fortunate enough to be close to you before you depart your home on this Earth for another one.
To do this, I’m going to introduce one last acrostic called “L-E-G-A-C-Y,” which contains a series of questions and inferred actions that I’d like for you to consider. As you read these questions, think about the subjects and issues you’ve read about in this book which speak to the changes you’ve already made for your betterment, or will spur you on to complete any unfinished business that deserves your attention and effort.
Remember, it’s never too late to focus your energy and use your breath to impart a blessing to others that will not only answer the four questions above, but will crystallize in the mind, heart and spirit of others who you are, your purpose as seen in the accurate placement of your passion, and what you considered important based on changes you’ve chosen to make. I pray you enjoy working on your legacy and leaving good rocking chair memories for others to reflect upon as they drink in and contemplate how your life was refreshing to them!
Leaving a “L-E-G-A-C-Y” for others to enjoy
- What life lessons have you learned and what wisdom do you wish to impart because of them?
- What impressions or impact(s) have you made that you’re proud of and are leaving behind?
- As you look at your life, what regrets do you have? If possible, what would you like to change?
- What important statement(s), behavior(s), process(es) would you like to leave to others?
- Who did you love and what did you love about them? How did that change you and them?
- What activities brought significant meaning and enjoyment to you, your family and others?
- What challenges have you faced and how did you manage to endure them?
- Is there anything you wish or need to clear up, clarify or explain while you still have time?
- Who do you wish to empower and what do you wish for that person(s)?
- What encouraging thoughts or words would you like to pass on to inspire others?
- What are your thoughts about God, your Higher Power or the significance of spirituality to you?
- What are you gracious for? What do you have the most gratitude about?
- What good habits or deeds are you proud of that you’d like to acknowledge and see continued?
- Are you content with the work you’ve done in the garden of your life? What remains to be done?
- What in your life still brings grief? Is there any gladness that has been borne from it?
- What attributes, gifts or guidance do you wish to give or impart to others?
- What affirmation(s) have you received or heard which inspired you to be your best?
- What achievements or accomplishments are you most proud of?
- What activity meant a lot to you? Why? Are there activities you regret being a part of?
- What life-altering advice have you received or what advice would you like to pass on to others?
- What have or are you afraid of? How have or will you overcome your fear or this challenge?
- Who provided care to you and how did that change you? To whom might you express thanks?
- Who and what might you wish to celebrate because this is deserving of commemoration?
- What convictions have you developed during your life of which you are certain?
- Is there anything you’d like (or need) to correct while you have time and energy?
- What blessings, gifts or “charges” might you wish to convey to your children?
- Who would you like to comfort? For what reason? What behavior do you see yourself delivering?
- What character traits would you like to impress upon others? Why?
- Is there anything you’re still yearning for or would like to accomplish? What and Why?
- What unfinished business do you have and need to address? What and Why?
- What “tools” have helped you to become wise or “skilled at living?”
- Are you satisfied with your legacy? Why or Why not?
- What would you like to be remembered and known for? Why?
Instead of providing my answers to the above-mentioned questions, I thought I’d create a slideshow that captures my “rocking chair memories” and to-date reveals the legacy I’ve been a part of and will one day leave behind! May God richly bless you and your legacy!
Second, and in talking about races, I’ve come to see that my life lines up more with the idea of a 26.2-mile marathon versus a 100-meter sprint. How so? Well, much of what you see, the relationships, the growth, the change and the positive impacts that accompany change didn’t develop “overnight” nor in the time it takes a person to finish a sprint (these days, about 9 seconds!).
On the other hand, it actually took weeks, months, years and even decades to create and enjoy most of these sweet and fruitful life experiences that I now look back on and treasure with immense gratitude. And just like miles 5 – 7 in the L.A. Marathon (the Sunset Blvd. incline), some of my life experiences (like yours) were downright arduous! I’ve had the privilege of running alongside some of you up those steep inclines and I can attest that although you experienced difficulty in your own race, you kept moving, step-by-step toward your goal(s) culminating in the creation of a legacy experience. Words don’t convey the appreciation I feel for being invited to join you during a segment of your life journey during which you never gave up!
Finally, looking at my life through the lens of a marathon brings me joy because when I think of brief moments or certain segments of my life (i.e., the sprints), I could get discouraged with some of the choices I made. However, when I step back and look at the full context of my life, that is, the hills I encountered, the challenges I experienced, the changes I’ve made, the difficulties overcome and the lives that were blessed along the way, I feel gracious for the race I’ve been purposed and empowered to run and the awesome “scenery” (your life) I’ve been privileged to take in.
I think that’s how God sees it as well; He sees the whole length of the run and the whole life of a person and is intent on helping us to learn how to become skilled at living, one step at a time and one day at a time. So I encourage you no matter where you are in your life journey, continue to choose changes that are purposeful, intentional, strategic, that matter, and will reflect that you’ve become skilled at living! I pray you enjoy your legacy and that you have sweet rocking chair moments!
Thanks for reading this excerpt from “Choosing Change #14: Living, Loving and Leaving a Legacy.” As time permits, please visit the other blogs written by Dr. Ken McGill: Daily Bread for Life and “3 – 2 – 5 – 4 – 24″ for additional information that could be helpful.
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