But too often the day-to-day jobs and tasks get in our way. We get distracted by the stress of daily life and lose sight of our loftier goals. Sometimes, I feel like it’s all I can do to get the weekly groceries. Add to this the natural pushback to thinking about dying, and it’s a recipe for avoiding one of the most important things you could be thinking about: What do you want to be remembered for?
Years ago, I discovered a simple exercise that was hugely powerful, and I’d love to share it with you!
Here’s the activity: Write your own “dream” obituary! Put down on paper what you want people to say about you when you’re gone. It may seem a bit morbid, but in my experience, there’s no better way to clarify what matters than by forcing yourself to write down some words or ideas. Don’t worry if it seems unrealistic right now. Take your time and be honest about what you’d LIKE people to say. You don’t have to show anyone else – it’s just for you.
If the words aren’t flowing, or if the prospect of your own death is too much, try this: Imagine three people were being interviewed about your life – maybe 10 or 20 years from now. You could imagine, perhaps, a friend, a colleague, and a family member. What would you want them to say?
After you’ve got some words on the page or ideas in your mind, try to sum it up for yourself: In what way do you really want to help people?
Now that the picture is clearer or the impact you want to create, ask yourself how you’re achieving it. What are the most important things you do? Are you making enough time for what matters most? Are you off track? Don’t panic! There’s no time like the present to start making the difference you want to make!
You might try thinking about specific parts of your life – your family life, your job, and your community life, for instance. Do you have a set of professional skills that you could use to support people who lack this expertise? You might consider joining a volunteer Board for a local non-profit. Or maybe you have skills that would be useful in a classroom, hospital, or building site that needs an extra pair of hands.
Could you encourage your business or family to help out in some extra way? Charitable donations? Service projects? Educational efforts? Or even just quality time spent with loved ones so they know they’re important.
The important thing to remember is that legacy doesn’t happen overnight. If you make small changes and efforts now to help more people, it will build and grow into something amazing.
Here’s a nice bonus: Even if your efforts to help are overlooked; even if your random act of kindness forever remains a mystery to the world; even if, for one reason or another, your obituary is published without mentioning the many forms of “help” you provided, it doesn’t really matter. YOU still get the pleasure and satisfaction of knowing that you acted on what mattered most.
And in the end, perhaps it’s your opinion of you that really matters.