You will always leave a legacy – whether you intend to or not. To intentionally leave a legacy, you must identify and act boldly based on your life’s PURPOSE.
This advice is perennial: success requires that you understand why you are here…at this time…in this place…with these specific talents. Your legacy is, therefore, the result of the interplay between your internal talents and the external circumstances that create the fabric of your life.
It doesn’t matter whether you believe that this unique amalgamation is random or dictated by a higher power. What matters is that you identify for yourself the “why’s” of your life.
But it is often much easier said than done.
Boldly asserting your life’s “purpose” can be frightening:
- Will I become so focused on a single goal that I miss out on all the other things that life has to offer?
- Is it egotistical to believe that I am here for an important reason that can impact society – or even a small portion of it?
- What if I want to achieve this purpose so badly and commit so many resources to it…then don’t achieve it?
Whether expressed out loud or just simmering in our subconscious, these fears powerfully sabotage our ability to really achieve success on our own terms.
The fear of “missing out”
I am adamantly against the idea that anyone can “have it all” – but I just as adamantly support that you can have what you want.
Several years ago, I was the keynote speaker at a university’s conference on women. My topic focused on transcending the guilt-inducing societal edict that we can – and should! – “have it all.” Instead, I recommended that we focus on our personal priorities in order to achieve what’s most important to us.
While many of the women agreed with me, I was astounded at the anger and vehemence of a few of the women. In fact, one attendee said that the topic should have been that “Geri Puleo has it all.”
Why did this well-meant advice create such astonishingly diverse reactions?
Having the courage – and, yes, it takes courage – to proclaim what we want and then act accordingly holds a mirror up to our lives. Our actions reflect our priorities even if we profess something entirely different.
Realizing that we can’t “have it all” but that we can “have what we want” is profoundly life-changing. It takes away the guilt if we don’t try to do everything…for everybody…but often not for ourselves.
This insight also might lead us to take actions that will upset or hurt other people because we may need to say “no” to their requests in order to say “yes” to what we need to do in order to achieve our life’s purpose.
But when we live our lives based on what we believe is our guiding PURPOSE to be here at this time, in this place, and with our unique talents, then saying “no” becomes much easier.
And the people who truly support us – our “tribe” – will embrace us along our journey.
The so-called “egotism” of a higher calling
When we finally muster the courage to define what we want (our life’s purpose) and decide to go for it, we must also let go of that which does not support that purpose.
And when that involves letting go of (or at least distancing ourselves from) certain people, it is far too common for them to demean us in order to assuage their feelings of rejection.
So they call us egotistical. A dreamer. Unrealistic. Even a braggart.
Striving for a higher goal, a noble purpose, is life-affirming – even if those who are currently around us try to belittle our ambitions.
Again, it takes courage to live based on a rock solid belief in the PURPOSE of our lives. This has the effect of propelling us toward people who also live their lives based on a higher calling.
We generally are not “discarding” the people who are currently in our lives (but don’t necessarily support us). Instead we are shifting our relationships with them on a continuum traversing friends who have moved to the periphery of our relationships to those who are toxic and thus no longer a part of our lives.
But, even more importantly, living our lives based on PURPOSE makes us much more compassionate and empathetic toward others. In fact, we tend to be more open and give more of ourselves to those who also want to make a difference – and the probability of supportive reciprocation is vastly increased.
Defining the difference that we want to make – whether it is on a small familial level or on the greater world stage of society – is the essence of identifying the unique purpose of our individual lives.
And there is no egotism in wanting to achieve something that ultimately helps others.
The fear of failure
I really don’t believe that there is an objective difference between a “winner” and a “loser.” The truth as to who “wins” and who “loses” rests solely in the eye of the beholder.
Life is a journey. Anyone who has achieved greatness has also had the gnawing fear of “what’s next” and “how do I top this?” You still have a life to live after you achieve the goal that you defined as identifying you as a “winner.”
Because life is a journey, living with PURPOSE creates a better sense of balance. Goals become benchmarks on the path to creating an intentional legacy. If a particular tactic doesn’t achieve a goal related to the overall purpose of your life, then it is much easier to adapt and shift.
The biggest fear comes from not achieving the scope of your life’s purpose. Maybe you won’t save the world, but your daily actions aligned with your purpose will undoubtedly create small successes and even joy.
There will be challenges, but your journey toward actualizing your PURPOSE will also be energizing and enjoyable – something that you don’t want to “miss out” on. When your purpose is based on a higher noble goal, it is the antithesis of egotism. And, finally, recognizing that “failure” is really an opportunity to learn creates curiosity and commitment.
Living in alignment with the PURPOSE of your life transcends the siren call of society’s more mundane definition of “success.” Rather than living with fear and second-guessing, a life lived with purpose is a life well lived and produces a sustainable, intentional legacy.
Dr. Geri Puleo, SPHR, is a change management/HR expert whose goal is to eradicate burnout from the workplace. She is the President of Change Management Solutions, Inc. as well as a popular keynote speaker and trainer. To see her “in action,” watch her TEDx Talk on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFkI69zJzLI. She can be reached at gpuleo@ChangeWithoutBurnout.com.