What is your legacy?
If I asked you that question, would you have the answer? As a matter of fact, when was the last time you really thought about your life’s legacy?
I recently attended a leadership event called The Conversation several weeks ago that took me out of my office and into an exclusive circle of 100 world changers. Each year, a group comes together to discover how they can more effectively impact the world and truly make a difference. Throughout this experience, we were prompted to dig deep into four life-changing questions. The one that stood out the most was — ‘What is your legacy?’
I was shocked to learn that 98% of people cannot tell you what their legacy is. And, most have it all wrong as to how it ought to be defined.
Webster’s dictionary defines legacy as most would assume:
something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past the legacy of the ancient philosophers.
However, legacy goes beyond a will or an ancestry and is something anyone, no matter their age or leadership experience, can and should put into place.
I’ve chosen to redefine legacy for myself as:
a selfless act requiring one to have a sustainable impact on the next generation or group of leaders.
Having clarity about your legacy no matter where you are as a leader is essential to understanding who you are and the real change you could accomplish.
Without legacy, you risk having a life subjected to responding to what’s happening around you instead of an intentional journey that defines you and propels you forward.
Whether you’re a multi-million dollar business executive or a leader in the making, legacy is something that starts now.
Here are three ways to fully embrace your life’s legacy and make your mark of significance.
1. Legacy is selfless, not self-promoting: Legacy requires you to shift your mindset from desiring success to achieving significance. When you think about your career, do you think of it as a job… a paycheck? Or is it a platform you leverage to make a meaningful difference? I spent the majority of my career only wanting to be successful. Measuring my worth against the traditional metrics — salary, promotions and recognition from bosses. And although striving to become the next CEO is admirable, it is simply an aspiration — not a legacy. So instead of solely focusing on the next promotion, think of how you can allow your blood, sweat, and tears to meaningfully influence those around you.
2. Leaves things better than before: It’s important to look for ways to turn your accomplishments into an opportunity for someone else. No matter your role, you have responsibility to pave the way for the person or team behind you — to teach them how to achieve what they want without sacrificing who they are. As an EVP at Walmart Stores, Inc., I may not have been able to single-handedly change the average salary of senior female executives across the US; but, I did make sure the women on my team were supported, encouraged and given the opportunities to achieve whatever success looks like to them.
3. Has sustainable and lasting impact: Part of understanding and living out your legacy is knowing your foundational values in all areas of your life. In other words, you don’t leave one part of your life and turn to focus on your legacy and all of the sudden it becomes clear. You have to take the different elements of your life — spirituality, family, career, etc. — blend them together, and make it an authentic part of who you are every day. When you do this, others notice and will do the same — resulting in a domino effect throughout the different circles of your life.
My goal with this post is to inspire you to consider how you can find more meaning in all that you do. Don’t wait until later in life to make your mark. Instead, you need to fully embrace the power of legacy and what it means for your life. When you do, you’ll notice that success alone is a lot less important and significance will truly change the game. I know I aim to be in the two percent category of those who know their legacy. What about you?