What’s the Legacy you are Creating?

“Every person has a legacy. You may not know what your impact is, and it may not be something that you can write on your tombstone, but every person has an impact on this world. "

Dara Horn, American Novelist and Professor of Literature Tweet
Water rippling

Upon the reading of this quote from Dara, the question that comes to mind is, ‘who do you want to be while you are here?’

As is often the case, I pose that question to myself as much as I do to anyone choosing to read this.

For the vast majority of my life, my felt experience of being here consisted of an unrealized fight against the unknown and uncontrollable circumstances inherent in life. Maybe you are familiar with some of these experiences:

Needing people to think the way I do — struggling to relate to or be with people that didn’t,

Needing people to say ‘yes’ over ‘no’ to a request — taking it personally if it was the latter,

Needing certainty things will go my way — when they inevitably didn’t, work harder, procrastinate, take it personally, and/or cut people out of my life,

Needing immediate resolution to a problem — when there was not, the growing discomfort and anxiety made me difficult to be around (even for myself).

Can you relate to any of these? If not, that’s okay. Maybe it’s something else for you.

What I share above is content. It’s not context.

It’s not a picture of why these expressions were present in my life. These ‘expressions’ being mere symptoms of what was really going on that often alluded my conscious thinking.

I was and am at times being driven by that animalistic part of my brain that wants survival above all else. That part of my brain that can and does look through a skewed and biased lens of what is safe, what is good, what is bad and the like.

I was an am at times blind to who I was being moment to moment because I lived predominately from a state of perpetual need. And further blind to the impact I had on others.

I use the word ‘need’ over ‘want’ deliberately. ‘Need’ being experienced as this heavy in the body experience that is felt as urgent and detrimental to my existence. ‘Want’ being experienced as a lite request, unattached to what occurs. Think of ‘needing’ water to survive vs ‘wanting’ a coffee at Starbucks. Two different experiences there.

Here’s where the danger lies in this, when I regularly come from this place of ‘need’ — I’m often completely unaware of what I’m doing, how I am doing it, and the impact it’s having on my mind, body, environment and of course, the mind of another human being.

I have to ask myself how often are the thoughts I am believing about what is truly occurring, skewed? Is that person saying ‘no’ to me because of the 56 reasons I can make up. Or, is it a simple ‘no’ to a request I have made?

Is that person that thinks differently than me truly a risk to my well being? Or is that something I am believing because of past data points, the news, or something I heard from an uncle at age 5?

Maybe I am completely closed off to what this person standing or sitting in front of me is all about because I am unable to let go of my preconceived notions of them long enough to hear something new.

For me, that content paints a picture of a man afraid of and completely untrusting of life, himself, and another human being. I have been someone that is afraid to be wrong. Afraid to be seen as an imposter. And socially inept at having a constructive disagreement that held two opposing ideas in my mind at the same time — which could allow space for insight to emerge.

I’ve been all of this. And what is the impact of that in the long-term?

I miss opportunities to see someone as the incredible human they are,

I miss opportunities to collaborate where something creative could emerge that impacts the lives of the collaborators and beyond

I miss opportunities to extend virtues of respect, honesty, kindness, and support throughout my life (Which is where I want to come from)

I’ve had the mirror raised to my life time and time again.

It’s not easy to see where I’ve wronged, ignored, or harmed another in any capacity. But it’s necessary and humbling. What has amazed me time and time again is seeing how those violations and poor extensions and expressions of who I want to be all stemmed from me treating myself in similar ways.

Whether I am someone that constantly pushes myself to the brink of total exhaustion — because I have to prove myself, believe there is no other way, and/or simply don’t know who I am without it (I’ve experienced all of this),

Or I am someone that constantly beats myself with a spiritual 2×4 when I make a mistake because I mistakenly believe that self-shaming will somehow change things (Shaming will perpetuate. It will not solve.),

Or I am the person not capable of trusting another person’s intentions because I don’t trust my own.

We can often look out at our lives and see how it’s a mirror for how we treat ourselves. What I have realized is that it’s often ‘easier’ to start with seeing how we might be causing harm, judging, criticizing, pushing away, or completely dismissing another person first.

Then start to look for the mental lens that is unnecessarily skewed and limited — before we then turn on ourselves and see the connection with our own self treatment.

At this point you might be asking, ‘what does this all have to do with legacy?’

Everything.

In every moment, with every breath, thought, decision and action, what occurs impacts the world we live in.

Zoom out and imagine this idea at the level of almost 8 billion people making momentary decisions from a different contexts. Now consider how that influences and impacts our lives as a whole. 8 billion people deciding, acting, choosing, every second, every day.

Now zoom in on your daily life. How will that next conversation with your boss, friend, client, spouse, or child impact their lives and yours? Consider the short and long-term.

I’m fond of the quote (not sure where it comes from) — A loving relationship is created one act of kindness at a time. The downfall of a marriage occurred one slight, insult, or criticism at a time.

It’s from this awareness of how we are responding moment to moment and the subsequent impact that we are able to draw connections to what our legacy will be when we take our final breath.

I continue every day to increase my curiosity about who I am being in any given moment and the dynamic I am creating. From there I want to know how that may impact the life of an individual, group, and/or people far removed by multiple times. I ask each day where I can bring more awareness to and extend virtues of:

Reverence for all of life (Respect)

Sincerity (Honesty)

Gentleness (Kindness)

Supportiveness (Service)

That’s my choice. What would you like yours to be?

Be well.

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