The need to leave a legacy is our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.
– Stephen Covey
I got caught up short recently with a question about Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters.
The question: Doesn’t every life matter?
The answer: Of course.
But most of us want something more than simply to have existed.
Most of us want to make a difference, an impact on the world, however small. Most of us want our lives to really mean something.
In Abraham Maslow’s ground-breaking book Motivation and Personality, he suggests that, after our baser needs have been met, the need for self-actualization remains. Victor Frankl, who later contributed to Maslow’s work, calls it man’s search for meaning.
Meaning is what we seek.
Contemporary leadership expert Brendon Burchard says that, at the end of our lives, the questions that will remain are: did I live (did I REALLY live), did I love, and did I matter?
We want to have mattered.
If this is so, the work we must do is legacy work. And not just busy work.
Legacy work serves the greater good; it impacts the world in ways large and small. Just a few examples:
- Caring for the land
- Advocating for justice and peace
- Healing the sick
- Protecting the downtrodden
- Making fine art
- Inspiring greatness
Legacy work can be, as Mother Teresa said, small things done with great love.
Here’s a tip for deciding whether you’re doing legacy work:
- Ask this question: will the outcome of this investment of time, this project, this effort, this negotiation, this argument matter a week from now, a month from now, next year?
- If the answer is no, take some time to refocus and redirect your efforts.
Legacy work is like a pebble thrown into a pond. It ripples outward touching distant shores we cannot see, and perhaps cannot even imagine.
Legacy work is work that makes a difference. It is what we all long to do.
Busy work depletes. Busy is bad.
Bees can be busy. You… not so much.
Of course, the garage needs to be cleaned, the closets organized, the laundry folded. But if our lives consist only of busy work, we end up feeling like a stunt double in Groundhog Day. We end up exhausted and empty and sad. At the end of the day, we fall into bed and ask, “Is that all there is?”
The answer is no. There’s so much more, if we but choose.
Those of you who read me regularly know that I’m a big fan of action. Action. Not busyness. Action not for action’s sake. But action that leads somewhere. Action that is about significance. Action that makes manifest the essence of who you are in the world.
Bold action. Brave action. Mighty action. Creative action.
Are you doing legacy work? Or busy work?
Journeys on the Edge: Living a Life That Matters
Available now at: www.walthampton.com
This is an encore of this blog entry, first published October 13, 2011.