Reprinted with permission from ChangingAging Blog
How do you want to be remembered? And for what?
A Legacy of Choices
Every day we are confronted with choices. What are some of yours? To:
- Determine a life of continuing incline or accept that it’s mostly downhill from here?
- Welcome change or feel more comfortable with the status quo?
- Embrace your authenticity or prefer not to make waves at this point?
These are important questions because the totality of our choices becomes our life and, in turn, determines the kind of legacy we leave.
What is Legacy?
Legacy is generally defined as a gift or bequest that is handed down from one person to another. However, true legacy can also be the quality of your life overall. As Wayne Dyer once said, “Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.” But, beyond that, think of the choices you make and the actions you take as having a ripple effect that can positively (or not!) impact your family, your friends, your communities, and society. Certainly, it’s motivating to know that when you shift to living with a mindset of legacy, you are choosing a more authentic life path for yourself. But isn’t it even more inspiring to realize that you have the means – in every moment of every day – with which to encourage the next – or even later – generations to aspire and work towards realizing their own potential?
Many years ago, I was inspired by Maya Angelou’s words: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Certainly, a commendable way to live a life that positively impacts others leaving a legacy of goodwill.
Or perhaps take a lesson from Dr. Seligman’s Psychology class experiment as described in Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment. Students of his class were assigned to engage in one pleasurable activity and one philanthropic activity. The results were life-changing for the students. “The afterglow of the pleasurable activity paled in comparison with the effects of the kind action.” In essence, the exercise of kindness is a gratification which calls upon your strengths to meet a challenge, in contrast, to simply a pleasure such as going to a movie or dinner. Which would you choose as a source of legacy?
In The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, Bronnie Ware cites the top regret as “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” Thus, a life of authenticity.
Wouldn’t you agree that creating a true legacy is a pathway that leads to a deeper sense of significance well beyond the pursuit of wealth or success?
Older adults can serve as role models and leave a legacy of incline for future generations. And what better generation than the Boomers to demonstrate this momentum, being the first generation with an extended lifespan and desire for “changing aging.” They can become an inspiring example, so our society relinquishes the notion that aging is synonymous with “decrepit,” “senile,” and “over-the-hill” once and for all. Rather than settling for a life of complacency, conventionality, and compliance choose to embrace, change, curiosity, and courage. If you’re wondering exactly what living a life of incline involves, check out my article entitled Can We Please Stop Calling it Aging! http://bit.ly/CanWePlease
Serve as a Role Model
A “role model” was coined by Robert Merton, a founding father of sociology represents someone others admire as an example of appropriate values, attitudes, and behaviors. Thus, serving as a role model can be the way to live your life.
Rather than accepting moving from one rigid life stage to another, choose the resilience of a life course which is illustrated further in What Are We Missing When We Settle for Life Stages? http://bit.ly/WhatAreWeMissing
Who pops into your mind when you think of a role model? Perhaps a famous athlete, a world leader, or a legendary music icon. One of my childhood heroes was Paul McCartney of the Beatles. I had the good fortune to attend one of their first North American concerts in Vancouver, Canada in 1964 and, yes, I shrieked with delight along with all the other female teenagers.
While the Beatles disbanded in 1970, Paul McCartney continued his musical career and has just released his 17th solo album, Egypt Station. He tours and will be performing at Zilker Park, Austin, Texas in October 2018. At 76 years of age, Sir Paul exemplifies a role model of positivity for me. I consider his music as having relevance and timelessness. While I’ve never aspired to be a musician, I admire Paul’s endurance over his lifetime – choosing to follow his passion and always remain authentic to himself.
That’s certainly a credo to live by and one I attest to. While reinventing myself several times over – both personally and professionally – I have always remained true to my core essence. I release those things that no longer serve me. I choose to live my legacy now by serving as a role model for future generations and thereby society. I wish to be remembered for the positive life choices I have made. How about you?
Two very different famous people passed away this year. Senator John McCain died at 81 after a lifetime of service as a war hero and Senator. The Queen of Soul and most remembered for “Respect,” Aretha Franklin, died at 76. Certainly, exemplary role models. And what memorable legacy gifts each has left.
I recently conducted interviews of inclined individuals for my forthcoming book on how to live a life of incline (to be published in 2019): Inclined Elder: How to Rebrand Aging for Self and Society. Among others, two common threads cited by people from their forties to nineties emerged. A strong need for “community, connectivity, and a sense of being part of something more than themselves.” In addition, the ability to “discard limiting beliefs and summon the courage, confidence, and guts to make changes.”
How you live your life will be your legacy. What will be your gift?