What is Your Legacy?

“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”
– Epictetus, Greek Philosopher

As a business owner or as a leader in an organization, it is important to take the time to think about the mark you wish to leave. How do you want to be remembered when you leave an organization, retire from your position, or even pass away? What is your legacy?

It’s not about living up to others’ expectations or wishes, it is about living up to your own expectations and dreams. It’s about understanding how and what others think of you and whether this is consistent with the person you want to be, the legacy you want to leave, and how you want to be seen by the world.

Your actions speak louder than your words. As a human being, whether you are a leader, a parent, a teacher, or whatever your position in life, you are a role model to those who know and surround you. The question is; what role model do you want to portray?

Susan Scott in her book Fierce Conversations speaks about taking responsibility for your emotional wake. She describes it as “…what you remember after I’m gone. What you feel. The aftermath, aftertaste, or afterglow.” As Scott states using the analogy of a boat’s wake, we need to know how our words and actions affect others and therefore be conscious of “…the wake I was [you are] leaving during my [your] conversations with others.”

In Dicken’s Christmas Carol, Scrooge had the opportunity to see himself through other people’s eyes. It was a reality check for him as to how others saw him. The legacy he was leaving behind at the outset of the ghostly visits changed dramatically to what he desired at the end of the tale. He changed dramatically, becoming the person he wanted to be, and leaving the legacy he wanted to leave.

When you figure out what you want your legacy to be, it’s a good time to reflect upon how others view you and determine if the two are in sync. Sometimes how you think others view you and how they actually see you are two different things. It is important to be honest with yourself and really find out what others really see in you. Ask your subordinates, colleagues, and family members, what comes to mind when they think of you? What is the lasting impression you are leaving? Stop and listen to what they say. Ask curious questions to find out what has made them come to these conclusions. As hard as it may be, do not interrupt or be defensive, it is an exercise in seeing yourself through another’s eyes, to truly view what your legacy might be.

The ability to change is within us all.

This was first published in my Motivated Coaching eMagazine in September 2016.