At the beginning of the new year, many of us are thinking about our last year and planning for the year to come. Whether or not we choose to, we all leave a legacy in our time on earth. You may think that your legacy is something that happens at the end of your life, but in reality you are building it every day. What kind of legacy are you creating?
The month of January is named after the Roman God Janus, who had two faces. One face looked forward, the other face looked backward. It is a perfect image for this time of year. We look back at the year behind us, perhaps prompted by Facebook’s Year in Review or by goal setting tasks that ask questions to get us to reflect on and grow from the past year.
My last year wasn’t perfect, but I took some big steps. I am healthier than I was, with a new eating plan, a regular exercise routine and several surgeries behind me. I also took major steps towards creating a new business, proving to myself that I can get paid to write and that I can learn the business skills I need. I spent quality time with my family, and my siblings and I cared for my father who has cancer. I traveled near and far to join in family celebrations, and fulfilled a dream to visit Ireland.
Looking back over my year, I am conscious of the fact that I lived my values. My work was purposeful. I was able to strengthen personal relationships. I got to learn about myself and the world. If I am building a legacy, I am happy with the legacy of this year.
As one face of Janus looks back, the other face looks forward. In January we also dream of the sparkling new year that is yet to come. My social media feeds have blown up with goal setting information. We are encouraged to set professional and personal goals. We are reminded to write down our goals, because those who write down their goals are more likely to achieve them. We are offered the promise of big dreams that can come true if we create and follow a plan.
One of the books I read and enjoyed this year is Smarter, Faster, Better, by Charles Duhigg. It is a great book, and will help you to get more done. But it isn’t enough just to get more done. You need to do the right things. Achievement alone is not the end game. Achievement without purpose is hollow and ultimately, unfulfilling.
We also need to ask ourselves what we want to feel, experience, or create in the year ahead. For the first time, I have noticed people are selecting and sharing their word or phrase for the year. These are often optimistic expressions of a personal desire such as “serenity” or “mindfulness” or ” to experience gratitude.” These phrases seem to have replaced New Year’s resolutions. Resolutions were more about doing, these intentions are more about being.
Who do you want to be? With a little effort, we can envision who we want to become. Your legacy is about about what you have done and even more so, who you are as a person. If we are building a legacy throughout our lives, consider the legacy you want to have and build it into your goals and plans.
Natalie MacNeal, author of Conquer Your Year, which is the planner I am using this year, inspires us to ask a powerful question:
What would the masterpiece version of your life look like?
If we ask this question, and answer it, we will know what is important to us. If we know what it is important, we know what our goals should be. The things we choose to do should align with the person we want to be, the very best person we can be. In this way, we will create a legacy to be proud of. Bit by bit, year by year, we can create our masterpiece.
What would the masterpiece version of your life look like? What will you do this year to move in that direction? I’d love to hear your ideas.