There’s an old saying that goes, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any path will take you there.” The same is no less true of personal development. Everyone who starts down the path of personal development wants to grow – to evolve into something more than when they began their journey. But figuring out just what path to take when you set out is a major challenge in and of itself.
The first thing I do when I meet with a new client who is ready to begin their quest for personal development is to ask them if they have a legacy. What exactly does that mean? Most of us have some sense of the meaning of the term “legacy.” The common use of this word is backward looking. Take this question: “What kind of legacy do you want to leave behind?” In this case, a legacy is something like the achievements we’re known for when we’re gone. But this backward looking sense of a legacy is just a small part of what I’m after when I talk to them about their legacy. After all, we’re not planning for their funeral here!
The reason why I use the word “legacy” is that it focuses our attention on the whole picture and purpose of our lives. It’s fantastic to have career goals, financial goals or relationship goals, but often times we tend to ignore the other aspects of our lives in favor of pursuing those particular achievements. True personal development requires a holistic approach, one in which you’ve set out the ideal picture of your life and developed a goal structure that supports that the achievement of that total life goal. Because a legacy just is your complete life’s goal, it’s a crucial step in taking a holistic approach to personal development.
So one fantastic benefit to having a legacy is that it can help you to create and organize goals. But having a well thought-out legacy offers so much more. As with any other project, there will always be distractions while you are working on yourself. We have habits to overcome, patterns of procrastination, people who need our time and energy, and so forth. The power of a legacy is that it can provide a very powerful tool to conquer those habits, steer clear of the procrastination, and to meet the needs of those around us with out getting diverted.
The reason why these diversions can have such a pull on us is because we don’t have any particular force guiding us in a direction that we truly want to go. But when your day is built around your legacy, those distractions become less potent. The short term pleasures that procrastinating offers pale in comparison to the potential of your legacy and as long as you stick to your goals, you’re always one day closer to realizing that dream.
Of course, the extent to which your legacy will help you to create and organize your goals, and boost your motivation is going to depend upon how much detail you give to the picture of your ideal life. This picture of your legacy often develops over a long period of time, but you can get a decent handle on it by thinking about the following lifestyle components:
- People – what kind of people do you value, feel comfortable with, get excited about spending time with?
- Passion – what is it about life that enlivens you and fills you with energy? 3) Purpose – what is it that brings meaning to your life or gives you a sense of fulfillment?
- Responsibilities – what kinds of responsibilities are you comfortable handling in your life, whether they be personal, professional or spiritual?
- Career – what manifestation of your abilities, purpose and passion would best fulfill your career needs?
- Values – your values are your needs and desires, ranging from your most basic physical needs to those that dictate your relationships with your friends, loved ones, co-workers and the environment at large. What are your values?
This list here certainly isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a good start. Not only will it help you to fill out the picture of your career, but the relationships you develop with your self and your loved ones.
Because this picture you’re developing is your life’s goal, I recommend, just as with any goal, that you write it down. Or, if you are artistically driven, you can draw it, paint it, sculpt it, or make it physical in whatever way works best for you. However you do it, don’t allow your legacy to remain just an idea. Your legacy will be much more motivating when you can look it in the face each and every day.
Knowing that you have a purpose and that you are living your purpose every day is a wonderful thing. It makes me spring out of bed every day, energized and excited! How many people do you know that look forward to their day, every day, in that way? So take the time to map out your legacy today. You’ll be giving yourself a path to personal development with a purpose and that’s a path to success!
© Paul Chek, 2008 Personal Development with a Purpose