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Monday Moment: Is your lifestyle stealing your legacy?

Emma Grey
On the weekend, my 83-year-old dad sang a solo at the very last service of the tiny country church that his grandfather helped to build 150 years ago, in the village of Kangaloon in the Southern Highlands of NSW.

It’s the church where my great grandparents met, and are buried. She was the organist. He was a wild Irishman. They eloped.

Watching dad sing as I sat beside my daughters made me feel quite emotional about the way life had come full circle. My girls’ great-great grandparents had been at the first service in that building. Their great-great granddaughters had driven interstate to be present at the last.

It also made me think about legacies…

Maybe it’s this time of life, but I meet a lot of people who say they’re struggling to figure out their ‘purpose’ in life. They feel defined mainly by their relationships with others, or perhaps by a career that no longer feels quite ‘right’. There’s a real sense of trying to figure out ‘what I’m here for’, and a creeping concern that ‘what I want to do when I grow up’ will be a question that’s never answered.

Sitting in the building my great grandfather built, surrounded by his descendants—his legacy seemed quite obvious. Often ours aren’t so clear.

Knowing your ‘purpose’ can be a difficult thing to articulate. Figuring out the legacy you want to leave seems more tangible. It’s also something that can be portioned into steps. What legacy do you want to leave in 2016? Longer term, what do you want to build or make or create or do that will create a ripple effect in the world that goes beyond you?

The next bit is figuring out what is currently getting in the way of achieving this.

When we say ‘yes’ to other people’s demands—when we soak our precious time in other things—our legacies lie dormant.

Whether it’s watching TV that we’re not really loving or scrolling mindlessly through Facebook or obsessing about what others think or focusing on the empty half of the glass, we make decisions every day that can stop us doing something that makes the world better.

That could be making a tangible ‘thing’, or it could be creating better relationships, or volunteering, or standing up for a passionate cause, or paying random acts of kindness. It could be better listening or teaching or guiding or protecting the environment or any number of good things that leave a positive mark on the world.

I wondered on the weekend whether my great-great grandchildren will gather somewhere, sometime and say, ‘My great-great grandmother did this…’ If they do, it will be because I figured out my legacy, but it will also be because I said ‘no’ to things that so easily bring it down.

What about you?

Image of ‘three generation women‘ via Shutterstock

Emma Grey

Emma Grey is the Canberra-based author of ‘Wits’ End Before Breakfast! Confessions of a Working Mum’ and ‘Unrequited: Girl Meets Boy Band’. She’s director of the life-balance consultancy, WorkLifeBliss and co-founder of a fresh approach to time-management, My 15 Minutes. She lives just over the ACT border with her two teen daughters and young son. More about the Author

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