Legacy is a term that’s used often, especially in the sports world. When you’re playing a sport with an average career that spans 3-5 years, you have to be mindful of what you want your legacy to be.
However, many of us don’t think about our professional legacy with the same urgency. It always feels like you have more time. In your mind you feel you need to keep climbing the corporate ladder, sometimes putting your values and beliefs on hold to reach the next rung. Or maybe your current job doesn’t fulfill you but it provides a comfortable lifestyle — one that you rationalize putting your authentic self on the back burner while you “pay your dues.”
THINGS WILL CREEP IN IF YOU ALLOW THEM TO
But what if I challenged you to look at your legacy differently? What if I told you that your legacy is not an end result, but the residual impact of active decisions you make (or don’t make) on a daily basis.
This was a perspective that I learned as an athlete. When you don’t have job security, or you’re always one incident away from everything being over, urgency is not a challenge. But when I retired from sports, I fell back into the “long-term legacy building” pattern. After retiring from football, I constantly found myself in situations where I rationalized making myself small or devaluing my contributions, telling myself that I was trying to find my footing in this new world.
At first, I thought it was something I could control from situation to situation. But eventually, it became a normal pattern of behavior. There was a 2-year stretch of time where I worked as hard as I can remember but had no progress to show for it. I had given of myself to make others’ dreams become a reality, but was stuck at the starting line in my own journey.
That realization was a gut punch. During that time I sacrificed time with my family, lost loved ones, and burned through resources and time that I could never get back. I knew I had to take a step back and re-evaluate.
DEFINE YOUR NORTH STAR AND CHASE IT
In that moment of clarity, I realized that time was too precious to spend investing in everyone else’s vision but my own. I had to define what success looked and felt like for me, and the lasting impact that I wanted to leave with others. But in order to do that, I had to become ruthless with my time and energy. In the pursuit of my vision, I was able to re-discover the urgency and day-to-day focus to speak my vision into intentional action.
The first step is to define your “north star.” Visualize the ideal version of your life in as much detail as you can. When you have a clear picture, ask yourself these questions:
- What does success look like to me? What does a successful life feel like?
- How do I know I am successful? What are the things I care about?
- What are the core values that define my daily professional activity?
- What strengths do others believe I have that lead me to my north star?
- What weaknesses do others see that can prevent me from reaching my north star?
The journey won’t always be easy. At times you’ll have to make uncomfortable decisions. You may second guess yourself from time to time.
But I can promise you this– if you stay the course, trust yourself, and invest in the process, the legacy you build for yourself will be well worth the investment.