Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goals for the New Year? How About Your Legacy?

I’ve spent some time with my grandmother this week as she lies dying in hospital.  It is a small, rural hospital that mostly caters to the dying – those who are not dying are usually sent to the larger center in the city.

My grandmother doesn’t react to many of the things that I say to her but she appears to enjoy hearing me read from Scripture.  Her favorite, as I have discovered, is Psalm 23.  For those who ask “which one is that”, as soon as you say “The Lord is my shepherd” they often say excitedly “Hey, I know that one”.

As she rests, I take out my journal and think about her life.  She brought 12 children into the world.  She lived in a small rural town that has seen it’s boom and bust cycle now settle into the steady decline so unfortunately common in remote, rural places.  She never had much but she made do with what she had.  Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren went on to become doctors, engineers, nurses, fathers, mothers, IT experts and just about everything else under the sun.

Now here she is – alone and in her final days.  She doesn’t have time to change anything even if she wanted to.  Everything she can create has been created. 

Her legacy lives on in her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

She has made mistakes.  She has won her victories.  She has made her share of friends and enemies.

Haven’t we all?

New Year’s Resolutions

As we move from 2009 to 2010, I am receiving the typical end-of-year plethora of emails about goal setting, New Year’s resolutions and such.

Many of the people who respond to these talk about what is important to them.  This year they are finally going to lose the weight they always wanted to get rid of.  Maybe they are hoping to shrug off smoking, not saving enough money or some other thing they feel is important.

However, as I think of these things, they always seem to be “small potatoes” in comparison to the important things in life.

I think of Dr. Stephen Covey’s 4 L’s of Life, namely:

  • Live
  • Love
  • Learn
  • Legacy (as in, to leave one)

Many of the resolutions that people make don’t seem to fit into a larger picture.  For example, if you ask someone why they would quit smoking, they cite reasons such as “it is not socially acceptable”, “I will live longer” or “I will save money”.

These are all excellent reasons.  However, if one asks them the obvious next question, such as "what will you do with the longer life or additional money?”, you discover they haven’t figured out that far ahead yet.

Without that compelling “bigger picture” question in mind, many of their New Year’s resolutions will fall flat.

After all, their larger life goals remain undefined so there is no compelling reason to actually live up to the short-term resolutions and goals.

Life Legacy – What is That?

They have no idea what their Life Legacy is all about – why they are here on this planet, what can they do in the relatively brief time they are here and how will they be remembered when they are gone.  They believe it is too difficult to answer these questions and having come to that conclusion, move through their life with short-sightedness.

The interesting truth is that even if they don’t know what their legacy could or should be, the very act of living their life is producing a legacy anyway.

When they get to their end-of-days as my grandmother has, they may like the legacy they have created.

It is possible they may not.

However, if they build their life purpose and life actions around an intended legacy, they have a better chance of creating one closer to that which they desire.

Your Resolutions

So as you go through the typical year-end gyrations for what the New Year brings, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How can I live a life with purpose?  Better yet, do I know what my purpose is?
  2. Who can I love more and in an unconditional manner?  How can I welcome more love?
  3. What can I learn in 2010 that will make me a better person?  Once I have learned it, who can I share it with?
  4. What legacy am I leaving behind?  How will I be remembered?  Am I happy with this?

Our end-0f-days draws closer for each of us with each passing day. 

As you establish your resolutions, dreams and aspirations for 2010, keep the big picture of your life and your legacy in mind.

Your life, your gifts and your talents are too valuable to settle for anything less. 

I raise a toast to your legacy.  May it be everything you wish it to be and more.

I wish you all a blessed 2010 filled with abundance of life, love, learning and sharing.

In service and servanthood.


To see my Musings-in-a-Minute version of “Goals for the New Year?  How About Your Legacy?”, please click here.


  1. Hi Harry,
    Sorry to hear about your grandmother, yes that time will come for all of us.
    Your grandmother Legacy is a strong one, having produced you in her line.
    Have a healthy and prosperous New Year my Friend.
    Lew Merle

  2. Thank you for the wonderful reminder. I love the Live, Love, Learn and Legacy reminder. I want to live passionately, love unconditionally, learn daily and leave a legacy of one who made a difference for family, friends and the future friends I have not even met yet.

    Your Grandmother sounds like she is (was) an amazing woman! May her legacy live long in your heart and family.