As I’m sitting writing this article, I am reeling from yet another shock. Another person I know died of Covid-19. I know I’m not alone – almost every person on earth has had this experience in the last year. For some of us it came as close as family members, partners and good friends passing away. It’s scary, sad and horrible.
Reading the LinkedIn posts with eulogies and seeing photographs of the people I knew and respected, I cannot help to mentally insert my own picture. If I died, what would people say? Would there be an outpouring of condolences and people sharing how much I touched their lives? Or would people sigh and say “Ag, shame” and quickly move on to the next post. A sobering thought.
Everyone has control over the legacy that they leave. In fact, it might be the only thing you have control over. So, if you’d like to be deliberate about what you’re remembered for, here are a couple of steps to take.
- Write your own eulogy. Yes, it’s a bit macabre. When I wrote mine, I could feel the hair on my neck standing up. But push through, it gets easier. Write from the third person’s perspective. What would you like your colleagues, friends and family say about you? What do you want to be remembered for? Get it out on a piece of paper and put it where you can see it every day.
- Clarify your values. Reading through the eulogy, what values does it contain? Is it establishing relationships that change people’s lives? Is it being courageous by standing up for injustice? Make a list of the values that will support this eulogy. A value that I wrote down is that I will prioritize my kids for as long as they need me.
- Agree behaviours. Values without behaviours to support them are just empty words. If “being courageous” is the value, the behaviour could be to say something every time someone tells a racist joke. It would mean speaking up in a meeting when you don’t agree with the decision even if you’re scared to. It means sharing your feelings with someone when all you want to do is run for the hills! Write these down so that they are clear in your mind. For my value it means that when my sons walk in, I would stop what I’m doing at the laptop and give them attention.
- What needs to change? In order to live the values and behaviours, what is the very next (small) thing that you need to change? Maybe it’s reaching out to that friend that keeps sending you jokes that demean women. Maybe it’s having a frank conversation about hurt and betrayal. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering, just the very next thing that you can do.
- Finally, remove the obstacles. What will stop you from doing this small thing? Maybe the fear of what your friend will say if you ask them to stop sending the jokes. Play out the scenario about what could possibly happen. Maybe they are offended. But remember that you are responsible for your own reactions, but not for someone else’s.
I have my eulogy taped up on my notice board. My son walked in just now for a hug (he’s doing online school) and noticed it. “What is it?” he asked. And when I explained, he said: “Cool.” Yes, I think it’s cool, too.