In Those Five Minutes

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“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you can help them to become what they are capable of becoming.” ~ J. W. von Goethe

The firefighter at your door sternly states you have five minutes to gather whatever you choose and evacuate your residence. A physician summons you with news that you probably have no more than five minutes with a dying loved one. You’re entering emergency surgery and asked to consider an organ donor consent. You’re on a flight when the captain instructs passengers to brace for impact.

In times of uncertainty, danger, or impending loss we are forced to transcend the thinking that usually dominates our everyday awareness. Without notice, you have to make lightening-quick decisions to which you haven’t given much prior thought. Shifting from the trivial to the critical usually exceeds your brain’s speed limit. And you’re likely unfocused and unsure about what to do. In those precious moments are these important…

  • your degree(s)
  • your age
  • technological conveniences
  • what you control
  • social media
  • what’s on the news
  • your investments
  • what you look like
  • global politics
  • how you’re acting
  • material possessions?

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I suspect not. You’re dealing with a racing mind, feeling physically exhausted and depleted, and scrambling to make sense of the seemingly unfathomable. What can you say, think, do? Is this a space in which you anticipated being?

When standing at such an edge, uncertain about the future, one can hope to draw strength from knowing what really matters — for those five minutes… what to grab, what to say, how to react and how to decide, with compassion.

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There’s a purpose here. It’s to encourage thought about what you value and to invite aligning your life with same. Because possessing clarity about what matters, matters!

In anticipation of having only five minutes, would confirmation of any of these help?

  1. Be yourself. When living as a passionate, inspired being, the only challenge greater than learning to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is to walk a lifetime comfortably in your own. Let your heart lead and take your brain along. When you’re clear and comfortable about what matters to you, making tough decisions can come more easily.
  2. Be a front-runner. Associate with others who share your values and aspirations. Don’t find yourself in a position where social gravity draws you into an unenlightened world and obscures who you are, what you know to be important and how you embrace, confidently, being at choice.
  3. Don’t stop remembering why. Many of us have tendencies to lose touch with what we loved as a child. The social pressures of adolescence and later professional pressures squeeze the passion out of people. Remember what you enjoy doing, with whom and why. You only need to be good at being and valuing you, and being there for others.

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Quality of Life, Varies

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“The significance of a man is not in what he attains, but rather what he longs to attain.”  ~ Kahlil Gibran

Reference.com defines significance as, “importance; consequence; meaning.” I’ve previously posted about significance and given what I believe it means to many, I’m revisiting it.

Significance is not a subject on which people often dwell. Instead, many are focused on achieving success, however one defines success. When you ‘Google’ the word significance you find abundant reference to: statistics, physics, ethics, religion, history, locations, and significant others. But you need to dig deeper to find works that address it in the context of life meaning and the accumulation of moments that matter.

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It’s easy to feel like small acts of kindness are unimportant in the big scheme of things, especially in parts of our world that are captivated by fame, promotion and bravado. But small acts can be incredibly important. Life stories, even legacies, are not possible without a series of meaningful acts; with each moment adding on a quality to the next.

A person who is leading a significant life is unimpressed with him/herself.

Many of us are passionately engaged on the road towards success (I certainly once was), but if we are asked whether or not we are living a life of significance, some may not have an answer. It’s not easy. And it’s not for everyone. Creating a life of significance takes planning and awareness of your calling, values, and goals. And this is something that can become lost in day-to-day living. However, it is attainable.

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Copious choices exist if living a life of significance is an aspiration. Here are three possibilities to consider:

  1. There are opportunities every day to learn new things, meet new people, explore new ideas, and contribute to the betterment of yourself. Many only appear once. Don’t miss them. Or… maybe you’d rather create them!
  2. Contemplate telling your truth of the moment. (It evolves as you grow and change.) Be authentic by your definition, not what others cast upon you. When you become grounded in who you are, it becomes easier to push beyond limits and live more significantly.
  3. Opportunities for turning what you do into ‘what you give back’ are virtually limitless. If you’re itching to shift your focus towards doing things of greater value, what would you consider to be the most pressing issues of our time? How could you leverage your skills and interests to help solve a piece of those problems?

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Significance can be core to the overall quality of how you live your life. In part, it’s about ‘who you are’ and how your choices have a ripple effect on your family, community, and the wider world.

You As Yoda

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“Learning is finding out that you already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers, and teachers.” ~ Richard Bach

In The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker discovers that he needs help on his journey to become a Jedi Knight. He recognizes that he cannot achieve his true potential without some guidance and training. He needs someone to provide direction and practical knowledge so he can acquire the understanding and skill to use The Force, the energy in the universe, wisely and effectively.

Yoda, who Luke meets on an isolated planet in the galaxy, initially appears to be an unlikely guide for such a momentous journey. Yet Yoda puts up with Luke’s initial insolence and arrogance, takes him under his pointed ears and manages to bring out the Knight that is within him. Yoda demonstrates, as the mentor to mentors, how to give support to a promising individual, how to offer challenges that permit one to learn and grow, and how to provide vision so that the “mentee” gains confidence and, eventually, independence.

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Have you ever been a Yoda to someone? Or perhaps, thought about being a Yoda? There are many ways to support someone who is exploring and willing to discover their true potential: there are teachers, trainers, coaches, guides, and obviously, mentors. These roles are not mutually exclusive.

So what makes a mentor unique? A mentor is an individual willing to become part of a supportive and diverse community of learners, open to sharing experiences, vulnerability, and expertise. A mentor is a person who models the need to continue learning as a life-long adventure. S/he is a person who has learned through success as well as challenge. A mentor realizes that respect is always an earned commodity. And a mentor accepts others in humanity.

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I have been blessed to have had several mentors; individuals who were as honored to support my growth (and at times arrogance), just as I was privileged to receive their tutelage. I’ve also been on the giving side of this relationship. As a mentor, I get to model the professional values and behaviors to those with and for whom I serve. It’s a win-win proposition.

There are many ways to be an effective mentor. If contributing in this capacity is something you might be good at and interested in, here are three ways to consider serving:

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  1. Guide and Counsel. You can serve as a confidant, sounding-board, or personal adviser to your mentee, especially as the relationship grows deeper over time. You may help your mentee understand conflict or explore ways to deal with problems.
  2. Share rather than teach. Mentoring is not about overtly teaching someone everything they need to know. It’s more about building relationships. Sharing from your heart bypasses any resistance and helps a mentee forge their own direction. This ensures they gain the right knowledge within the appropriate context of life lessons like persistence, self-awareness, and diligence
  3. Follow-up. If you’re going to start the process, make sure to be consistent and follow-up. Make arrangements to meet for coffee, phone calls, etc., every couple of months or at a frequency that works for both schedules. Mentoring only works if you do!

What Really Matters

“Do not care overly much for wealth or power or fame, or one day you will meet someone who cares for none of these things and you will realize how poor you have become.” ~ Rudyard Kipling

A friend shared the following with me a few months ago. It came without an author or attribution, however, someone clearly deserves credit for its composition.

“Ready or not some day it will all come to an end.

There will be no more sunrises, no minutes, hours or days.

All the things you collected whether treasures or baubles will pass to someone else.

Your wealth, fame and temporal power will shrivel to irrelevance. It will not matter what you owned or what you were owed.

Your grudges, resentments, frustrations and jealousies will finally disappear. So, too, your hopes, ambitions, plans and to-do lists will expire.

The wins and loses that once seemed so important will fade away. It won’t matter where you came from or on what side of the tracks you lived, at the end.

It won’t matter if you were beautiful or brilliant. Even your gender and skin color will be irrelevant.

So what will matter? How will the value of your days be measured? What will matter is not what you bought but what you built; not what you got but what you gave.

What will matter is not your success but your significance. What will matter is not what you learned but what you taught.

What will matter is every act of integrity, compassion, or sacrifice that enriched, empowered or encouraged others to emulate your example.

What will matter is not your competence but your character.

What will matter is not how many people you knew, but how many people will feel a lasting loss when you’re gone.

What will matter is not your memories but the memories in those who loved you. What will matter is how long you will be remembered, by whom and for what.

Living a life that matters doesn’t happen by accident. It’s not a matter of circumstance but of choice.”

There is a reason I chose identical subtitles for this blog and my radio show. It is my belief that we can be who we are and fulfill our incredibly unique purpose, if we so choose.

How can you really matter to others? There are countless ways. Here are three for your consideration:

  1. Tell the people in your life how you feel about them. If this doesn’t come natural to you, all the more reason to do it more often. It will become natural. “You matter” is what many want to hear. These work well too: “I’m happy to see you.” “You mean so much to me.” “Your contribution to the team is immeasurable.” “I so appreciate you.” The language of mattering is universal. Tell people and tell them often how much they matter.
  2. Sometimes following your calling means leaving the ones you love behind. This is a tough one. Sometimes it’s not our role in this life to be the best sibling, spouse or friend because we’re here to contribute in a different and unique way. Honor what’s true for you rather than falling in line with how society tells you to prioritize. You can only be and do you.
  3. Talk about others. Few like the person in the family, at work, or at the party who only talks about themselves, their interests, their accomplishments and their importance, right? You become far more interesting and important when you talk about the exciting things other people are doing, trying, creating, writing, and sharing. Doing so gives you the opportunity to establish yourself as someone who is learning and growing from others.

Appreciating Your Age

“You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” ~ Douglas MacArthur

On my radio show this week, my guest spoke about Encore Careers and Lifelong Learning. As a University Professor who teaches graduate and doctoral students, as well as Baby Boomers and emerging seniors, he reinforced that aging is relative and often subject to one’s own limiting beliefs and feelings. While we are all aging, it doesn’t have the same meaning for each of us.

There are valuable insights to absorb and wonderful experiences to savor at each life stage. Every new decade and every new year brings with it wisdom, transformation, and growth, as well as ends and beginnings. Many people, though, believe that there is one age that eclipses the others. They expend energy trying to reach it and, once it has passed, trying to retain it.

But wishing to be younger or older is a denial of the joys that have been and the joys yet to be, as well as the beauty of your life in the present. Holding on to one age can make it difficult to appreciate each new milestone you reach. Taking pleasure in the delights of your age, whether you are in your 20s, 40s, 60s, or 80s, can help you see the magnificence and usefulness of the complex seasons of life.

Think about it… each new year brings the potential for exciting and unfamiliar experiences. In our 20s we can embrace the energy of youth and the learning process, knowing it’s okay to not have all the answers. As we move through our third decade, we grow more self-assured as the confusion of our young adulthood melts away. We can honor these years by putting aside our fears of aging and concentrating instead on solidifying our values and enjoying our growing emotional maturity.

In our 40s, we become conscious of the wisdom we have attained through life experience and are blessed with the ability to put it to good use. We are not afraid to explore unfamiliar territory or to change. In our 50s, we tend to have successfully navigated our midlife re-evaluations and have prioritized our lives. In the decades beyond, we discover a greater sense of freedom than we have ever known and can truly enjoy the memory of all we have seen and done.

Aging, however, is about much more than staying physically healthy – it’s about maintaining your sense of purpose and your zest for life. Healthy aging means continually reinventing yourself, finding new things you enjoy, learning to adapt to change, staying socially active, and feeling connected to your community.

Here are three tips to keep in mind as you age:

  1.  Don’t fall for the myth that aging automatically means you’re not going to feel good anymore. It is true that aging involves physical changes, but it doesn’t have to mean discomfort or disability. While not all illness and pain is avoidable, many of the physical challenges associated with aging can be overcome or significantly mitigated by eating right, exercising, and taking care of yourself.
  2. Many aging adults don’t exercise. Yet exercise is vital for healthy aging. It helps you maintain your strength and agility, gives your mental health a boost, and can even diminish chronic pain. Regular exercise will help you stay physically and mentally healthy and improve your confidence.
  3. As you age, your life will change and you will lose things that previously occupied your time and gave your life purpose. But this is not a time to stop moving forward. Later life can be a time of exciting new adventures if you let it. If you’re not sure where to get started, try these suggestions: go on a weekend trip to a place you’ve never visited; pick up a long-neglected hobby; take a class or join a club or; learn something new (an instrument, a foreign language, etc.).

Try to enjoy the age you are at now, for each age presents its own unique wisdom to enjoy. Today is my niece and god-daughter’s birthday. Happy 21st, Grace!

Image Isn’t Everything

“Everything will line up perfectly when knowing and living the truth becomes more important than looking good.” ~ Alan Cohen

I’m opening with this quote for two reasons: 1) I love it! and; 2) It is the most frequently linked/copied image from any of my posts.

Back in mid-June I wrote a piece about Opinion versus Judgment . In the spirit of that post, I’d like to express an opinion about being authentic: Let’s stop all of the “image management.” It’s exhausting, stressful and the exact opposite of authenticity. I have been there and let me reassure you that trying so very hard to be liked, loved, forgiven and accepted, when you are not being authentic yourself, only leads to discouragement and depletion of self.

Let’s first recognize that an authentic voice is that quiet, persistent messenger who speaks to your intuition, telling you what is right for you and what you really need. Fairly simple, right? Yet being authentic means being yourself 24/7 and sometimes that isn’t easy. While it may be easy to stay in your comfort zone, finding the courage to be who you really are (I know, I emphasize this often), will help you realize your true potential. So how will you know you are being authentic? You will feel happy, expanded, optimistic, and relaxed. Whereas feeling restricted or contracted is a sign that you are shutting down and not being as authentic as you can be.

Being authentic begins from an assumption that many things are fake or not entirely real, genuine, sincere, or original. What we value in western culture and ourselves reveals much about our lifestyle, marketing, and communication attitudes. What we demonstrate in our ‘being’ speaks volumes about our alignment with values. But there is another facet that we overlook when we consider being authentic and that is intimacy.

Where authenticity is an ability to accurately share what is going on in our hearts and minds, intimacy is the level to which we share those things. It has to do with how far into our hearts and minds we let other people see. Authenticity is about clarity and definition. Intimacy is about depth.

A challenge, then, to being authentic is not understanding the layers involved in getting to know people. Most of us have layers; it’s how we protect and honor ourselves. But it’s the layers (the masks that hide the true self underneath) that seem inauthentic. Foundational to my work is establishing trust and intimacy with a client. Discovering what ‘lies beneath’ is something one has to want and another has to earn the right to see. When permission is given to peel back layers, exploring who the authentic you is – almost always yields new awareness, greater freedom, and a more inspired you.

So how can you begin to be your even more ‘authentic self?’ Here are three ideas:

  • Be a friend in real-time. Rarely does intimacy occur on Facebook or Twitter. If there is no face-to-face interaction in your relationships, intimacy doesn’t have space to grow. Go ahead and check with your friends in the digital space, but also create time to be a friend in real life. Invest in your true self, not in your cyber self.
  • Disregard the cynics. This is an important factor in being true to yourself. Being you is much more attractive than creating a false image so others are satisfied.
  • Align with yourself. In which direction are your feet walking? Are they walking toward what is passionate in your heart? If they’re not, can you justify why?

As long as you keep being you, as long as you keep staying true to yourself and who you are, it doesn’t matter what others think of you. What matters is that you are living in your truth and the people who need you will find you. And you will find the people you need.

Exploring Yields Clarity

“The more of me I be, the clearer I can see.” ~ Rachel Andrews

Many people move through life just “doing” without intentional and meaningful thought given to why or what it is that they are doing. This often finds them dealing with fear and worry, rather than purpose and action. When you choose to consciously work on a life plan for ‘what I want to do’ or ‘who I want to be,’ the process alone of exploring options can begin to ease anxiety, alleviate fear, and shift you forward.

Let’s be candid, who likes being stuck in a rut – living a life smothered by society’s expectations? In all likelihood, if you’re not clear about your own purpose and being it, you are probably going to feel trapped in an unsatisfying life experience. Wasting time doing things that you really don’t want to be doing is not going to allow you to fulfill your potential and express your uniqueness.

If you want to live an extraordinary life you must know who you are. To clearly know who you are, you’ve got to explore within yourself and be open to possibilities that you can discover about yourself. The prospect of doing this exploratory work is usually met with one of two reactions: either ‘I’m all in’ or ‘I’m scared to step into that unknowing.’ Rarely in my work do I find people who hover in between.

If you really want to change your life for the better or you are unclear about what’s next, there are many steps you can take to refocus and redirect your path. But I’m not going to share those steps today. Instead I’m going to pose three questions for you to ask yourself. After all, self-knowledge is your greatest knowledge! Answering these questions will help you to discover your unique passions, strengths, values, and desires.

Why this exercise? Because I don’t believe you want to be ‘lost,’ frustrated, anxious, trapped or unfulfilled. Call me crazy, but I think you would like to have greater clarity about your self, your potential, and your journey.

These questions aren’t about the “self” that others want you to be or the self that acts to fit in and conform with what society accepts. They are intended to have you think, without limitations, about the authentic you.

  1. What do I absolutely love in life? List anything that you love about the world and the people in your life. Think about activities that get you excited and make you feel most alive: sports, learning, teaching, gardening, travel – anything. Within your love for these things lies deep passion.
  2. What are my key values? Spend some time searching your soul to come up with a list of your basic values. Are you the type who values honesty, green living or a deep love of nature? Do you value charity over letting others find their way on their own, or is it the other way around? Knowing what you truly stand for is an integral component of good decision-making and being in integrity.
  3. What does success mean to me? Be very specific. “I want to be rich,” is not an answer – just what does rich mean anyway? Try to come up with at least three answers to the question of what success really means to you personally. One of the biggest obstacles to success is that most of us have never consciously explored what that means to us, aside from some vague idea of fame, fortune or other worldly success. Knowing what success really means to you allows you to weigh your choices more accurately.

The world needs the unique you, your clarity of purpose, and your vibrant contribution. You can be this by knowing who you really are, doing what you love (your passions), and living by your own set of values.

Don’t you want to be clear about these?

Being in Harmony

“When you find that your life is out of alignment with your grandest idea of yourself, seek to change it.” ~ Neale Donald Walsch

Life is ever-changing. Fair statement? Most of us are experiencing the shifting sands of life transitions. And there are times when we feel lost or some things feel “off.” Yet, you are in control of your life. You are in control of your actions. You are in control of your choices.

More fair statements (in my mind): Taking charge of yourself by being accountable and accepting responsibility for your actions are hallmarks of a strong character. Living your life in alignment with your values is not always the easy course to follow. Many difficult decisions must be made as we transit life. So we periodically ask ourselves, Did or do I do the right thing?

When faced with constant change, it might be the time to embrace that everything you once valued as important may not be what you value now.

When you are in the midst of a life transition, or even when you’re not, it’s essential to take stock of your values, and then do whatever you can to align your life with your most core values. Living in harmony with those values paves the way for, if not ensures, happiness and peace of mind. Some people call this living authentically.

In my mind, the heart is what represents your values, the things that are most important to you. When other parts of our being are not aligned with our values (eg., we make a different choice or take a different path) we experience dis-harmony which can lead to feelings of frustration, confusion, or unhappiness.

It makes sense then, that the more clarity you have about your values the more rapidly you can identify why you are experiencing dis-harmony and realign yourself to feelings of happiness. Ultimately, understanding your values helps you make choices to experience congruency, success and happiness.

It is generally accepted that when you live according to your core values you are in balance. When you stray from your core values, stress can build beneath the surface. Over time, you can come back into alignment with your core values or you can rationalize them away. Or another value can overtake an existing one if followed repeatedly. (Recall yesterday’s post about affirmations.)

So here’s a simple three-step exercise:

  1. Identify a situation where your core values were tested or challenged.
  2. How did you feel before you acted?
  3. How did you feel after you acted?

Remember, you are in control…of your actions…of your choices…of your life.  Create the change needed for you to be in harmony.

You’ll appreciate yourself even more.

The Very Real You

“Only the truth of who you are, if realized, will set you free.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

I help people to create shifts from success to significance. It’s how I earn a living and it’s immensely fulfilling work. One of the essential principles in that shifting process is discovering and being who you are at your core – the authentic you.

A while back I made a commitment to myself to live authentically. When I made this decision, I knew within my heart that it was time to shed anything and everything that was not in line with who I felt I truly was. I wanted to just be me and to live my life as I envisioned. This meant letting go of many old habits and beliefs. I gave up trying to change myself in order to win the approval of others. And I stopped giving my time and energy to activities that did not fulfill me or align with my dreams and values.

But the biggest change was when I decided I was going to use my personal gifts and natural talents to do work I loved. So I quit my cushy corporate job, cold turkey, and launched my Professional Coaching business, 7+ years ago. I now live a life and work with purpose and meaning. But many people don’t. They have a monotonous existence and will continue to do so for ‘x’ years until they’ve saved (hopefully) enough money to finally stop.

When those individuals conclude tenured working lives (even if they’ve been successful) they’re often unsure who they are or what they’ll next do. Many wonder how the pursuit of success got in the way and blocked their hopes and dreams of a different, more fulfilling life.

But promise and possibilities await each of us. And with good reason. We live in a world that is calling us into a search for authenticity, a quest for balance. In our work, people are searching for meaning as much as money. In our relationships, people are asking for spiritual and emotional connections, not just the physical presence of another. In our families, people are looking for ways to grow happily and love deeply.

In our finances, people want to spend money mindfully, achieving abundance and moving beyond greed. In our world, people want to live in harmony with the environment. In our daily lives, people are looking for ways to make a difference. In our hearts, people are looking for their essence, what makes them unique, and what it is that we hold in common with others.

More and more people are redefining what success means. They’re shifting from traditional standards of work and money toward a more significant life focused on personal fulfillment, social conscience, alignment with personal values, and creating a better future for everyone.

If you aspire to a more significant life, even if you’re of a younger generation, there are simple actions you can take today to live more authentically, Here are five:

  • Accept yourself for who you are, don’t deny it or discount yourself.
  • Get completely honest with yourself. Make a commitment to be true to yourself.
  • Discover who you are born-with, the core-self in you.
  • Ask yourself: What are my personal gifts and qualities? Then use them, fully!
  • Don’t let the world turn you into someone who you are not.

A Gifting of Values

“There is a strange charm in the hope of a good legacy that wonderfully reduces the sorrow people otherwise may feel of their relatives and friends.” ~ Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

Yesterday I beat my chest (a little) about the Baby Boomer (BB) generation. Yet the post’s intent was to highlight personal values and the importance for BB to create and pass on values-based legacies. I mentioned that a follow-on post would provide some legacy ‘prep’ questions. So here we are.

But first, a couple of marketing factoids about the BB cohort. They are the most powerful age segment based size and economic clout. They have more discretionary income than any other group in America. They are not fanatically loyal to brands and they account for 40% of total consumer demand in the U.S. – which equates to estimated annual spending in the US$2 Trillion range. And their wealth has taken a huge hit by a nearly-unprecedented economic downturn.

Yet there were setbacks over the last half-century that BB are responsible for. For instance, the group is frequently said to be too materialistic, egotistical, and overly anxious to assert its philosophies on others. The group is also split regarding social responsibility and generally helping fellow citizens (just look at the U. S. political and wealth divides as cases in point). And, the group has attempted to spread democracy and other distinctly American values on people around the world creating a cultural schism between the U.S. and other countries.

So, yes, I’m not entirely proud of my generation. Still, many of us have worked hard and created a good life for our heirs. Also, many BB have given away sizable portions of their financial gains to charitable/philanthropic causes. In a recent national survey of BB, for the overwhelming majority surveyed, legacy transfer is critically important. Those legacies could include tangible memory captures, personal perspectives on flexible and changing traditions, lessons learned, and the value in contributing to society; things that are worth cataloging, understanding, and appreciating long-term.

For those thinking about what values are important to an impending legacy, the following questions to consider:

  • Are there spiritual stories or events that have had an impact on my life?
  • What family history would I like future generations to remember?
  • What photographs, videos or possessions capture this history?
  • Do I/we have annual family trips, reunions, or gatherings?
  • Is there a specific lesson or teaching I/we want remembered?

It takes reflection to understand what is important in your life and how you might get that message to heirs. But it won’t be a waste of time. Sometimes a scrapbook, family album or audio recording is worth more than an investment portfolio. Values are valued!