Mapping Midlife – Discovering Your Legacy

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One of the biggest motivating factors for people in their 50’s and 60’s is leaving a lasting legacy. According to Carl Jung, at midlife we move from cataloging achievements to discovering meaning. We begin to realize that life is limited – and even though many of us think of our mid-fifties or early sixties as midlife, we are also aware that we probably will not live to be 0ne hundred twenty.

For some, their legacy is their children; for others it is their ideas. What will your legacy be? How will you refocus your productivity at midlife? As we age, we begin to think about what it all means and how we would like to be remembered.

Here are some questions to help you think about your legacy:

1. Is it important to me to give something back to my community or the world?

2. Do I want to ensure that others inherit money and/or material things from me?

3. Do I want to leave something behind that creates memories for others?
4. How do I want to be remembered?

5. What am I doing to create a legacy?

6. In what ways do I want to influence other people?

7. Are there causes in which I want to become involved?

8. Are there skills that I would like to teach to others?

One way to begin to see what’s important in your life is to look ahead to the end of your years. Writing an obituary or a testimonial is a common way to focus on what you want in life and how you would like to be remembered.

Here’s a simple three-step process:

1. First, write your obituary. Find a quiet, private space and something to write on. Turn off the television. Get rid of any distractions. Take a few deep breaths. Clear your mind of other concerns. If you wish, close your eyes.

Imagine a room full of people who love you who have come together to celebrate your life. Imagine that you have accomplished everything that you ever hoped to do. Your every dream has been fulfilled. Everyone who is important to you is gathered to talk about the wonderful person you were and about your many accomplishments. Write down what they are saying about you. Make the list as detailed as possible.

2. Second, go back and underline or highlight your accomplishments. This will tell you what your goals are and what you value. Each accomplishment you have yet to achieve can be turned into an intention or a goal statement. Now you know what you hope your legacy will be and have an overall plan for achieving it.

3. Third, develop a vision statement for yourself. This should be one or two sentences that describe how you will be in the world. It is not an action plan. It is similar to the obituary in that it is an end-point. It is different in that it provides direction and focus to all your activities.

Your personal vision statement should describe what you ultimately envision the greater purpose of your life to be, in terms of growth, values, contributions to society, etc. Use your legacy and goals to guide you in this process. Once you have defined your vision, you can begin to develop strategies for moving toward that vision. Part of this includes the development of a mission statement.

Why spend time thinking about your legacy? Knowing what you want your legacy to be and defining your personal vision will shape the other six key decisions to be made at midlife. You will need surroundings and support systems that enable you to implement your vision. Your creative expression, your personal relationships and the work that you do all implement that vision. Knowing what you want your legacy to be will serve as a beacon to guide you through the second half of your life.

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