I run. I walk. I bike. If…while running, walking or biking…I fall down and go BOOM (more accurately BOOM-SKID-BOUNCE) it occurs in a crosswalk.
Why? Try walking across one when it is raining. The paint they use, at least in this state, that is raised and reflective is also slicker than owl sh*t. It is not too safe on a dry day either. Why oh why, in the name of pedestrian safety, they use paint like this is beyond me. There…that is my pet peeve for the day. I walk outside the crosswalk.
I have been engaged in a very strange and illuminating discussion of late about the concept of success, fulfillment, happiness and legacy. Usually, when I have these types of discussions it is very much a mental exercise – most of what is discussed is theoretical. Perhaps, we may know that doing what makes you feel fulfillment brings happiness and happiness is more important than success but living that is a different matter. Tied up is the separation of the idea of success from happiness and then further complicating the issue is how and where the concept of legacy comes in.
I am 43 years old. And I have been shifting steadily over the past three years in what I view as success and legacy for myself. I am not talking about defining it as a global concept, but sitting and examining the personal definition that we each have of what it means to us to be successful. Have you ever really thought about that? I mean, what does it look like to you? What comes with it? Does it provide anything? How is it reflected in the rest of your life – in your degree of happiness, your sense of fulfillment and purpose and – da da dum – how does it define the type of legacy you will leave?
The idea of legacy is difficult for many people to think about because in order to recognize the shift towards legacy in your psyche it means that you must also acknowledge your mortality. We sort of do a shimmy-shift and have defined legacy as the things we leave behind. This allows us to keep producing, acquiring and making until the moment we die – in effect, we get to distract ourselves from accepting, internalizing and reconciling our mortality because we continue to live in in a constant building and acquiring mode. Legacy, as Stephen Covey so eloquently defined, “fulfills our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence and contribution.” Erickson defines the psychosocial development stage of Legacy centers on the question, “Can I make my life count?” It is slightly embarrassing for me to be such a cliché, but the Legacy stage hits (not always but often) between the ages of 40 and 65, and here I am 43 and full in it.
If you combine Covey and Erickson, you get a very defined question that begins to illuminate what is popularly known as the “mid-life crisis.” The question becomes:
“Can I make my life count by understanding and committing to my sense of purpose, gaining understanding of my meaning, developing personal congruence and finding a way to contribute to life?”
The stereotypical mid-life crisis has people throwing away years of work and relationships and either going backwards to emulate youth (escaping Legacy) or launching themselves on a vague path of discovery that more often than not, leads them to become serial adopters of theories that promise to explain life and give them place and purpose. I wish I could say that there is one way above all others that reveals the answers to the questions posed when you consider your legacy, but there isn’t.
Legacy unfolds much the same way faith does. In the beginning, faith is wonderful and easy. There is structure, ritual, and answers – there is security in faith and faith is defined by how you experience it. As you grow spiritually, you begin to experience a deepening of faith and a rising questioning of the easy answers and structures of ritual, – this stage demands you give up the safety of symbols and rituals and stand within the unknowing without promise you will be moved to a place of wisdom and understanding. That phase often causes people to abandon their faiths – to reject the religions they once participated in so zealously as being hypocritical and false, to come to believe that even considering faith is an example of willful delusion. Should they make it through this “dark night of the soul,” they enter into a new phase – one in which they stand within faith, not as its center and definer, but as a part of its life. Your experience is accepted as limited and you become open to being a part of something larger, something you are not in control of, something that you do not define.
The concept of Legacy is exactly like that. Legacy is not something that you are in control of nor do you define it. Leaving a building with your name on it or thousands of dollars to someone is not a Legacy. A legacy is made from your contribution to something much larger than you could ever understand its purpose and meaning. But you have come to understand your own, your own small corner of time. Success redefines itself as fulfilling your purpose, understanding your meaning, becoming congruent (the process of having reconciled all of you into one), discovering the best way for you to contribute to what it is all of life shares, and that we can never define.
Ok…that is part one, I am still trying to get to what I wanted to write about a few days ago but this is getting to be a rather long one today and I have got to get back to work…so consider tomorrow’s post part II.
c.2012. Cassandra Tribe. All Rights Reserved.