How can you shift your focus from “keeping busy” to “leaving a legacy?”
Jocelyn K. Glei
I must confess that the Week 2 prompts for the Tracking Wonder Quest on the theme of Engage have triggered huge resistance from me. I wrote the response to the question of what am I willing to sacrifice with courage, conviction, and commitment – and my inner choir of saboteurs reacted vigorously – thowing roadblock after roadblock into my path.
I know from past experience that this vigorous resistance is merely a sign that I am embarking on change. I like to see this resistance as an invitation to get curious about my goals and commitments, and to identify which risks I can mitigate and where I just need to take a leap of faith.
And, there are so many areas in my work and personal life where the need for a leap of faith is required of me right now that I am facing this resistance on all fronts. In parallel with responding to these Quest responses, I am now engaged in examining all of these changes through that lens.
But Glei’s prompt evokes a deeper musing.
Like many previous prompts over the years of doing the Quest work, taking Jocelyn Glei’s prompt literally proved to be an impossible task. Simply recognizing this and choosing to engage with the prompt in a way that is meaningful to me is evidence of a major shift for me over the past few years. As a child, the only thing I was rewarded for by my parents was perfect grades – and it wasn’t even that I was rewarded for them, but perfect grades were at least acknowledged as me doing what I was supposed to do. And the only way to get perfect grades in school is to carefully understand exactly what was being asked in the question and discern the perfect answer to make the teacher happy.
Of course, Quest prompts are not questions of this type. There are no right answers – probably not even any wrong answers – and certainly not any perfect answers. The prompts are intended to tickle, niggle, stimulate, and enervate; they are complex inquiries that don’t have a single answer even to a single individual, and definitely no answers that stay constant over time.
2015 and 2016 have not been years of keeping busy. I have been incredibly busy, but not with busy work. In addition to the demands of raising 4 kids with special needs as a single parent with joint custody, I have been studying the skills of coaching; growing myself as a person; learning better business practices; purging, cleaning and renovating my house to create a home; learning, practicing, and teaching healthy relationship building skills; and deepening my capacity for creating intimacy wherever I go. All of these projects have been explicitly undertaken in service of creating a life for myself that I want to live – that feels vibrant, alive, and meaningful. And they have been working.
But, Glei’s question of legacy trips me up.
What happens to my life when I think about leaving a legacy?
The first thing that happens is that I panic.
On a bad day, I fear that I am not leaving any kind of legacy to be proud of. Then I realize that all my actions over the past dozen years have been driven by the desire to leave a different legacy in my children than I inherited from my family of origin.
In particular, I want my children to know in their deepest being that they are loved, lovable, worthy of love, and most valuable in their wholeness. This requires different attitudes to gender expression, emotional comfort, and sexuality than were the legacy my parents passed down to me from their parents. Breaking a cultural and generational channel of transmission is not easy and my sense is that I am succeeding. Maybe not to the full extent that I want, but to a substantial extent.
Here on the cusp of 2017, I am standing in my desire to create a bigger legacy. The cultural programming that I got from my family is pervasive throughout the Western world – and especially North America, where I make my home. I am not satisfied by merely leaving a legacy in my family. I want to have an impact on the wider culture. I want to engage from platforms where strangers can hear me and embrace wider possibilities.
I want to align with the people, organizations, and forces that are standing up and speaking out for love, wholeness, inclusion, respect, and generosity to all. I want to add my voice to the chorus, find my part and hit all the right notes.
My focus had already shifted to leaving a legacy. Now I am ready to shift the focus again. It is time to stretch into creating the bigger dream, the bolder desire, and the more impactful legacy.
I don’t need my name on my legacy – though I would like to make money through things with my name on and have recognition in the present for the work I am doing. I am no Ozymandias – I have no need to leave a legacy of stone and a cry for fame. I want to leave something deeper, more ethereal — a cultural shift. I want my legacy to be a greater number of people functioning in healthier communities.
How to shift my focus is not an easy question to answer. I know that I will need to keep this focus front and centre as I walk into the new year.
Luckily, I am in the middle of CTI’s Co-Active Leadership program. The focus of the program is currently shifting from internal work to manifesting leadership in the wider world. I can tether my work in that program to this focus and vice versa and use my Leadership homework to start building my legacy in the wider world.
This is part of Quest 2017, a 12-prompt process for annual planning. The prompt was provided by Jocelyn K. Glei, author of Unsubscribe, a modern guide to killing email anxiety, avoiding distraction, and getting real work done. Her previous works include Manage Your Day-to-Day, Maximize Your Potential, and Make Your Mark, which offer pragmatic, actionable advice for creatives on managing their time, their careers, and their businesses.