Written by: Dolly Garlo
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” —Mary Oliver, from her poem “The Summer Day”
Most people take more time to plan a vacation than to invest and engage in consciously planning life – the life that will eventually lead to the legacy they leave, both tangibly and intangibly.
The process of conscious recognition and planning for how to spend and share one’s precious life energy often results in personal reinvention – to choose a better path for expressing it. In part one of this article, we explored how personal reinvention evolves.
Too often reinvention starts with an existential or other form of crisis. There is a better way.
Begin Consciously and Comprehensively
Not so much a chronological age, one’s mid-to-late career begins the masterful stage of life when ideals combine with experience and resources. A comprehensive planning approach – beyond traditional financial and estate planning – makes what’s next exciting and engaging to inform that process. It also allows more people to develop deliberately the leadership influence and impact that leads to great legacies. And it can prevent potential career burn out, eliminate unnecessary wealth depletion, and especially avoid personal regret.
As for legacy, there are some typical misconceptions that cause many people to feel the subject is inapplicable to them:
Misconception 1: “Legacy only happens after your death.” To the contrary, some of the greatest legacies get built, grown, and developed during one’s lifetime.
Misconception 2: “I’m not wealthy enough to create a legacy.” You might be surprised. Legacy is about a lot more than just money.
Misconception 3: “My kids will inherit everything I have, and that’s my legacy.” Maybe re-think that. Inheriting all your wealth and assets may be a disincentive for them to be productive in their own lives, and they may not need it. Choosing how much to give to them or to other projects you care about is important. Children can be involved in the legacy building, too — it is a way to learn about real wealth, business and making a contribution.
Traditional legacies are legally defined as the money and property left at the end of life to others – to your heirs (family members or other individuals or institutions), who decide what to do with it after you’re gone. Creating a legacy is a living activity that may involve your money and assets; other individuals or institutions; your time, effort and enthusiasm – and possibly a combination. It may well involve estate, financial and business planning. Fundamentally, it depends on life planning and consciously developing a legacy that lasts while being fully alive to enjoy building it.
There are many life-planning issues to consider when you are financially independent or secure enough to pursue early or full retirement. While working for earned income may be less necessary, engaging in purposeful work, a meaningful calling, or pursuits of influence and impact are still important. These efforts can also produce supplemental income, while “working happy and more in control” as one client put it. They are also where legacy level activities can be pursued.
While a leisure-oriented life seems attractive, lacking a sense of contribution and involvement can quickly result in boredom, disconnection, and even despair – because leisure is a break from something else. Full-time leisure is no longer leisure, however good it may sound. We need meaning and to be productive, constructive, and creative to feel most fully satisfied.
Here is a framework for the putting it all together in 5 steps.
Step 1: Develop Start by putting your life in the context of a bigger picture with an inventory of skills, areas of intelligence, communication styles, your personal qualities, preferences and interests, and your economic and leadership capacities. All these assets are significant and too often under-appreciated even by highly accomplished people.
Step 2: Discover Moving in a new direction involves not only what to include, but what to release – and how. This may include succession or exit planning and changes to maintain key relationships. Even when financially secure or independent, new involvements based on a clear sense of purpose and values best serves both self and others, and supports the change process. Redefining key relationships – personal and professional – prevents burning important bridges. Traditional retirement planning is primarily a financial construct – one still has to retire to something.
Step 3: Design Building on that foundation is most effective if it incorporates a “full life” design. Ideally, this includes identifying what’s important to you, and what’s important for you to accomplish at this point. Research tells us there are eight key elements that make up true-life satisfaction, so the ideal design would address the following categories: Health Finances and Estate Family Personal Development Friends Leisure Contribution Vocation
Step 4: Demonstrate Armed with clarity, it’s time to take steps in a new direction. Having ideas is the easy part of change. If creating the life design of your dreams were easy, everyone would do it. This is a process, not an event – a journey not just a new destination. Having a strategy is key to staying on track. That includes building the right network of new relationships. It also helps to master the creative process – a shift from the problem-solving orientation of business and professional endeavors to creating a new reality, a work of art for your life as it unfolds for you, others, and future generations.
Step 5: Dance To make these moves a dance into an exceptional new future entails two things:
Dealing with the resistance, blocks and challenges that create roadblocks, by developing ways to overcome them when, not if, they show up.
Keeping yourself energized along the way. Because, this is change we’re talking about, not magic.
Inevitable challenges show up in various forms: naysayers, negative or fear-based thinking, confusion, overwhelmed feelings, indecision, and especially self-questioning — and they are good at stopping progress dead in its tracks. This takes energy. Using neuroscience and peak performance empowerment practice regularly will re-energize efforts and create both the mindset and the actual physiology needed to go far beyond where you initially think you can.
These 5 simple steps were developed to inspire and guide what’s next. Best to approach them with a clear planning process, and an advisor trained to help you apply them. That can make a big difference in how quickly and easily you get to your new destination … and how much you enjoy the journey. This very personal orientation not only helps define and inform more traditional forms of planning, it helps create a life well lived and legacy that makes a bigger difference for both you and others.
For more articles on legacy planning, click here to subscribe to Legacy Arts Magazine.
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