What is your legacy work? In other words, how do you want to make your mark on the world?
This potentially life-changing inquiry is a core idea of a book I’ve recommended in recent posts (here and here), Chris Guillebeau’s The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World (2010).
Two key questions
Guillebeau poses two simple questions:
- “What do you really want to get out of life?”
- “What can you offer the world that no one else can?”
The answers may take a while to articulate — especially if you’ve never asked yourself these questions. And don’t apologize if this is the case. Guillebeau’s overarching theme of non-conformity recognizes that many folks have jumped through hoops defined by others.
It’s up to you
Ultimately, only you can define your legacy work. When we start thinking for ourselves, the possibilities are endless, and surely not limited to paid employment:
- Building a business
- Raising a family
- Organizing for a cause
- Writing a book
- Leading a community group
- Teaching kids
- Starting a band
- Caring for animals
- Creating a charity
- Inventing a new product
- Helping the sick
- and many, MANY more
Too much junk? Then de-clutter
Once you get to a certain age, life may have served up enough baggage — material and emotional — to eat up precious time and energy. This can impede your quest to identify and do legacy work. If that’s your situation, then you may need to de-clutter.
The Art of Non-Conformity has a very good chapter on how to clear away the junk for stuff that matters. It’s especially helpful in getting us to do triage on the tasks and commitments that may suck up a lot of time but provide very little payoff in terms of real accomplishment and satisfaction.
In addition, I highly recommend Brooks Palmer’s Clutter Busting: Letting Go of What’s Holding You Back (2009), which I also mentioned in a recent post. Palmer nails the psychology of how our material clutter frustrates our ability to live in the present and for the future. He employs a humane version of tough love to get us to ask important questions about why we hold onto belongings that have little or no positive value to us.
Individual power in tough times
Especially during these tough times, I believe that individual initiative and creativity will be the key to lifting some people into a better place in their lives. Identifying one’s legacy work and clearing away the clutter are two vital steps toward moving in that direction.
Go here to access Chris Guillebeau’s website.
Go here to access Brooks Palmer’s blog.
Excellent post David. Similar to your recommendation, my goal has been to have a mission, not merely a career. Thank you for making a difference.
Great post! If you’ve not yet read it, I’d also suggest Marie Kondos book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.