When I was a senior in high school I auditioned for a lead role in our school musical. I didn’t get it. I auditioned for solos in choirs that were awarded to other people and applied for leadership opportunities that I didn’t get. I must have lamented about my bad luck to my parents because I remember them saying to me once, “Maybe the universe is trying to tell you it has bigger plans for you.”
I carried that with me for a while, wondering when my “big moment” would arrive. But as life went on I came to realize that my most rewarding moments were the little ones. Thoughtful gestures, small acts of kindness, being there for my friends, volunteer opportunities, making somebody smile- it was in these moments that I felt happiest with myself and most connected to my community.
I decided that the universe wasn’t telling me it had something bigger in store- it was telling me that the legacy we leave is not in our grand gestures or public performances but in how we live our small moments every day.
I have been thinking a lot lately about the legacy I want to leave behind when I am eventually gone. What do I want people to remember about me? The answer to this question puts everything into perspective for me, clarifies my values, and helps me focus my energy each day on the things that really matter. If I want to be remembered as being a devoted and loving mother, wife, sister, and daughter then my first priority should be my family. If I want to be remembered as being a positive person then I need to put myself out there every day in a positive way. If I want to be remembered as being kind and thoughtful then I should deliberately choose kind words and be mindful of the feelings of others.
That’s not to say that anyone should say or do nice things solely because they want people to think highly of them- but if we think about the kind of legacy we want to leave behind it can help us focus on the values and priorities that are most important to us and help us to not get distracted by life’s minor inconveniences or dragged into other people’s negative drama.
Instead of waiting around for our big moment to shine, why not make every small moment count? Put yourself out there in a positive way, be kind and thoughtful whenever possible, get to a place of peace and forgiveness as quickly as possible. Being open minded is good- being empathetic is better. Try to go 24 hours saying only positive things. If you have nothing positive to say choose to say nothing. Make somebody smile. Express gratitude. Go out of your way to find a silver lining. After a while, those silver linings just start jumping out at you. Create a living legacy of kindess, positivity, and gratitude that others will want to emulate.
We only get one life. We don’t get to choose everything that happens to us in that life but we do get to choose the kind of legacy we want to create now and leave behind when that life comes to a close. In thinking about how we want to be remembered perhaps we can better choose how we decide to live.