The greatest use of a life is to spend it on something that will outlast it. – William James
Our legacy is the long-lasting impact of the contribution of our actions taken during our life. These actions may be personal or professional, but if they are meaningful, they will outlast our life.
Our children represent our physical contribution that will outlast us. Our social contributions to friends will outlast us. Even our professional accomplishments, if they are significant to others, will outlast us. We may not achieve Einstein's status, but we can still achieve in our lives that which outlasts our lives. So, how does one build a life that outlasts?
Live With Passion
Live your life with all the passion it deserves. Positive, harmonious passions improve our behaviour and lead to optimal functioning. You do not need to discover your passion; just live it. Do what you love doing. Passion, and compassion, have their own fusion of energy. Most people are hiding from their passion or do not believe they deserve to live their passion. Others say they are looking for their passion. It’s right in front of you; no need to look. What lights your fire? What excites you? You already know what it is, but you are holding onto the idea that it is just a dream and cannot be your reality. Forget that!
My fear was not of death itself, but a death without meaning. – Huey Newton
Live With Meaning
Finding a sense of meaning in life informs our goals and priorities, and it also shapes how we respond to life’s twists and turns. Meaning programs our personalized GPS directional guide to our purpose in life. Staying focused on our purpose defines what we are trying to accomplish with our lives.
It does not matter what we choose but, rather, how we stay the course. Our dedication and commitment to what we want to achieve will determine the value of our accomplishments.
Live With Experiential Appreciation
Experiential appreciation, or valuing one’s experiences, is uniquely tied to perceptions of meaning. This means appreciating the small things in life, like a good meal or a beautiful sunset, which adds meaning to our lives. Appreciation reinforces the life you are leading. Without appreciation, there is no flavor to savor. Appreciation also has a profound influence on job satisfaction and lifestyle happiness. Maintaining appreciation long term has been shown to demonstrate an increase in one’s self-esteem. We know self-esteem also enhances potential optimal functioning.
To achieve an optimal performance state, or be in the "zone," we will need to have high levels of confidence, an appropriate focus, and high levels of intrinsic motivation. To achieve being in a lifelong zone, we will also need resilience.
Nature works with five polymers. Only five polymers. In the natural world, life builds from the bottom up, and it builds in resilience and multiple uses. –Janine Benyus
Live With Resilience
Resilience is not just an individual attribute and relationship connections are a major part of anyone’s resilience. A well-developed network of relationships can help us rebound from setbacks by:
- Helping us shift work or manage surges
- Helping us to make sense of people or politics in a given situation
- Helping us find the confidence to push back and self-advocate
- Helping us see a path forward
- Providing empathic support so we can release negative emotions
- Helping us to laugh at ourselves and the situation
- Reminding us of the purpose or meaning in our work
- Broadening us as individuals so that we maintain perspective when setbacks happen
Outlasting Your Life
Not everyone will be concerned with contributing beyond their life. This will appear to be almost a superordinate goal to many. However, the William James quote will ring true for some of us.
We want to know that our lives will have some value beyond our short lifetime. For those individuals who seek a life with lasting effects, there are some definite pathways to follow.
Find your dream and live it. Why hold back? Your passion is known to you. All you have to do is grab it and hold onto it.
Find your meaning. Meaning is your GPS to your goals. Your purpose will also be illuminated through your search for meaning. Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning is a classic example of how this works.
Find your experiential appreciation. Through appreciation, you will be rejuvenated and refreshed with life’s experiences. Your self-esteem will be reinforced.
Find your optimal performance zone. Your zone will be unique to you. Put your zone to work through your invaluable relationship connections. Your resilience to rebound from setbacks will be enhanced through your connectivity.
By outlasting your life, you are reassured that you spent your life well. Congratulations on your future success.
Cross, R., Dillon, K., & Greenberg, D. (2021). The Secret to Building Resilience. Harvard Business Review. January, 29, 2021.
Kim, J., Holte, P., Martela, F. et al. (2022). Experiential appreciation as a pathway to meaning in life. Nat Hum Behav 6, 677–690.
Frankl, V. (1946). Man’s Search for Meaning. Beacon Press (English).