In a world full of diversions and overloaded with information, we can all feel a terrible sense of status anxiety or action paralysis. Comparing ourselves to others, who seem to be getting more out of life or making an effort to improve when you’ve so far to go, can make us feel powerless. Sometimes, you just need to focus on the meaning of life when all is said and done; you have to strip away everything that doesn’t matter.
Memento mori—remember you must die—is a powerful saying that reminds us all to prioritize true meaning and live life with urgency and purpose. For the millennials who grew up in the age of social media and smartphones, here’s how to start living with one’s legacy in mind:
Envision the end
Thinking about the end isn’t entirely about drawing up wills or saving for retirement. Those are practical considerations everyone should plan for. But the point of this exercise isn’t to be morbid or try to map out the future. How will people look back on your life? What will be said at your eulogy? Will you be remembered as a person who contributed to the community or helped save the environment?
Most of all, will the people who matter to you celebrate your life in a way that reflects favorably on the person you were to them? By envisioning one’s death—the ultimate end for us all—we can be free of the fleeting concerns of the moment, opinions of people who won’t matter years from now. We can start to act in accordance with how we wish to be remembered.
Take ownership of your actions
Bridging the gap between today’s actions and future outcomes will require two things: time and discipline. The years will inevitably pass by; you have to uphold your part and be consistent. It’s not enough to wake up tomorrow, determined to change your life, and then fall back into old habits and negative behavior after some time. A legacy is your life’s work—it’s who you were, not something you worked on for a few months.
Those who want to be remembered for achievements in their field must dedicate each day towards delivering results and driving innovation. If you want to be celebrated as a great leader, see that you invest in growing the skills and confidence of your people. And if you wish to define your legacy through the lens of character, be a consistent role model for your children, friends, and other people close to you.
Get others involved
We have very little control over our fate. Accepting this truth can be empowering; it also reminds us that in life—as with any large-scale endeavor—we could always use help from others. The discipline required to build a legacy over the years will count for little if you don’t involve people who enable you. These can be professional colleagues and mentors, family and friends who are invested in your success, or even members of the younger generations who look to you for inspiration and advice.
Treat other people well; accept their help, give in return, and you can effect positive change in their lives. That can prove to be a far greater legacy than anything you achieve in the context of a career.
Being young in today’s world often means constant exposure to things which don’t matter in the big picture. Free yourself of these influences. Start leading a meaningful life, and build your legacy moving forward.