I’ve always thought of legacy as my most grand achievements, my monumental contributions, or my lasting creations – the things that would outlive me. Recently, that interpretation shifted like a kaleidoscope refracting differently and laying an entirely new scene before me.
I realized that my legacy happens every day, in every ordinary action I take and in all the mundane interactions that make up my life.
Legacy is What You Do Everyday
In March I had to make a sudden and unexpected trip to Florida.
My husband and I were at our cabin in the Mark Twain National forest and I got a call. My mom, a dual American and Canadian citizen, and her husband, a Canadian citizen, were in Florida where they spend the winter. An ambulance took her husband to the hospital when he became so dizzy he almost passed out. After a battery of tests, the doctors found nothing wrong and released him. The next day, his insurance company called and told him he had two choices: he could stay in the states with no insurance, or he’d have to return to Canada within 24 hours.
This created a bit of chaos as it wasn’t as simple as both of them driving home or getting on a plane the next day. They had just sold their home in Florida and were in the midst of cleaning it out and packing it up. Mom has some physical challenges that keep her from lifting much or driving. She wouldn’t be able to pack everything on her own, take care of the house on her own or drive the car with everything in it back to Canada.
This was the beginning of my three week adventure, and where a whole new understanding of ‘legacy’ took root in my brain.
Once the drama of the situation got settled (getting from the middle of nowhere in Missouri to Florida, getting mom’s husband on a flight to Canada, and working with his daughters to handle all the challenges on the Canadian side), I realized that I had an amazing opportunity AND that I was thinking about this very differently than I would have in the past.
Living with my mom for an indefinite period of time while helping her pack up her house would definitely not have felt like an opportunity to me in the past. It would have been both a burden and a challenge. Look at me changing and growing! This new and improved Maren recognized that mom and I might never get to have time together like this again and I committed to treasuring each moment. I think this commitment is what shifted the kaleidoscope and helped me see that my legacy is ultimately how I choose to be – in each and every moment of my life.
Everything I do leaves a trace. If I smile at the grocery clerk, I brighten her day. If I am grumpy, I add to her load. If I ignore her, she feels that, too. Regardless, I’ve left a mark in the world, one that gets passed on.
Packing, clearing out the house and cleaning took us two weeks. Throughout that time I became more and more aware of the legacy choices I make in each moment – the footprints that I leave behind in my life as I interact with people and I move through spaces.
How would tomorrow be different for you if you thought “my interactions in every small moment of life are my true legacy, the traces of me that are getting passed along”? Would you act differently? I think you would.
Maya Angelou said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The people with whom you interact remember how they feel about themselves when they are with you. Let me emphasize – how THEY feel about themselves. That is your legacy.
This may seem overwhelming, ‘oh my gosh, I have to do something to make each person feel good about themselves?’ Actually, this part is not about them at all. It starts as a perspective shift inside you. It’s an inside job, one that takes just a moment of self awareness and conscious choices to shift.
My adventure was NOT all roses. I had moments when all my joy and commitment went out the window and I got frustrated with mom, had excruciating encounters with technology and found myself doing deep, inner reflection in public restrooms. Each experience brought me back and reminded me of the importance of being present so that I have a chance of leaving a beautiful legacy.
So often we think we have no impact on the world, or even on those around us. This is the biggest lie we could tell ourselves. We are all that matters and how we choose to show up in any given moment ripples across the universe.
The Power of Small Things
Once we were done packing up the house I put mom on a plane and drove their car back to Canada. Over the 3 day trip I stopped at many public restrooms, some delightfully clean and others a bit scary. As I stood in one of the scarier ones, I had an ‘aha’ moment. If each person that came into this restroom decided to leave it just a tiny bit better than they found it, it would change quickly and be easy to maintain. Yet we don’t. We think – it’s not my job – and leave it worse than we found it, someone else’s responsibility. And then we find ourselves in a disgusting bathroom.
I decided I wanted to be someone who leaves things a bit better than when I found them. I realized how much I underestimate the impact of small acts of kindness and the significance of seemingly mundane tasks. I can hear that as part of my epitaph, “They say that how you do one thing is how you do everything. Maren made it a point to leave things better than she found them and the impact of that one small commitment led to amazing growth and beautiful changes across multiple industries”. All that from simply wiping down a messy sink.
Going forward, part of my legacy is to make little things just a bit more beautiful.
This is where we find real transformative power, in the small things. Whether it’s engaging in a heartfelt conversation, extending a helping hand, or even cleaning up after ourselves, these small acts accumulate and contribute to the beauty we leave behind. They also inform who we become.
What is Your Ripple?
Every action we take, no matter how small, creates a ripple – two ripples actually. One within and one in the outer world. When we consciously choose to infuse positivity and beauty into our interactions and surroundings, it builds resonance inside of us AND we inspire others to do the same. By leading through example, we can encourage a chain reaction of acts that collectively contribute to a more beautiful world.
Your legacy is happening every day, in the simple moments and interactions that often go unnoticed. By recognizing that each of your actions leaves a trace, and a moment of mindfulness has the potential to leave our world a little bit more beautiful, you can shape a transformative legacy that transcends time.
Whether it’s a conversation, a thought, or a seemingly insignificant task, infusing it with intention and mindfulness creates a ripple effect of positivity and inspiration. How do you want people to remember you? What ripple do you move from you out into the world? You get to choose.
Please join me and embrace the power of YOUR everyday legacy and watch as the world becomes a more beautiful place, one moment at a time.
In case this is the first time we’re meeting, I’m Maren, an executive life coach, speaker, dancer, and serial entrepreneur empowering you to step into your purpose and live your most fulfilled life. To learn more about how we can work together to uncover your unique gifts and get you dancing with life, click here. For corporate trainings or inquiries regarding speaking engagements, please complete this form.