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Six tips for creating a meaningful life and career: Lessons I learned from my grandfather’s funeral

Spend some time figuring out what your values are, who inspires you, and what you want your legacy to be.

Six tips for creating a meaningful life and career: Lessons I learned from my grandfather’s funeral
[Jacob Lund/Adobe Stock]

I recently attended my grandfather’s funeral. As I looked around at the people who loved him, the flowers, and the video playing in the background, it gave me a glimpse into the end of life. Instead of making me feel sad, though, it made me realize that you are 100% in control of your legacy.

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You are the producer of your own life video. The following six tips can help you create a meaningful life, both personally and professionally.

WRITE YOUR OWN OBITUARY

This may seem a bit morbid, but it is a great exercise in visualization. Be descriptive in outlining your accomplishments in detail. This will force you to think about how you want to be remembered. It will show you what you want to achieve, who you want to be, and help you figure out what you need to do to get there. Starting early will give you time to craft the epic legacy you want to leave, giving you a roadmap to follow for your life and career.

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TAKE THE TRIP (AND LOTS OF PICTURES)

Sometimes we hesitate to take on the expense of travel as it is a luxury, but travel is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself. Think of it as an education and value it accordingly. If necessary, cut out that morning latte and redirect those savings to this “education.”

Travel opens our minds to other cultures, and exposing ourselves to people who are different from us can create empathy. This is one of the reasons I helped start a non-profit called Articulate Change. My co-founders and I realized that so much of who we are and what we believe comes from our exposure to people who are different from us. Having this exposure early in life made us more open to other people and unfamiliar communities and allowed us to always remain open to change.

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FOSTER CLOSE RELATIONSHIPS

Developing strong relationships is so important for our mental health. Having a tribe of friends and family who have your back will get you through the good times and the bad. Think about the people in your life who would show up at your funeral. Value these relationships and be purposeful in nourishing them throughout your life.

BE THE WORKER YOU’D WANT TO WORK WITH

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In their book Your Leadership Legacy, authors Robert Galford and Regina Maruca say your leadership legacy is defined by “how others approach work and life as a result of having worked with you.” The authors outline how your day-to-day actions build toward your eventual measure as a leader. This leads to what they call “legacy thinking,” which acts as an outline for your life script.

It’s not likely that those you work with will remember the day-to-day emails you wrote or the meetings you held. They will, however, remember your actions and how your behavior made an impact on them. You never know how one small action can make a big difference. Things you do now that may seem insignificant to you could lead to significant changes in others down the road.

WHO ARE YOUR HEROES?

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Figuring out what legacy you want to leave behind takes work. A good way to start is to make a list of people who inspire you. Mother Theresa? Albert Einstein? Analyzing who inspires you can give you clues as to what you value.

Once you’ve figured out your core values, you can create a vision of the legacy you’d like to leave behind.  From here, you can plot your roadmap. As you learn and grow professionally and personally, you can begin to share that knowledge with others. Mentoring or coaching the next generation is a great way to ensure that your knowledge lives on.

FINISH STRONG

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A famous quote based on Bessie Stanley’s poem Success says, “To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.”

You are the producer of your own life video. What you want to leave behind is up to you. Spend some time figuring out what your values are, who inspires you, and what you want your legacy to be. Then work toward developing those characteristics to make your life and career meaningful. What steps will you take to make your life video Academy Award-worthy?


Jason Hennessey is the founder and CEO of Hennessey Digital and is an SEO expert, author, speaker, podcast host, and serial entrepreneur. 

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