What’s your legacy?

legacyWhat happens when you walk into a room? Ever stop to think about it?

This concept flirted with me the other day when I ran across an Ideashape blog by Pam Fox Rollin (it’s also part of the ebook Connective Behaviors That Spur Innovation published by EMC West Coast Women’s Leadership Forum). Although this author was targeting leaders and how they lead, it has a much greater impact than mere leadership.

It’s a great question, one that’s canoodled around in my brain for a long time, and never so much as whenever I moved on to new jobs, new homes, new lives. To this day, I can easily resurrect the deep sense of knowing – the unwavering conviction – that because I shared time and space in relationship with others, they could not help but be changed in some way. (As was I, for that matter, courtesy of their sharing in relationship with me. It’s a two-way street, after all.)

Who am I kidding? I’m inching up on the next big move (ahem, retirement), and I have to acknowledge the noticing of this concept is less a coincidence than an outright Quantum Flirt. (Now, a quantum flirt is a little like serendipity, but it has its feet firmly planted in quantum physics. You can read about it here.)

So that takes me back to the question, “what happens when you walk into a room?” As I allow that “flirt” to unfold, I keep getting a sense that simply walking into a room is only part of the story, and as I let my awareness go, what pops up for me is a mental image of me and someone else in deep conversation, punctuated here and there with laughter and seriousness. So already, it’s unfolded to this:

“What happens when you walk into a room or whenever you are in relationship with someone else?”

There’s still a gnawing sense of incompleteness, so I tamp down my natural tendency to “think” about it and set my senses free instead. And when I do, what emerges is a sense of giving a part of myself to others, coupled with the idea of bequeathing a legacy. I allow my quantum flirt to unfold again, to this:

“What’s your legacy?”

And just as an object comes to rest on the ground, stabilizing and settling itself, I know I’ve hit the heart. It’s what the blog was saying, too, couched as it was in the language of leadership.

I ask you, then, “what is your legacy?” I know mine; I am a weaver who takes threads from others’ lives – those who share the path with me for a time in relationship – and weave them into my colorful tapestry. Their threads are different from mine; they add depth and beauty and meaning. And because we are all weavers of our own lives, the threads from my time spent with them winds up in their tapestries, too, whether or not they realize it. And we’re all richer for it.

So when you move on – whether that means to a new job, a different relationship, new friends, new places, retirement, or even death – spare a few moments to consider your legacy. What happened when you walked into the room, and what will happen when you walk out? Do you leave others grateful for knowing you? Better for the experience? Did you bring joy and laughter? Did you heighten creativity, foster easy companionship, build true respect? Did you support, teach, laugh, care? Did you bring the real you to every encounter?

Mostly, though, is your legacy something you’re proud to leave behind? If it is, bully for you!

If it’s not, may I suggest to you that we have choices, you and I. We can choose to craft a legacy that glows, or we can choose to craft one that’s lifeless. Which will it be?

Here are six suggestions for showing up the room, courtesy of Pam Rollin, and tweaked a bit to broaden their scope. Perhaps one or more will work for you:

      1. Figure out what you bring – to the room, to the relationship, to the world. What happens when you’re there?
      2. Show up. Be who you are, authentically and always. Make peace with your foibles and your weaknesses.
      3. Whatever it takes to connect to your best self, do it. Often.
      4. Diversify your relationships. Walk into some new rooms and experience them.
      5. Expand your awareness to how others “do” relationships and what others bring to the rooms they inhabit. Watch for how that affects you.
    6. Connect – really connect – with people who value the authentic you and the gifts you have in hand.
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