Before the start of a new year, I take some time to reflect on the previous year. What were highlights from each month? How do I feel each area of my life is doing, like my relationships and personal health and spiritual growth? What lessons have I learned? Who made an impact on me (and did I thank them)? What were good things that I attempted but I simply need to let go? Then, I assess my current situation. What fires me up? What fears do I have? Where am I today? And moving forward, how can I translate all of this into personal goals that are attainable in the new year?
All of this is jotted down in my intentional goal planner (PowerSheets by Cultivate What Matters). I've used this particular resource for years, and this year was no different. However, I did notice a new prompt this year that stopped me in my tracks. The page said this:
Your legacy starts now.
The word 'legacy' feels weighty. It crosses generations. It looks beyond our lifetimes. It forces us to identify the big picture of what we're really about, but it doesn't stop there. It forces us to consider how that big picture we have in mind is actually being lived out day to day. When I read this prompt, my daughter happened to be near me. Her curious, 6-year old mind is always asking questions, and without missing a beat she nonchalantly asked, "What's a legacy?" The weight of the word felt even heavier. A bit unsteady, I replied, "It's what I want my life to be known for when I'm gone." In my heart, I felt myself desperately adding, "It's what I want to impress upon you and your siblings of what really matters in life through the way I live my life!" I didn't want to say that out loud because I didn't want to invite scrutiny, truth be told.
Because it's true: our legacy goes beyond our hopeful intentions. It relies on how we actually lived. Or more specifically, how future generations recount how we lived. More than great, one-time achievements, our legacy largely rests on our day to day. This is great news for mamas who feel like their lives are largely unseen. How your children and loved ones see you living day in and day out matters; your consistency reinforces their memory, and it'll leave an impression that'll influence (to some degree) how they'll live. Legacies are not only for the famous. It's not only left to the one with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It's not only left to the one who has written New York Times' bestsellers. It's not only left to the one who has canvases immortalized in museums. Every single one of us will say something with our lives. The question is: what will our lives actually communicate to those that come after us?
It didn't take me long to scribble down what I hope my legacy would be. I want my children to think back and say, "My mom lived genuinely focused on what would matter 3 billion years from now. She lived every single day fully and faithfully to the glory of God and the good of others. She lived with contagious joy in the Lord." That part was easy. The hard part was assessing my days in light of that overarching goal. I had to ask myself: "Am I currently living with eternity in mind? Am I currently living every day fully and faithfully to the glory of God and the good of others? Am I currently living with undeniable joy in the Lord?" These were helpful questions for me as I considered personal goals for the new year. They became filters for each goal: "Does this (goal) have eternity in mind? Does this (goal) glorify God and benefit others? Does this (goal) increase my joy in the Lord?"
Having a filtering system is helpful for me to sift through the many good things I can invest myself in in a calendar year. Because the truth is, no one can do everything, and no one can do everything well. By God's grace, we are limited beings. This implies that we have to say "no" to things – good and bad. We have to decide how best to use our times, talents, and resources. So while personal goals can seem self-promoting and worldly to many, I see personal goals as a helpful tool that helps me decide where to invest my limited time, resources, and energy. They help me bridge the gap between my hopeful intentions and reality. They help me build my legacy, one day at a time.
Whether or not you set personal goals, I think it would be helpful for all of us to periodically pause to reflect – to recount the faithfulness of God in our lives. And to worship – to praise Him for His grace and sanctifying work in our lives. And to repent – to identify, confess, and turn from the ways we've become distracted or lazy or selfish in our stewardship of our time, talents, and resources that have been entrusted to us. We must recognize that we are limited beings, but we have access in Christ to an infinite God. May we pray and ask Him for wisdom in knowing how to live within the good boundaries He has set before us. May each of us pause to consider the legacy we wish to leave behind, and may each of us assess if our days are working toward that aim. Our legacies start now, and while they're important, may we be people who leave a legacy that points others to the reality of eternity, not just ourselves.
For more on personal goals, be sure to check out Episode 50 "Personal Goals and the Gospel" by Daily Grace.