Chasing a Legacy of Impact
As long as I can remember, I’ve had a nagging sense that I should be doing more with my life. I often feel like I’m not living my intended purpose. Wrapped inside this perpetual angst is the idea that what I am supposed to be doing should be very meaningful and it should help make the world a better place. This feeling has a positive side, it keeps me motivated to try new things and has given me opportunities to get outside of my comfort zone on many occasions. After several years of letting this feeling guide many of my pursuits, I’ve come to realize that all along I’ve been chasing a legacy of impact and what’s been fueling this pursuit is anxiety. While I think it’s important to have a legacy of impact, I’d much rather it be an intentional pursuit, rather than one generated by anxiety.
I’ve lived in fear much of my life, most of it self created, but it wasn’t until I started reading Buddhist teachings that I learned that what’s behind my anxiety is a fear of death. Wanting to leave behind a meaningful legacy is a means to escape one of the greatest consequences of death, that there will be no trace of my time on this earth. I have a hard time accepting that my purpose in life is to simply put forth the gifts I was given into the world, that being my authentic self and evolving as a human being is the purpose of my existence. I believe this to be true, however, when I’m in a state of high anxiety, I don’t allow myself to believe it or act accordingly. Instead, I bounce around from project to project or idea to idea thinking one of them will catch on and deliver to me the impactful legacy I seek. Perhaps this is my ego at work making me think I am meant for some grand purpose, but I also believe it’s anxiety that keeps me in this perpetual race toward finding some meaningful legacy for me to leave behind.
I often argue with myself about my need to have a legacy of impact and wonder why the day to day things I do can’t be my legacy. Being a parent is important, as is helping others find answers to their questions, being a daughter, sister, and friend. When anxiety is ruling my thoughts, however, whatever I am currently doing with my life doesn’t feel like enough. There’s always so much more work to be done to leave my mark on the world and I’m aware that I’ll probably always feel like I don’t have enough time to do the work that needs to be done, as if I’m the only person that can do it. This is ego too and it keeps me stuck in the chase for the always illusive legacy I believe I need to have before I leave this world.
Maya Angelou once said that we can never know what our legacy will be because it will be decided after we leave this life and it will likely come from the lives that we’ve touched while we’re here. I believe this to be true. I’m now trying to be more intentional and mindful of my pursuits asking myself if fear is the main motivation for undertaking a project. If so, I want to sit with that fear for awhile and determine if I’m acting in accordance with my values, or if I’m just chasing the next thing that I believe will alleviate my anxiety of dying without fulfilling my purpose. If it’s the latter, then I want to refocus my energy and find a pursuit that aligns with my priorities, passions and beliefs and maybe then I won’t need to go looking for a new project. I may already be pursuing the passions that will enable me to leave a legacy of impact. I have a feeling that may be the case, but it’s anxiety that keeps me locked in thinking otherwise.