This spring, my 86-year-old grandma suffered a stroke, which caused her to fall and hit her head. As a result, she presented to the emergency room via ambulance with a class three concussion, in addition to other cardiopulmonary complications.

The intervening months have been quite difficult.

Of course, there’s an emotional toll exacted by the drama and uncertainty, a myriad of difficult changes in my grandma’s life, and new family dynamics as we try and cope with the situation.

But there’s an even more poignant implication: The opportunity we each have to make our lives count is very limited.

I don’t mean to be trite, and you may be thinking, “Of course it is!” – but stay with me…

The significance of this truth is easily lost in the minutia of daily life!

Instead, we catch glimpses of it in circumstances such as I’ve described. This event has had a sobering impact on my perspective. Perhaps I can convey it well enough to provide an opportunity for others to appreciate this truth in context without suffering the associated pain. I know such is actually inevitable, as we’ll all experience the passing of friends and family. However, I still think it’s beneficial to objectify the concept.

You see, my grandma is a remarkable woman! She raised seven children, developed a notable career as a teacher, and served as president of the largest church congregation in town. She holds a master’s degree and remains a dissertation away from a Ph.D. She’s also a businesswoman, and rents out thousands of acres of farmland she and my grandpa invested in across the Dakotas. She’s given time and money to philanthropic causes she believes in for decades, and instilled the same faith, fortitude, and generosity in her family, as well.

She’s not perfect, of course, but I am extremely grateful to be her grandson.

You can imagine how difficult it is to see this dignified, accomplished, matriarch and pillar of the community rendered so frail and dependent! Nonetheless, it also demonstrates very clearly that living lives of impact requires intentionality. She’s left an incredible legacy for our family to build on, and can cross her finish line with satisfaction. More importantly, however, we each have the opportunity to do the same!

“People will summarize your life in one sentence – pick it now!”

John Maxwell, America’s Leadership Expert

We have a limited opportunity to define the trajectory of our lives and determine the legacy we will leave. What’s more, none of us know the duration of our individual opportunity. Thus, there are at least two powerful implications for how we lead our lives:

1) Act On Your Dreams Most people claim to have dreams – but when pressed, offer only vague descriptions of things they would like to do someday or someone they would like to become. Many people never solidify those hopes and take action because the task seems overwhelming and they are unsure of what to do next. Dreams can seem so big or so far off that it’s impossible to break them into smaller parts. Since we can’t seem to identify manageable tasks, we wait to take action. We hope that tomorrow the course will be clearer, or next week we’ll feel like putting in the effort.

Sadly, our dreams remain far off while our limited opportunity to pursue them passes.

Instead, refuse to be bogged down by the details! Seize your opportunity to act! As best-selling author and CEO Michael Hyatt encourages, “just focus on doing the next right thing.” If you’ll be content with small steps today, they will compound over time. Your dreams will slowly come into focus and you’ll maximize your legacy.

“Regardless of what you are or what you have been, you can still become what you may want to be.”

~ W. Clement Stone, Philanthropist and Author

2) Commit to Your Most Important Relationships Deep relationships are the most significant indicator for personal happiness and satisfaction. But they also require a significant investment of time and effort up front before we can enjoy the benefit of intimacy and support. Nobody can create that intimacy for us. Instead, we each must work to cultivate it.

When we do, the results can be incredible!

But we have limited time to make those investments and cultivate that intimacy. We’ve all heard stories where someone passes and a surviving friend or family member regrets not getting the chance to say, “I love you.” Don’t let that be you! Don’t leave things unsaid. Instead, do what’s necessary to bridge gaps, extend forgiveness, and lay the foundation for a legacy of love. As Mother Teresa said when asked what we can each do to contribute to peace on earth, “Go home and love your family.” Your love and support is the launching pad for those closest to you to act on their dreams!

“Carve your name on hearts and not on marble.”

Charles Spurgeon, Preacher and Author

We have a limited opportunity to define the trajectory of our lives and determine the legacy we will leave. No matter what your current station or situation, you can maximize your opportunity by taking small steps toward your dreams and loving those around you. Let’s resolve accordingly! Let’s take personal responsibility for making the very most of our lives, and do what we can to help those around do the same.

“The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

– William James, Philosopher, Physician, Educator

Leave a Comment: What are your thoughts on legacy? What life legacy did you inherent from friends and family? How are you working to leave a wonderful legacy for your posterity?

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