The word “legacy” is probably about 600 years old. It usually means something we pass on to someone else, often after we’re gone and often to future generations.
In my new book, Don’t Get Married! (Unless You Understand A Few Things First), I look at the idea of living today with an eye on the legacy we’ll leave behind to our loved ones and beyond.
Sometimes, in my office, we end up talking about our mortality.
We don’t always get to this destination the same way; but we nonetheless DO get there more often than you might (or I might) think.
And often, these sorts of conversations shed light upon a unique and powerful perspective; that is, they allow us to consider our lives as a whole—a beginning part, a middle part, and an end.
Do you ever think of your life as a whole like this?
If you were to take this perspective with you into your everyday life with your spouse and your kids, as well as the greater world around you, how would it change your behavior and your choices?
How would it change YOU?
Would it allow you to Listen more and Comment less so that you could learn more about others and about the world in your limited lifetime here on Earth?
Would it remind you to be emotionally ‘generous’ with people, and especially with your loved ones, by using the adult skill of Restraint in your dealings with them?–to have more of what I call, ‘Emotional Fat on the Bone’?
Would it encourage you to challenge your fears and limitations so that you could learn more about yourself, your history, your talents and true interests, and your destiny?
In his Meditations, the Roman Emperor and warrior/poet Marcus Aurelius reminds himself (in fact chastises himself!) repeatedly that his life is already ‘over’ and that he needs to face that fact and behave accordingly.
This was a man who wrote these things to himself and for himself, and not for mass publication.
He wrote in between battles, perhaps as he sat down on some beach on the edges of the Empire, resting his weary bones and nursing his wounds, and while taking a break from planning the next push forward for his army.
He knew that life, and the mind, could be quite powerful when we allow ourselves to understand the full spectrum of life: beginning, middle, and end; that it was like a ‘switch’ that, when turned on, could provide us with a sense of serenity and security and freedom from free-floating anxiety.
How do we want to be remembered by our children and grandchildren?
Do we want to leave them, by our behaviors and reactions now, with a sense of courage and confidence? Or with fear, anxiety, and paralyzing self-doubt?
Do you know what makes a child feel more confident, settled, and personally powerful?
When we Stop for a moment and focus on them.
When we Listen to them.
When we Validate their feelings, no matter how uncomfortable WE are about what they’re saying.
And when we Ask them open-ended questions about themselves and what they are saying to us.
(I’m sure you’ve realized by now that this is the LVAC ™ approach—www.LVACNation.com.)
When we behave like this with kids, it empowers them and makes them grow strong from the inside.
You never have to worry that they’ll grow up to be somebody else’s victim or a victim of circumstance when you LVAC with them. And you must KEEP doing this with them even when they grow taller, faster, stronger, and –yes—smarter than you are (but not wiser, right?)
I’m always surprised when someone tells me that they want their child to be strong and that’s why they regularly TELL them to ‘buck up’, ‘suck it up’, ‘deal with it’, or (famously) ‘Stop it!’
But the exact opposite is true: if you want your child to remain in a state of chronic, perpetual confusion, fear, and paralyzing anxiety, then tell them to ‘buck up’, ‘suck it up’, or ‘Stop it!’
But if you want them to face their pain and grow PAST it and grow STRONG, then Listen to them and Validate their feelings and Ask them some questions before (or instead of) immediately Commenting.
Ditto goes for your spouse.
Chances are that, like you, your spouse didn’t get much LVAC growing up either, which means that not only do they NOT know how to do LVAC either, but that they are also starving for it too just like you are!
In marriage, we each finally have the opportunity to grow PAST our childhood fears, anxieties, and conflicts by using our spouse to help us do so.
In the Don’t Get Married!…book, I call marriage an Emotional Laboratory for INDIVIDUAL growth. That is; I ‘use’ my spouse to grow and she ‘uses’ me in turn.
By using such tools as LVAC, as well as a communication approach that emphasizes taking RISKS with each other by saying things we’d NEVER have been allowed to say as children, we help ourselves to finally grow PAST our earlier limitations.
The first step, of course, is to become more in tune with your own emotions and the things you are feeling.
When you employ LVAC with each other, you will help each other identify your deeper, more suppressed (or fully repressed) emotions over time. It’s like built-in therapy with your spouse, without the copayments!
Obviously, if we are to live our lives with a sense of beginning, middle, and end, then we need to become better at observing ourselves and truly Listening to others.
When you are remembered, whether it be during your lifetime from, say, a conversation you had with someone today; OR, and hopefully not for a very long time, in the eventuality of your passing, will the person remembering you feel inspired, infused with goodness, strength, and possibilities? Or will they just say those things to be nice?
My friends, whether we like it or not, from the time we are born two things happen:
1) the clock starts ticking, and
2) the record of our life begins
Our actions, behaviors, decisions, and choices create our legacy. And the people we have known—along with some we haven’t—WILL have feelings when they think about us.
And your spirit will live on in those feelings that they have.
What do you want YOUR legacy to be?
With hope, and be well always,
Anthony Ferraioli, M.D.