What's Your Legacy?
When your time on earth is done, what do you want to be remembered for?
This is a big question. And yet, it’s the reason why we’re here … Living. Breathing. Growing. Helping. Changing. Transforming.
Our work is not done. By work, I don’t mean your day job. I’m referring to your higher-level purpose: How are you positively leading, influencing, or helping others?
Identify Life Accounts
Purpose is multi-faceted, and uncovering your purpose entails deep self-examination. Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want by Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy outlines several steps to formulate a life plan, and it’s a resource I highly recommend to all of my clients. However, the most meaningful part of the book for me is a discussion of life accounts.
Consider nine core areas that strongly influence your life. These are life accounts that may be further grouped into three compartments: being, relating, and doing.
1. Circle of being. Your spiritual, intellectual, and physical accounts reside here.
2. Circle of relating. Marital, parental, and social accounts focus on your relationships to others.
3. Circle of doing. This third group is focused on output and includes your job, hobbies, and finances.
You may be fine with these life accounts, or you might prefer to expand or subtract certain life accounts. Here’s the point: you don’t live in a single domain. There’s a lot of crossover and seasons where one life account must take priority over another.
Assess Life Accounts
Once you’ve appropriately identified seven to twelve life accounts, you’re ready for the next step: assessment. How are you functioning in each life account? Is your marriage strong or weak? Do you feel close to God or far away from Him?
Be honest as you assess the condition of each life account. You can keep this exercise private if you’d like. Alternatively, use it as a roadmap to strengthen a relationship or other area of weakness. It’s hard to have all life accounts going in a positive direction.
Like a bank account, consider areas of your life that are overdrawn and need attention. You may be beating your goals at work but letting your health suffer. Or perhaps you’re in great physical shape but leaving little time for family.
Come back to this article regularly and evaluate if one or more of your life accounts needs rebalancing. Are you facing a specific work deadline where extra hours and effort is required? Do you have an upcoming race like a marathon or triathlon? Set a reminder after the deadline or race to reset and realign your life accounts.
Recognize that some imbalances may be related to a stage of life. If you’re hyper-focused on paying down student loan debt, you may be picking up extra hours at work or starting a side hustle. Or, you might feel overwhelmed as a parent to a toddler with unrelenting energy. Don’t blame yourself for placing emphasis on a particular life account. Rather, revisit this exercise in a year and see if that life account still requires the most attention.
A positive balance in a life account means you have passion for it and are seeing progress. Gratitude and appreciation are common because it’s the best possible state of a life account.
Drift is the most dangerous state since a life account lacks both passion and progress. You may harbor apathy, resentment, or despair. You know that something needs to change. Don’t turn your back on this life account. Instead, reignite the passion; progress will likely follow.
Implement a new strategy or develop a new skill when you have passion but lack progress in a particular life account. For instance, you might be passionate about marriage. Nonetheless, you and your spouse rarely spend quality time together (there’s lack of progress). Schedule regular date nights or consider seeing a marital therapist.
When experiencing progress without passion, you’re in a state of shift. For example, you might be in a financially lucrative career that no longer excites you. Rekindle your passion and reconnect with your why. Or, in this case, contemplate a new career path.
Prioritize Life Accounts
You’ve identified and taken stock of life accounts. Now, let’s prioritize those life accounts.
Take some time as your work through this stage. Think about the purpose behind each life account, what you envision for the future, where you are now, and the gap (if any). You may even want to add an inspirational quote. As you assess the gap between where you are and where you want to be, contemplate the specific actions you should take to get there. A bulleted list is great.
Here’s an example for a physical health life account:
Purpose statement: My purpose is to maintain and care for my body.
Vision for the future: I am physically strong, free of medical concerns. I have plenty of sustained energy to accomplish tasks. Others look to me as a role model.
Inspirational quote: “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Current reality: I exercise two to three times weekly but know I could be doing more. I don’t count calories and occasionally overeat at family gatherings.
Consume no more than 2,000 calories daily
Participate in 30 minutes of cardio activity at least 3 times weekly
Take a yoga class or do other strength-training at least 2 times weekly
When given the option, use the stairs rather than elevator
To recap, it’s important to write your purpose statement, vision for the future, inspirational quote, current reality, and specific commitments for each life account. Reading through them in aggregate should help you with prioritization. Your prioritization may look different than mine. Below, you’ll find an example of prioritized life accounts.
4. Physical Health
7. Hobbies (including Volunteering)
Prioritizing life accounts could be a game-changer: you can quickly identify areas of weakness and assign quarterly or annual goals for life accounts that require the most adjustment. Refer to this post for additional goal-setting guidance.
Constructing a Life Plan
Living Forward suggests you take these prioritized life accounts and then designate a full day to construct a comprehensive life plan. I’m realistic and know you may not actually dedicate 10+ hours to creating a life plan.
That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book Redefining Family Wealth: A Parent’s Guide to Purposeful Living. It succinctly incorporates impactful lessons from other books and podcasts along with my wisdom as a CPA financial planner. The goal of the book is to redefine how parents think about wealth. You don’t have to be rich (monetarily speaking) to live richly. Furthermore, money is only one measure of wealth. Presale orders begin Friday, May 17th! Register for book updates and my top 10 wealth-building tips here.
Deborah L. Meyer, CPA/PFS, CFP®, is the author of Redefining Family Wealth: A Parent’s Guide to Purposeful Living. She is also the proud owner of WorthyNest®, an independent financial planning and investment advisory firm that helps Christian parents build wealth without compromising their values. Deborah has been featured in national publications including The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Inc., Yahoo! Finance and CNN Business. She is a regular contributor to Kiplinger, a recipient of the 2018 AICPA Standing Ovation Award in Personal Financial Planning, and Saint Louis University’s 2019 Distinguished Young Alumni in Business. Deborah lives with her husband Bryan and their three sons in Saint Charles, Missouri.