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3 Lessons in Defining Your Living Legacy

Christine Laperriere

BY Christine Laperriere, Executive Director and Lead Coach, Women of Influence Advancement Centre

A few years ago I was coaching a powerful woman who had sadly lost her husband to a six-month fight with cancer. She was devastated and searching for how to move forward given such a significant loss. She was scared that being happy again might insinuate that she had forgotten him although the memory of him caused her so many feelings of sadness.

In our discussion, we got curious about how she could grieve, heal and eventually live a happy life again without forgetting the man she had loved so deeply.

We worked to define living legacy; we agreed it stems from how someone chooses to live their life and the impact that makes on the lives of others. My client realized that the one way she could keep her husband’s memory alive was by living her life differently as a result of having known him.

She shared these three ideas:

1. Let every experience in life be an opportunity for growth.
When her husband was first diagnosed, my client felt he had the right to be angry and depressed. But he took a different approach. He spent time thinking about who he was and how he could grow as a result of this challenge. As she heard him talk about new qualities he wanted to develop in himself and was in awe.

2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Or the big stuff.
He had a way of staying calm in any situation, even through his own treatment and failing health. Even on his most challenging days, he knew how to take his attention off of the doctors, bad news and his pain to look her in the eye and be interested in her day. He trusted that he could only sweat the stuff that was in his control, so he let go of worrying about many things big and small, instead he focused on his own positive state of mind and connecting deeply with people he cared about.

“We worked to define living legacy; we agreed it stems from how someone chooses to live their life and the impact that makes on the lives of others.”

3. “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.” He knew how to bring Maya Angelou’s famous quote to life. Ironically, my client said that this was what she remembered most about him; how he made people feel. He was known by his kids, family, and colleagues to be their biggest cheerleader and advocate in life. He could see great possibility in everyone and he was known to rally for others each step of the way as they reached for their goals. He had an ability to make people feel confident and empowered.

As we established what her husband’s living legacy was, my client and I discussed the ways she could incorporate those elements more into her daily life. We discussed how different areas of her life could change and what some of her first steps needed to be. As we finished the conversation, I realized how moved I felt; not only would his legacy impact her life, but it had already impacted mine. A few days later my client sent me a note that said, “For the first time in months, I feel alive again.”

Here are some questions to consider when you think about your life and what you want your living legacy to be!

• Who do you know who has impacted your life for the better?
• How do you live your life differently as a result of having known them?
• What do you want your impact to be on those around you?
• What do you need to do differently to make that a reality?


Christine’s next course, “Leadership Maturity During Conflict: Women’s Style to Leading through Challenges,” takes place on November 11 in Toronto. Click here to register!