Guest blogger Eric Sinoway is the author of Howard's Gift: Uncommon Wisdom to Inspire Your Life's Work and president of Axcess Worldwide, a global partnership development firm. He has been associated with Harvard University's Hillel as a student, fundraiser, and strategic consultant.
My friend Howard Stevenson - the iconic Harvard professor - likes to make jokes about the day he "died" five years ago, when his heart simply stopped beating during an otherwise pleasant walk across the Harvard campus. How he survived to tell those jokes is an amazing story - a newly installed portable defibrillator, a CPR-trained friend looking out the window, a top-notch hospital two miles away.
Nearly as amazing - to me anyway - was the conversation we had during his recuperation. I asked if, looking back from what could have been the end of his life, he'd had any regrets. Nope, no regrets, he said. With anything, I asked? Nope. His simple, direct answer led to lots of questions for me about my own life. And to many conversations about how a person could live a full life with no regrets. Those talks form the core of a new book, Howard's Gift: Uncommon Wisdom to Inspire Your Life's Work.
One of the key ideas in Howard's Gift is "create a Legacy Vision" - a single picture representing all the facets of the life you want to build. Creating a legacy vision means drawing together your most highly valued beliefs, desires, goals, and priorities into a holistic, aspirational portrait of the ultimate you. This picture will become the guide for the myriad personal and professional decisions you'll need to make along life's path.
Recently, in discussing the Legacy Vision idea with a friend, she said, "Isn't that what we just did during the high holidays - take stock of the right and wrong things we've done and decide how to act in the future?"
Yesâ€¦but no, I responded. Whereas Yom Kippur is, in many respects, about how to make ourselves better people, a Legacy Vision is about making ourselves more authentically ourselves. They are complementary, but not the same thing.
It's in college and grad school that many of us really hone in on who we want to become. That's one of the reasons Hillel plays such an important role: it presents an opportunity to deeply consider how Judaism is woven into their lives and careers.
A legacy vision is less about "right and wrong" than about how we choose among the endless variety of "right" options we encounter in our lives.
Recognizing all the options - and making effective decisions among them - is essential to having a deeply satisfying life and career. And a Legacy Vision is the personal roadmap that enables each of us to reach the place Howard had arrived at: a life lived with no regrets.