Three Questions to Consider How You Will Be Known
Last week, we began a thinking about legacy and what we’re known for. It was a few words specifically inspired by a particularly poignant moment in time and a particularly influential person. This week, I want to step back and look less prescriptively about what we want to be known for, our legacy, and more procedurally about how we come to be known for these things. To that end, I’ve got three basics questions for us to consider, and some thoughts on how to apply them.
Question 1: What are you currently known for?
As you’re starting to think about how others see you, or perhaps how you want to be known or seen by others, a great way to start is by examining how others see you today. There are a couple of ways to look at this. One of the first is a bit of self-reflection and introspection. What’s your normal? What’s your standard? What are your habits? Please note, we aren’t asking what you would like to be your normal or what you’d like to have as a habit. But rather, what is true for you in your current state. Are you gracious? Are you punctual? Are you excellent? Are you positive?
Think about the first impressions you make when you walk in a room, when you meet someone for the first time, or when you engage with someone new. Then, think about the last impression that you leave with them. Think about what other people might think if they encountered you in those first and last moments of the day. I don’t believe any of us need to hold ourselves to a standard of perfection. But in the spirit of even better, what are your habits? What’s usually true? What is true more often than it’s not? As you do this exploration into what you’re currently known for, think about the different work settings, social settings, and family settings. Do you have continuity of character from place to place? If they all spoke about you in your absence, would they all say the same thing? That’s how to be known for something.
Bonus: One other way to figure out what you’re currently known for is to ask for feedback. A couple of weeks ago we had a blog on this very topic- check it out!
Question 2: What do your words and actions say about you?
This question is meant to help you, first, reflect on the words that you use. Do you use your “please” and your “thank you”? Are you sensitive to who is around you, and do you keep your language and tone audience-appropriate? Are you one who uses the word I instead of we? Do you focus on you instead of the other person? Are you someone who adds uplifting words to a conversation, or do you use words that tear others down? Spend a few days paying attention to the words that you use both verbally and in writing. Again, in your workplace, social, and family contexts, look for patterns in your words.
Then, from there, look at your actions, the work products, your work output, and what it says about you. Legendary football coach Vince Lombardi once said, “The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” I think what he’s getting at here is what you’re known for might be the work that you do, but it is more likely your commitment to excellence in that work, whatever your chosen field. Are you cleaning houses with the best of them? Are you performing neurosurgery with a commitment to excellence? Are you loading shelves in a food pantry in the best way you possibly can? Are you delivering lines on a Broadway stage by giving it your all? Whatever you are doing, are you doing it with excellence? The work product that you produce has a lot to do with how you are known.
Question 3. What do you want to be known for?
I think this is one of those places where we can turn the corner. If we are intentional with what we want to be known for, then we can create lives in which we are known for just that. I once heard American author and speaker Andy Andrews talk about the idea of a “winning team”; his gist was that you can’t call yourself a winning football team if you keep losing all of your games. Your fans know you as something else because your results aren’t wins. Taking that a step further, it would follow that if you wanted to be known as a winning football team, then perhaps you start by being known as a football team that works hard together, that is committed to being even better, that learns from their mistakes until you eventually do start winning those games…then, you’ve changed the course of history and you’ve become known as a winning team.
What do you want to be known for? Focus on it so that you can achieve it. This is goal setting at its finest. If we set a goal for how we want to be remembered by others, then we can focus on that and strive for it. From there, we can use a phrase taken from the subway lines in London, “Mind the gap”. Make note of the gap between where you are today and where you want to be. Pay attention to how you want to be known and how you are known today. Pay attention to the disconnect and identify and prioritize what you can do to help change the way you are known.
The tips above are written with the assumption that what you are known for today is not quite yet “arrived” at exactly the way you want to be known forever. There are absolutely people in this world who are known for what they want to be known for and are living out their daily lives in a way that aligns with the character that they aspire to. My expectation is that those people also started by examining what they are known for and continued to do the things that align with their goals. They have taken the time to examine how their actions and words impact the character that they want to be known for, and they continue to say the words and do the actions that are in alignment with their goals. They continue to examine and focus on what they want to be known for and keep those things at the top of their mind for themselves. If you have other ideas on how to examine and achieve a character that is consistent with what you want to be known for, chime in and join us social media.