Creating legacy: Enemies and allies

‘The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.’  Abraham Lincoln

Creating legacy is in many ways about learning how to make the best of what you’ve got. This means identifying both your resources (defined broadly e.g. self-belief, time, specific skills, people) as well as the obstacles standing in your way.

How to identify your ‘enemies and allies’ to creating legacy

Here’s a little exercise that I hope will help you identify both in under 10 minutes. Take out two sheets of paper. On the first sheet of paper (which you could title ‘enemies’), write a list of all the things that make it difficult for you to create legacy. On the second sheet of paper, list all the things that are helpful to you in creating legacy. Be as broad as you like with both.

In relation to the enemies list, make sure you list absolutely every single obstacle. You might not want to think of your children as ‘enemies’, but if having children makes it more difficult for you to create legacy, put ‘children’ on your list (of course, you might also want to put ‘children’ on your ‘allies’ list if you feel they also inspire you or give you a reason to think of leaving a legacy in the first place). What about your partner? Or your dog, needing the morning walk just at the time when you are settling in to work on your legacy project? Or the need to earn a living, maybe in a way that has nothing to do with creating legacy? Is your lack of self-respect a problem? Or those negative little voices in your head, telling you what you want to achieve just isn’t possible?

Now to the ‘allies’ list – again, be as inclusive as possible. Is your determination to keep going an ally? What about the free child-care you can depend on from your extended family? Your understanding boss, perhaps? Your partner, when you need someone to confide in? Your touch-typing skills? Your large network of friends? Your very inspiring legacy project HQ? These are just a few ideas – what people identify as ‘allies’ varies just as much as what they identify as ‘enemies’.

Taking the next step

Of course, writing the two lists is just the first step. You now have to think about ways to circumvent some of the constraints imposed by your ‘enemies’, and increase the positive effect of your ‘allies’.

Most of your ‘enemies’ cannot be eliminated completely (nor would you want to, in most cases e.g. children) – but you can find ways to neutralise their effect on your work towards creating legacy. If you have identified ‘children’ as ‘enemies’ in relation to creating legacy, for example, you might want to choose a legacy project HQ away from your home, so the children do not get in the way of you making progress on your project.

Having just done the exercise again, I found myself putting ‘the Internet’ at the top of my ‘enemies’ list. This is because whenever I am sitting in front of the computer and having trouble with my writing, I tend to convince myself that I really need to google this and that, and then check Facebook etc. and before I know it I’ve lost half an hour of the time allocated to my legacy project with aimless internet procrastination.

For all my talk of avoiding ‘busywork’, the one generated by the Internet is still there, eating into my legacy project time. Now that I have realised just what a powerful ‘enemy’ it is to my legacy work, I am thinking of ways to neutralise it – e.g. by turning the wireless button off while working on my project. A tough but necessary step.

The nice part comes next: increasing the effect that your ‘allies’ have on your legacy work. If you find your legacy project HQ a source of progress, you might want to think of ways to improving its effect further, such as through making it really comfortable, decorating it nicely, and guarding it against any non-project-related junk. In my case, having something to nibble on while writing is an important ally, so I always make sure I have a pack of sunflower seeds or almost next to me as I’m working on my project.

What about you?

Are you surprised by any of the things you have written down, on any of the two lists? What other strategies have you found to make the most of what you’ve got in creating legacy? I’d love to read your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

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Alexa Ispas

I am a social entrepreneur, blogger, and talent scout, interested in helping people who want to create legacy. I have recently completed my PhD thesis in social psychology at the University of Edinburgh, and am originally from Romania. I am writing a daily blog on creating legacy, which you can find at www.alexaispas.com