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Creating legacy & happiness

‘Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.’  Aristotle

Creating legacy and the Happiness Project

Creating legacy is in many ways about finding happiness – not just short-term, forgettable fun, but the kind of long-term happiness that comes with working towards turning your dreams into reality.

A few months ago, I came across Gretchen Rubin’s fabulous Happiness Project – the book and the blog. The blog is full of great daily inspiration and tips. And the book is one of those rare reads that makes you take stock of your life and reconsider your values. In my case, the book made me think a lot about the relationship between happiness and creating legacy.

Creating legacy and happiness go hand in hand

We are all aware of the myth of the creative genius leading a life of sacrifice and gloom while amazing the world with their legacy.

But you don’t have to conform to this image to be a legacy creator. In fact, it makes more sense to see happiness as making it more likely to create legacy.

When you are happy, you are more likely to find the energy within yourself to tackle obstacles or difficult problems. You are also in a more positive state of mind, so are more likely to look forward to challenges rather than avoiding them. Happy people are easier to work with, so feeling happy will also help with your leadership skills as well as make you someone others will want to collaborate with or help out.

I’m certainly finding that when I feel happy, I am in a greater state of balance, and therefore my decisions tend to be more measured and less likely led by obsession with the success of my legacy project. Sometimes what looks like a great opportunity may lead to a disastruous turn of events for the legacy project, and being in a state of balance allows me to pass on such ‘opportunities’ more easily and recognise them for what they are.

Creating legacy and finding fulfillment

Apart from everything else, creating legacy is about finding fulfillment in your life. It does not mean sacrificing everything that is dear to you for the sake of your legacy project; it simply means being aware of the opportunities to create legacy that are open to you, and taking advantage of these opportunities as much as possible.

Thinking of the progress I am making on my legacy projects makes me feel happy. Even on really bad days, when I don’t feel like working on my projects but nevertheless do so, I find that once I get going I start enjoying it.

I don’t understand people to always go on and on about how much they suffer for their art, and I can’t help thinking that if they keep going the way the are going, their art will soon begin to suffer too. It is important to create legacy in a way that makes us feel whole, rather than as an excuse for moaning to others about how difficult our life is.

Creating legacy is in many ways about nourishing that part of ourselves that yearns for the transcendental, that wants to do more than do the boring 9 to 5 job for fourty years to pay off the mortgage, with the occasional holiday abroad every once in a while – and then retiring an empty shell. We have so much potential within us, and it is important that we allow this potential to flourish so the world can benefit from what we have within us that is unique. This means creating legacy, but not in a ‘I am a marty’ kind of way – rather, in a way that feels right to us, that fills our life with meaning.

Giving up short-term for long-term happiness

It is true that sometimes you will have to sacrifice some things that give you short-term happiness so you keep making good progress on your legacy project. But this is because our legacy projects are a source of long-term happiness, whereas some of the things we have to give up to work on them only lead to happiness that is short-lived and often forgettable.

For example, I’m always considering carefully whether to accept invitations to social events while working on a project, because I know that going to such events on top of my daily activities leaves me tired and less able to stay on top of my workload the next day. This seemed inconsistent with the Happiness Project, so I thought about it some more.

What I came to realise is that in fact, the real reason I don’t take part in many social events is that I don’t actually enjoy them. My legacy project commitments therefore make it easier for me to refuse, because the prospect of having to say ‘no’ to a party invite feels less bad than falling behind on my projects. By contrast, I know many people who only attend particular events out of feeling obliged to the host – this to me feels like a total waste of time. Giving up precious hours of your life so as not to make yourself unpopular with someone you don’t even care about seems like complete nonsense.  

What I tend to do instead, consistent with the Happiness Project, is to schedule regular times for fun. For example, I go to a weekly dance class, purely for fun. Having this fun activity scheduled in my calendar rather than as a one-off, like a party, means that I can have fun and therefore boost my happiness without disrupting my legacy routine.

I also make time to paint, another activity I do purely for fun. This activity is not firmly scheduled, but it’s easy to integrate with my legacy project commitments as I can paint in my room, as a way of giving my brain a rest after activities that require heavy thinking.

What about you?

How are you integrating creating legacy with happiness in your life? What kinds of things do you do to boost your happiness? I’d love to read about your ideas in the comments section.

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