My father passed away a month ago. In his eulogy, I wrote:

It’s ironic that the man with a beautiful, limitless heart battled a failing heart for
three decades. The magical part is that he never let the failing tissue define him.
What defined him was his love and his playful, teen-age exuberance.

I wonder how he would have answered had I thought to ask him the question: “What defines you?” (There are so many questions I wish I had asked him.)

As I consider this, I realize that I have never asked myself that question. In the last 4 years, I haven’t asked a single client what defines them. At least, not in those words. I wonder how rarely that question gets asked. How often is it a posthumous conversation?

What defines me?

I believe that the answer changes by time. What defined me in high school is not what defined me in college. Thankfully, what defined me in college is no longer applicable. Yet they are all part of my “up-until-now” life.

Interestingly, over the last half-decade, my life has been defined by my heart. I feel deeply in my heart, I love fully because of my heart, I parent with my heart, I partner from my heart, I connect with my heart, I coach through my heart. I call it living “Heart Forward.”

I’d love to say that I had intentionally written that definition, and was living it based on a glorious, crafted plan. Nope. I can identify it at this time only by looking inward, looking outward and looking backward.

I realize, now, that I have the chance to look forward, with intention, and decide how I wish to be defined, to be known, to be “famous”* … to be remembered.

And this is the place of Leadership. I believe that taking a leadership position in your own life is the single most important precursor to success as an adult, as a partner, as a parent, as an entrepreneur, and as an executive. AmyK maintains that leadership happens one conversation at a time. She’s absolutely right. As leaders, we need to be intentional about creating space, and time, and permission for those conversations to happen.

So, ask yourself the question: “What will define me?

As a leader, it is your responsibility to set the tone of the conversation. Listen to your answers. Notice the ones that inspire you and the ones that frighten you. Be open to whatever comes up. Without judgment. With an extra dose of curiosity. Begin to have the conversation. Begin to look forward. (This is also a critical conversation to have about your company and with your team … but that will have to be another blog.)

So I ask you: “What defines you?” And I invite you to share your thoughts, your comments and your learning.

P.S.: I think I’ll be asking my clients that question … (consider yourselves fore-warned!)

Homework

Your Eulogy: Words to Live By
» What has defined your life up until now?
» What do you want to define it from now on?
» What do you hope is said about you in your eulogy?
What will you choose now?

Now write that eulogy. It’s your roadmap for living your life.

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