What Do you Want to be Known For?

Posted on: February 26th, 2013 by The MidAmerican Psychological Institute

Thomas Jefferson was a man of spectacular achievement, and he did something very interesting in his old age: he composed his own epitaph. In his memoirs, he described what he wanted his tombstone to look like and wrote that it should have “the following inscription and not a word more:

Here was buried

Thomas Jefferson

Author of the Declaration of American Independence

of the Statute of Virginia for religious freedom

Father of the University of Virginia

…because by these as testimonials that I have lived, I wish most to be remembered.”

Epitaph exercise

Inspired by Jefferson’s foresight, I pose a similar question to you: For what do you wish most to be remembered?  In other words, what do you want your tombstone to say? See if you can honestly declare how you want your life to be summarized. What are the things that are vital to you?  What do you want to be known for?  Like Jefferson, can you articulate what is honestly important to you?  You don’t just have to pick three big accomplishments like he did. Maybe you want to list your relationships, religious affiliation, or how much you love your favorite sports team. You can include qualities of your character such as being patriotic, dependable, or generous. It’s your epitaph – feel free to write it in a way that really reflects who you are and what you care about.

After you have completed this task, ask yourself if you are living everyday in the direction of making these values important and relevant in your actions.  A greater quality of life is found in having meaningfulness in your actions.  Suffering is reduced when you know what is vital and critical to you.  Sometimes aimlessness and lack of direction can create feelings of depression and anxiety.  Consider clarifying what is important to you, and using those personal values to set up small goals – small steps that you can take every day to create a more meaningful life.