This week I have been reflecting on honour. In the UK, the news has recently been filled with the passing of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband to the Queen. Many column inches have been filled as people remember what he was like and the impact that he had on them. Prince Philip is being honoured in particular for the way in which he supported the Queen throughout their lives together.
It seems that we honour people most when they have died, as is the case with Prince Philip. That is a right and good thing to do. But it got me thinking about two things. Firstly, why wait until someone is dead to honour them? Secondly, what will my legacy be? What am I going to be remembered for?
At its root, honour has the idea of value or weight. When we honour someone, we are recognising something in them which we value. It might be acts of bravery, or sacrifice in the midst of danger. It could be the way that they treat other people. Whatever it is, we should be looking for ways in which we can recognise positive things in each other and tell that person how much we appreciate it. Instead, we often have a tendency to bring others down to our own level, and we only recognise these attributes, only honour them, when they are no longer with us.
Alan Mulaly, the former chairman of Ford Motor Company, said this:
“To reach maximum capacity, you have to serve others and add value to them.”
Recognising the achievements of others and encouraging the greatness we see in those around us doesn’t take a lot of effort but has a significant impact. To do this requires us to live intentionally. Many of us live each day by accident. But if we are going to leave any kind of legacy then we have to start living our lives every day in an intentional way. To leave a significant legacy you need to ask yourself some searching questions.
Prince Philip, I think, would credit a lot of his thinking and discipline, his values if you like, to the things he learnt at his school, Gordonstoun. He decided to live each day living out these values. The question to begin with is how would you like people to remember you?
It is too late to do anything about this at your funeral. You can start now to do the things which you know, as Alan Mulaly says, add value to other people. Making our lives count means that you will become ‘others focused’. Counter-intuitively by serving others we open the doors to greatness in our own lives. That is not to say that you cannot have dreams and ambitions that you want to see happen for yourself, it is to realise that anything of significance will be done with others. How you treat those around you will be what you are remembered for.
If you get the opportunity to read any of the books on leadership by John Maxwell you will notice a common theme throughout. That theme is about adding value to people. Putting people first. If anything has become clear to me over the past months it is that I am addicted to people. All of us are capable of doing wrong things, upsetting each other, and it is also true that if you think about your most significant events they will all include people. That’s why John Maxwell is so intent on adding value to others.
The key to leaving a great legacy is to live intentionally today. To think about the people you will meet, and talk to and think intentionally about how you can add value to them today. How can you honour them? Honour is about recognising the potential for greatness in another and calling it out. When we look to honour others intentionally then we see more in people that we can honour.
“When you value others, you start creating a cycle of positive interaction that makes life better for everyone.” John C. Maxwell