It’s been four years since I wrote my Heart Will, a lasting message for people I love and future generations. While I’ve been soul searching most of my life, the events of 2020, and in particular the much-needed spotlight on systemic racism, has accelerated my inquiry into high gear.
If you’re like me, you’ve spent more time than usual this year examining what’s important to you and contemplating what your life means and how you want to be remembered after you die.
While I’ve been soul searching most of my life, the events of 2020—in particular the much-needed spotlight on systemic racism—have accelerated my inquiry into high gear.
It’s been four years since I wrote my Heart Will (also known as a Legacy Letter), a lasting message for people I love and future generations. I recently re-opened my Heart Will file, and was drawn to the following lines:
“From a young age I valued friendship, compassion, and community, and abhorred bullying, exclusion and segregation. I never understood why humans consciously hurt one another.”
“We are not born to kill and hate. We do not thrive in environments of segregation and isolation… Just like all things in nature, humans grow and thrive with diversity. Actually our survival depends upon it.”
Fear versus Learning versus Growth
While I felt a certain self-congratulatory pride having captured these words about myself, what I stand for, and how I want to be remembered after my death, something in the lines of my Heart Will didn’t sit right. I unpacked some of my discomfort with the help of this graphic created by Dr. Andrew M. Ibrahim. His visual, mental model for personal accountability illuminates the distinctions between three zones of becoming anti-racist; the fear zone, the learning zone and the growth zone.
Some examples of how you know you’re in the fear zone include: “I talk to others who look & think like me” and “I avoid hard questions.” I can identify with everything in the learning zone, such as “I recognize racism as a present and current problem” and “I educate myself about race & structural racism.” But when I hold myself accountable to the life I want to live and the values I embrace, I’m falling short. I’ve spent some time in the growth zone, but not made it a consistent part of my life’s purpose.
My Manifesto for Living
I realize now that if my Heart Will also serves as my manifesto for living, as well as a part of my end-of-life planning, then it’s my responsibility to evaluate whether my actions align with my declared values and beliefs. When it comes to racism and social injustice, bullying, exclusion and segregation, my intentions as set out in my Heart Will alone won’t change anything. Doing little or nothing allows racism to continue.
I encourage you to take a look at this graphic and consider where you stand in terms of your values, beliefs and priorities. Then—and this is critically important—look at the alignment between these and your actions.
If you’ve never heard of a Heart Will, or if you always wanted to write one, download our free How to Write Your Heart Will guide. With 22 questions divided into six themes, there are endless topics you might choose to address and share. When writing a Legacy Letter, or Heart Will, you can focus on things like:
- Life lessons
- Family history
- Stories about your journey.
Writing a Heart Will is an important part of end of life planning, but it’s also a powerful discovery process that supports you to live and love fully now. Heart Wills help to create a lasting message for friends, family members and future generations, who can use it to reflect on your life and legacy.
What about you?
In which of these three zones do your actions fall?
How do your actions match up to your intentions?