What is Your Legacy?

We are all going to die someday. There, I said it. No escaping it. No second chances. We get one try at this thing we call life, and then we are gone from this plane of existence. So what does that mean for you? In life we all have goals. They may be anything from simply wanting to live a happy and healthy life to the extreme levels of wanting to change the world. Whatever your goals may be, they are solely meant for you. So what is holding you back?

This question came into my mind as I was perusing one of my pediatrician Facebook groups. I responded to a comment, and I soon was tagged by two separate pediatricians. They both asked if I was related to a Dr. Toffle in Morgantown, WV. “He is an OB/GYN and taught me during my rotations in medical school.” Well yes, I know him; he is my dad. The crazy thing? These two physicians trained at WVU School of medicine in the 1980’s and 1990’s – almost thirty years ago. Neither lives in West Virginia any more. Neither of them pursued being an OB/GYN (meaning they probably only spent about a month around him during their training). Yet the mere presence of my last name on Facebook triggered that thought in their minds. Can you remember every teacher or professional you trained with from 30 years ago?

This is where the question of my own legacy comes into play. Imagine affecting someone so much that they remember you well into adulthood. Either through encounters with students, residents, nurses, or other physicians, we (as physicians) all hope to inspire with the deeds we do today. In medicine we also hope to positively affect our patients. We do everything we can to keep people both healthy and safe, hoping they respect us enough to listen. That respect gets built up over time, positively or negatively affected by each encounter we have with them.

I struggle to determine what I want my legacy to be. I want to do well for my family, obviously. I want to be a positive influence for my patients and work colleagues as well. But I often ask myself, is this enough? Is there more I can do in this world to make a long term positive impact? And if so, what is holding me back?

Time is a huge factor. I work the typical full time hours, and when I am home I spend that time with my family (the most important aspect of my life). I might get an hour at night to think about others things I could be doing; that may include researching topics online, listening to podcasts, writing, building in the garage, etc. Not a lot of time for all of those interests. I struggle with waking up early, but recognize that I could do better with this. So much of this is mindset. “I can’t wake up this early; I can’t work out right now; I can’t learn this new skill; I can’t find the time.” We do a really good job at sabotaging ourselves with negative thoughts. Once we say we can’t do something, we have already decided we WON’T do something. Think about it – when was the last time you said you can’t do something due to some excuse you created, but then went ahead and did the task anyway? Probably not often.  

If you have ever heard of a Life coach they frequently have you focus on your end goals first, followed by the process of working backwards on how you got there. This helps you map out your plan. When it comes to fulfilling your legacy, it is the same concept. First start out knowing what you want that legacy to be – whatever it is, own it. Want to focus on home and just be the best parent you can be to your kids? Awesome. Want to start a group focused on healthy eating and lifestyle and be known as THE guru to go to for this information? Perfect. Whatever it may be, identify it first. Then work backwards.

Let’s use the example of creating a business to understand how this works. Want to own a million dollar business? Great. Imagine you are there already. Imagine how you helped your business generate a million dollars this year. Maybe it is via a widespread online presence. Maybe you created a course loved by thousands of people. Whatever your ideal plan is, determine that. Now ask yourself how you made your first $100,000. Maybe you learned a new skill involving online presence. Maybe you mastered distribution of your product. Then ask how you made your first $10,000. How did you make your first sale? As you work backward in this mindset, you are creating the roadmap for you to follow to get your business moving. We don’t always know where to begin, but we can definitely imagine where we want to end up. The same is in our lives of parenting.

To be the best parent you can be, first imagine what that looks like in your mind. Improved mind set at home? Patience? Family time? Once you narrow that down you can begin to work backward. Imagine HOW you got to where your end goal is, then continue to work backward to where you are now. With this roadmap in place, you can start your adventure to a happier you.

When I think about my dad and what he did with his life and career, I doubt he overly focused on his legacy at the time.  His impact was simply a consequence of the work he put in to be an incredible clinician and educator.  I think knowing this gives me some peace of mind.  I don’t have to map out the rest of my life or career just to leave an impact behind.  I can focus solely on being the best husband, father, and pediatrician I can be.  The end result WILL be the fruit of my labors up to that point.  

As for changing the world?  I am still working on determining what that end point looks like.  Maybe that change will come from my kids, hopefully as a result of what I taught them while they were young.  Only time will tell.

Imperfect Dad, MD

Lifestyle weeks 4 (and 5): no changes made these weeks. They have been more maintenance weeks for the changes I made before. We have honestly had some craziness going on in our house the last couple weeks (4 is such an awesome age……). Expect next week to see some more updates.

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