By Martin E. Willoughby, Jr.
One of the stories of this year’s NFL football playoffs has been the retirement of Ray Lewis, linebacker for the Baltimore Ravens. At the time of this writing, Lewis and the Ravens are still alive in the chase for the Super Bowl. While a football player retiring may not seem like big news, Lewis is no ordinary football player. He is arguably one of the greatest defensive players in the history of the game and is a lock for the Hall of Fame one day. In the NFL, the average career tenure is just over three years. However, Lewis, age 37, is in his seventeenth year as a professional. He is a vocal Christian and talks openly about his challenges and the mistakes of his youth. I find his story compelling, and his motivational speeches have become a sensation on the Internet. Even if you are not a football fan, his commitment and pursuit of excellence are inspiring.
In his speeches, Lewis reminds audiences that they have “one opportunity in life.” He challenges people to look deep within and consider how they will leave their legacy. Lewis emphasizes that, “Greatness is a lot of small things done well.” He believes that we have to “make up our mind to have greatness in life.” As a business coach and consultant, one of the things I emphasize the most is living intentionally. We all are leaving footprints in the sand. Each of us will leave a legacy with our life. The question is what will it be? Living intentionally means that we are proactive in considering who we are and what we stand for. It means identifying our core values and what is truly important to us. In contrast, too often we live reactionary lives and run from crisis to crisis. We might subscribe to the theory that one day we will begin to live the life that God really planned for us. I call this “the myth of the deferred life.”
As Scripture frequently reminds us, we are here for a brief instant then gone. We are but just a mist (James 4:14). During our brief stay here, we all have the opportunity for greatness. This does not mean that we will all win the biggest awards or receive public accolades. It does mean that we can choose to give our very best to whatever we invest our lives. Heroes of Scripture like Paul, who gave all he had to spread the Gospel of Christ, inspire me. I do not believe that we were put on this earth to lead lives of mediocrity—to simply pass time. Life is hard. We all know that. It can beat us down, and we feel like surviving is all we can manage. However, I believe we are not just here to survive, but to thrive.
We all have a sphere of influence. Are we being good stewards of not just our money, but also our lives? Are we inspiring by example others around us to be their very best? One of the best exercises to put your life in perspective is to write your own obituary. This brings a powerful sense of clarity to life and what is really most important. What will people say about you? What did you stand for? Who did you inspire to be a better person? How did your life reflect Christ? These are sobering but powerful questions. I hope that each of us will realize that we are leaving our own unique mark in the world. Every day brings a fresh start to expand our story. By living an intentional life, we create our own legacy one day at a time.