Lessons from Legacy: Life by Design Part 2

Copyright 2006 Melissa Galt

Making the Best Choices

We are each the sum total of the choices we have made to date. If we want a new reality, we have to make new choices. After all, the very definition of insanity is to do the same thing always and expect a different result. When we change our actions, we change our results. A perfect case in point is my Godmother, famed Hollywood costumer Edith Head. At age thirty she was teaching French to an all girls school in California, and because she had studied a semester abroad in Europe the school assumed she could also teach art. She in fact couldn’t draw more than stick figures but took on the task. While looking in the paper one day, she saw a contest for drawing costumes for one of the major movie studios.

She wanted a change in career and boldly without permission “borrowed” some of her student’s sketches and entered the contest. She won! When showing up on the first day and being asked to draw, she was found out, but her courage and presumption so captivated the costume designer that he took her on. The rest is history including 8 Oscars for costume design over a 50-year career. She lived a life of her own design.

What have you not pursued because you didn’t have the skill set or the connections? Can you learn it? Who can help you?

Living from the Heart

Life is in the living, not in the stuff. Stuff more often than not simply weighs us down and stands in our way. In order to move forward, to continue growing and changing, we must let things go. Those elements we keep with us must serve as inspiration and memories, not as baggage. What you bring forward is up to you. My mother, Anne Baxter, was an academy award winning actress to many. To me she was a single working parent, too often gone on location and on tour. But she taught valuable lessons. She knew from age seven that she wanted to act and pursued it with a singlemindedness that few of us possess for anything in our lives. At the same time she managed to write an autobiography about her life with my father, and was in the middle of the second one about her life growing up when she died. Mother lived each and every moment with passion, vigor, and commitment to her finest. She challenged us to do the same and instilled the value I describe here. She lived her life by her own design.

When Mother passed some 20+ years ago now, we each had only a file folder of mementos that she had kept (I have two sisters). This was such a gift rather than what I see so often with clients. They keep hordes of baby clothes, bronzed shoes, elementary school artwork projects most of us would soon forget, broken trophies from days gone by and too much more. Mother saved the best, the things that really counted to her and hence they mattered to us. What better gift. The most significant legacy she left was the memories of times spent together, not the stuff left behind. When you live from your heart and your mind, not by your hand and your purse, you will truly know that it is the connections and relationships that define us, not our possessions. He who dies with the most toys, still dies.

What are you hording in terms of stuff? How is it holding you back?