While I’m a marketing strategist and a reputation management specialist, as part of my work I often help clients become clear about their desire to create purpose in their lives through personal branding. We work on the importance of integrity, credibility and meaning as it builds towards an ultimate legacy that will live well beyond their earthly years. I call this “taking advantage of the One Shot”.

Regardless of your beliefs about an afterlife, I see us all on this planet for one time, right now. We get one shot to be the best we can be, to live our most full and intentional life, to form relationships that have depth and significance and to contribute to the world in a way that is personally meaningful. When we distract ourselves from our purpose, or we veer off track from our values, we find ourselves in conflict and turmoil, and life feels less satisfying and worthwhile.

I don’t want to sound preachy here… but … have you considered what your legacy will look like? When was the last time you reflected on your life (whether you are 20, 40 or 80) and examined the impact you’ve had so far? Are you focused on serving self or helping others? What does that mean for you? Who is making a difference in your life and what are they doing that is so significant?

We all have careers, responsibilities, skeletons (in the closet, I hope!) and dreams. How often do these come together for you? Are you struggling to connect your daily work to your life’s meaning? Even the seemingly most successful people in the world wrestle with the concept of personal significance. Here are some examples from people I’ve worked with:

  • Years ago, I was hired by a very successful industry leader who had pioneered much of the thought leadership in his field. He’d authored 14 well-known books in his industry, testified as an expert in front of Congress, guest-lectured internationally and was often featured in media for his insight and content. Yet, according to this man, he was unclear about how all this work and information was defining his life. He asked me, “How do I get in front of my reputation to design my legacy the way I want, not the way the media defines me?”
  • I worked with a brave cancer survivor who spent many public years battling her disease. She was a business owner and had loyal clients who patiently took this journey with her. When she was well into her recovery, she asked me, “How can I manage the rest of my life so I don’t become branded by my cancer? I don’t want it to define who I am or what I was put on Earth to do.”
  • In working with hundreds of military veterans over the years, I often hear the dilemma of “I want to be proud of my years of military service, but I don’t want to be labeled a veteran first and a businessman/leader/professional second. How can I make my life’s meaning about more than my service career?”

It seems we all wrestle with being defined by others (the marketplace, our clients/colleagues, parents/siblings/spouse, and our field of expertise) and not by how we want to control our legacy. While this might look like a challenge, it is actually an opportunity.

Knowing that you have One Shot to be who you want to be, you can start TODAY to live more intentionally and with more focus on your desired personal brand. You can get in front of any bad publicity, negative perception or ill will you’ve inadvertently created and begin to work towards a life of more purpose and meaning to you.

When I look back on my life, I want to be proud of what I’ve done, the people I’ve known and the difference I’ve made. I want to be sure I’ve taken advantage of every great opportunity presented to me and ignored the ones I knew in my gut were wrong for me. I will not have a perfect life, but I will have taken risks and enjoyed rewards.

How are you taking advantage of your One Shot?