It is not hard to plan how to increase a net worth by 100% or 200% or more. The plan does not guarantee the achievement. Yet without a plan there is almost no chance of accomplishment. Without a plan and a commitment most people drift.

It’s the same for your reputation, your legacy. When your loved ones are crying at the microphone at your memorial, what will they remember? When they remember you a decade after you’re gone, what do you hope they will appreciate about you? You can leave that to chance, or you can choose to plan.

People judge us by what we do. Your choices show your values. Robert McKee, screen writing coach, notes that a character on screen is what they do. Change and character come from the inside out. Start your planning on the inside.

Today you may not be able to fully articulate what calls or drives you. Take time to dream about the person you want to be, how you want to benefit others. Commit your vision and aspirations to paper. Writing your goal well will be hard, but everything important you have ever done was hard.

The goal is only the start. You must figure out what you will do, how you will behave, to leave the legacy you want. That may require some changes. For decades I’ve been rude by being late. Finally, I hurt someone I care for deeply because I was late again. My plan involves showing concern for other by being early from now on. Yes, I should have learned that decades ago, but better to finally correct it than to end with that flaw. 

Ben Franklin decided that he wanted to attain “moral perfection.” Once he had that goal, he decided what he should do. Franklin read books and talked to others to get ideas for how he should act. In his Autobiography, Franklin describes thirteen behaviors he wanted to improve. Here are two.

“6. INDUSTRY. Lose no time; be always employ’d in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.” 

“13. HUMILITY. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.”

Every evening, Franklin reviewed his actions during the day. He noted any time he failed to meet his standards. He concentrated on one virtue every week. That’s pretty strenuous. But, in the end he was healthy, wealthy, and wise. 

You too can record three or 12 traits you want to be known for. One woman I refer to in Building Legacy Wealth decided that she wanted to be known for being gracious. She knew that gracious people thanked others. So, she made a habit of writing three thank-you notes every day.

Rank your desired behaviors. Ranking them is hard. Yet clear priorities simplify your decisions from then on. When people around you recognize what you stand for, your life and theirs will be clear. Be explicit about who you aim to become. 

Your list of behaviors will guide you most of the time. But you will encounter situations that challenge you. Then you can ask the question speaker and author Jim Cathcart suggests: “How would the person I want to be handle this?”

Friend, helping you build wealth is relatively easy. Your true challenge is to lead a life worth imitating. 

What do you want to be known for? 

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Terry Moore, CCIM, is the author of Building Legacy Wealth: How to Build Wealth and Live a Life Worth Imitating. Read his “Welcome to My Blog.