My legacy; this is something I’ve been thinking about a bit more deeply recently as I am about to hit a Birthday that will see me closer to 50 than 40 and as I watch my children grow up. Will I have made any kind of an impact, what mark will I make?
“If you’re going to live, leave a legacy. Make a mark on the world that can’t be erased.” — Maya Angelou.
Some of you reading this you may be thinking, “I’m not old enough to be thinking about my legacy.” or “It’s too early in my life or career for my legacy to matter.” Whenever I’m asked about the best timing for anyone to begin considering their legacy, I say, “Now! It makes you a better person today.”
Think for a second. What are the things that Steve Jobs truly left behind for people to remember? Is it the iPod and iPhone that matter the most? Or is it the way he lived his life – a life where there were no limits to what was possible. No limits to what could and couldn’t be done to further our ability to communicate, connect, and innovate.
These legacies will live on forever with their families, friends, colleagues, and fans – not because of what they created, but for what they passed on to others in the form of courage, bravery, mindset and decisions that were both good and bad.
What is legacy anyway?
“Legacy is not leaving something for people. It’s leaving something in people.” — Peter Strople.
Legacy: is something people leave behind, something that survives through and within others. According to Susan Bosak of the Legacy Project, studies suggest that legacy is not about materialistic things like money, cars, etc. Rather, it is about the way you live your life and how the decisions you make reflect your values and your beliefs. Perhaps most importantly, legacy isn’t something off in the future, because you can lead with it and live it here and now- in fact, you should. Your legacy is also about how you lived and what you stood for.
At it’s core, your legacy consists of your values & beliefs and how you act those out in the world. The ‘how’ may include principles you live by underlined by your purpose. Your internal purpose is what gives you meaning, what fulfills you. Your external purpose is how you deliver that to the world. It can be seen first and foremost in your humanity, how you interact with other people, how you encourage other people to be, how you support them, inspire them, comfort or care for them, how you challenge and reward them, the list goes on.
For those interested in examining their own sense of purpose, go have a read of this article:
What is your life purpose? And Ho to Discover it Today.
There’s no timeline here. Your legacy can be now! If you want others to take on certain of your behaviours, attitudes, mindset, what do you want those to be?
“The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.” — Billy Graham.
A few things to consider about starting your legacy
It helps you remember you have nothing to lose while alive.
To put it bluntly, when you know you’re going to die anyway, you worry a lot less about what you can and cannot control here on earth. You zoom out of the small day-to-day things and you focus on the bigger picture, which makes you more willing to take risks and make huge things happen.
It instills similar values in others that will carry on for generations.
is something fundamentally awesome about knowing that the lessons you’re
teaching others and the things you’re saying that really stick out now will be
remembered long after you pass. This is one of the reasons I derive so much joy
from the teaching part of my professional life, and one of the reasons that I
do it the way I do it!
Ever leave something behind in life that you were a part of, then always sort of wonder in the back of your head how it’s going without you there? It’s great to think that whatever ends up happening was likely affected by you and the impact you had. Same concept here. It’s helpful to think about the idea of people using your lessons hundreds of years down the line, whether they know it or not. Ripples spreading their way into the lives of others through time……
It allows others to have clear, lasting memories of you.
When somebody very impactful to your life passes on, you have clear memories of them when they were still alive – and that is HUGE. Being the kind of person who is remembered can sound like a selfish desire, but if it’s coming from a place of “good” – meaning you want people to remember an important lesson you taught, it becomes something you give. You don’t want to pass on and have the memory of you be vague and unclear. That’s a scary thought!
It is a foundational part of life.
Legacy is fundamental to what it is to be human. Research shows that without a sense of working to create a legacy, adults lose meaning in their life. Exploring the idea of legacy offers a glimpse not only into human relationships and building strong communities, but also the human spirit. The word foundational can be thought of as a ground/base on which something is standing. It all boils down to this – life is not as meaningful without thinking of a legacy. Read this article for more on how to live a more meaningful life: How to Live a More Meaningful life.
Your life should be lived to the fullest and filled with meaning and hope, purpose. It’s just up to you to define what is important. What do you want the takeaways people will think about you when you pass on? If you let this thought in and marinate a bit, I just bet you will make a few subtle changes in your day to day that will have an enormous impact on you and those around you.
It is one of the most selfless things you can do.
As mentioned above, wanting to be remembered is not selfish when it comes from a pure place. Leaving a legacy is one of the least selfish things one can do.
So, reflecting on the big picture… Live your days by being present and truly listening to those around you and giving more than you take. Find your purpose and go all-in on that and remember that people will take away the most dynamic parts of you in how you related to them during your life.
One way or another, your legacy can only live on through people – family, friends, colleagues, teammates, etc. So, it can also be reinforced through a group culture based upon certain principles and formalised through systems and processes. It can be institutionalised, it may, in part, be documented. One way or another, it will be positive or negative- the choice is yours but continue reading if you’re designing or living for positive!
Here are 8 ways to connect to your legacy and start living it.
Love your life – The first step to consider while living your legacy is to love life. We need to understand that we have been given the gift of life. We can choose to live the way we want to. When we really appreciate the life we will manage ourselves better. Once we love our lives we will then set big goals to make the most of the limited time we have to make an impact. So appreciate your life and love life for what it is. The gift of life is something to be appreciated and cherished.
Be enthusiastic – Once you love your life you need to be totally enthusiastic about your life. Get excited about your life. Just think of it as an opportunity to experience this world as it is. When you are enthusiastic and project happiness relationships are fertilised with the seeds of trust. Enthusiasm is the key to a life of substance and cheer. If we want to experience all the beauty that life has to offer we need to be enthusiastic about life in spite of the obstacles each one of us face.
shows that when we know we have benefited from the legacy of the prior generation, that gets us thinking about the positive legacy we want to leave for future generations and we tend to make better long-term oriented decisions.
Be grateful – Your attitude towards everything in your life will play a greater role going forward. You need to develop coping skills to view the world through a prism of abundance. Keep looking at the brighter side of your life. Your attitude is the true barometer of how you experience your life. This attitude of yours will be reflected in the way other people treat you. Maintaining an upbeat attitude will attract abundance and joy. When you are totally grateful about your life you experience joy. The reason I am linking this to legacy is unless you feel joyous it doesn’t matter how much outer success you have because you will never enjoy it. So savour the small moments and revere life. Read more about how to express gratitude here: The Science of Gratitude and How to Express It. https://www.adam-eason.com/the-science-of-gratitude-its-benefits-and-ways-to-express-it/
Accept yourself – You are totally unique in this world. It has been well established that even identical twins are totally different. This means no one else can be you and you cannot be anyone else. Be totally comfortable with you as a person. The first step towards greater richness is self-acceptance. Accept everything about yourself and change what you want to. Another way to put this is no one else can write the book you are meant to write or bring the talent you were born with. Your talent has to be brought out only by you. So tap into your amazing strengths and bring out your talent.
Find work that you love – Work is going to fill a large part of our lives and finding work that we really love is one of the key decisions we can make in our lives. I recently listened to an audio clip of Jim Collins talking about Lou Gerstner. In his excellent book “Who says Elephants can’t dance” Lou says that at some point, he fell in love with IBM. Jim Collins says according to him, it is in that moment that Lou Gerstner became a Level 5 leader and his blood turned from red to blue. This is because he found a cause larger than himself. The takeaway for us is to find a cause that we are deeply passionate about because that will help us endure the pain that we will experience on our journey. As Jim Collins says, to find the cause that you are so passionate about that it will pull you to be a high level leader (though you can make that relevant and pertinent to your life and goals). We are only here for a short or limited time so find the work that invigorates you. Once you find your main cause you will be living your legacy.
Character – Trust in relationships is built on a foundation of truth. When you tell the truth all the time you feel great about yourself and everyone around you will understand that you mean business. People always respond favourably to those who live by their highest ideals. At the end of your life what will be important is that you lived your life according to your values. So as Stephen Covey said; begin with the end in mind and align all your activities to your highest values. Character is what is left after charisma is gone. Keep aligning all your actions to what you want your life to stand for. This action specifically will ensure you will live your legacy. Of course, we will fall short on occasions as we are human. Let’s just accept that and still aim for our highest ideals.
Inspire others – Inspiring others is one the keys to leaving a lasting legacy. If you are a leader you need to inspire others to bring their best selves. Even in your family, you can inspire your children through your actions. So always be on the lookout to set a great example which inspires everyone around you. Inspiring others to achieve their goals will help you leave a lasting legacy.
Always respect others – Respect everyone irrespective of their position or financial status. When you respect everyone you feel a lot better about yourself. Respect others for who they are and what they stand for. Again leaving a lasting legacy can only happen if people understand that you value them.
All of us can create opportunities to achieve what we want. Of course, some of us will start further behind than others but that time can be made up with learning and hard work. Go start living and leaving your legacy today.
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