In a recent interview, CBS journalist Tracy Smith, asked James Brolin, now 81, “do you think about legacy?”
“No, not at all. What I’ve got to do is still out there. I haven’t done the thing that makes legacies…yet.”
While I understand the sentiment of his response, I disagree with the premise. Sorry James!
In truth, we are creating our legacy with every choice and action we take. The question becomes, is the legacy we’re creating the one that we want to leave?
Think about these the choices made in these scenarios.
Do you choose to call the friend whom you know is in a tough time, or do you tell yourself you’re too busy? That you’ll do it later because that relationship is very important? So what people remember of you is how hard it was to see you.
Do you choose to practice listening? So friends remember you for being the best listener of all their friends.
Do you choose to give yourself grace through self-care, spiritual and mindfulness practices? So, what the people in your world see, and especially young ones, is someone who models what it means to seek wholeness and meaning.
Can you see how these simple choices had the potential to leave a lasting memory with the person involved?
Many of us hope to leave some kind of legacy, even though we don’t consider ourselves to be famous or wealthy, qualifiers we may think are necessities. Before we continue, let’s define legacy.
According to Merriam Webster, legacy has two primary meanings:
1: something (such as property or money) that is received from someone who has died. She left us a legacy of a million dollars.
2: something that happened in the past or that comes from someone in the past. He left his children a legacy of love and respect.
Today, we’re talking about the second meaning which is related to memories and feelings from the past. If you have heard of ethical wills, you may have already used that instrument to convey this legacy.
But a legacy doesn’t have to be something formal. In fact, it is happening without us even thinking about it.
For example, think about your favorite aunt or uncle when you were growing up. You may not have been a beneficiary in their will, but you do have memories. Let’s say that you remember your aunt for her famous Boiled Custard, or your uncle for the math quizzes he always gave you when he visited. Both are true memories. But my aunt and uncle didn’t intentionally embed these memories in my mind.
Let’s consider if they had.
Perhaps my aunt really wanted to be remembered for her strengths as a teacher rather than for her cooking. How could she have accomplished that?
She’d need to start by having a desire to leave a certain type of legacy. Then she’d need to get intentional about the actions she needed to support her desire.
- I want to be remembered as a beloved teacher.
- I plan to start sharing my favorite stories from my years of teaching.
Getting intentional about the legacy you want to leave can start by simply ‘sitting with yourself’ to explore your feelings about how you’d like to be remembered. And remember you don’t have to be rich or famous to take this important step.
As you arrive at some ideas for the legacy you’d like to leave, consider these small actions you can take to help cement memories of you. It could be a simple letter of gratitude, a recorded or written biography, an ethical will or sharing with others how you want to leave your professional legacy, whether as a leader, mentor, or philanthropist.
Creating a legacy is really about living your life with intention and purpose. It’s about stopping now to think and act on what you want your life to stand for. When the end of your days come, what do you want people left in earth to remember you for? And, if you believe in an after-life – when you arrive there, what will you look back on with pride? What qualities, actions and memories will convince you that your life was valuable, that it positively contributed to those around you.
You come here with a purpose – with gifts and challenges to help you enjoy this lifetime and to help you grow. Getting intentional now about your legacy can fill you with feelings of gratitude and peace of mind as you realize the difference you’ve made, and now have a plan for ensuring that it lives on.
Originally published in fyi50+