What Will Your Legacy Be?
It's something you create during your life solely to benefit future generations, something you may never see come to fruition. Just like a farmer who plants a tree knowing he'll never live to taste its fruits, a legacy is a gift you leave behind without expecting anything in return. Legacies don't happen overnight—and they don't happen by accident. They're deliberately crafted over years of hard work and dedication. But you don't have to give up your worldly possessions and become a Mother Teresa to start building your legacy now. Here's how.
Understand your legacy
First, you need to really understand the importance of leaving a legacy to begin with. "The legacy we leave is part of the ongoing foundations of life," says business philosopher and author Jim Rohn. "Those who came before leave us the world we live in. Those who will come after will have only what we leave them. We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling in our lives to leave it better than how we found it, even if it seems like such a small part."
Look back on your own life, and you'll see legacy-leavers everywhere, from the women in your community to the women in your family, teachers in your school systems and leaders in your church. All of these women left you with instructions on how to leave an impact. And now it's your turn to decide what kind of impact you'll leave for others.
Choose your legacy
Legacies come in different shapes and forms, requiring varying levels of effort and commitment. Some choose to leave financial legacies, supporting causes such as funding scholarship programs for HBCU’s or national organizations founded on the goal of racial uplift and support. Other legacies are institutional, builds a business that's a positive force in their community. All of these examples have their value and place in society. Yet, in his The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, John C. Maxwell believes in a third, more lasting avenue of legacy. "Too often, leaders put their energy into organizations, buildings, systems or other lifeless objects," says the leadership expert and bestselling author. "But only people live on after we are gone. Everything else is temporary."
Gerontologist and author Ken Dychtwald reached a similar conclusion in a recent survey focusing on elder generations and their baby boomer children. He and colleagues at his company, Age Wave, discovered four "pillars of legacy": values and life lessons, instructions and wishes to be fulfilled, possessions of emotional value, and property and money. When asked which pillar meant the most to them, both groups answered resoundingly: values and life lessons. "There's this enormous craving, this desire for people in their maturity to share what they've learned, to pass on lessons of a lifetime, to teach, to feel that their life experience is being invested, even planted, into the field of tomorrow," Dychtwald says. "There was also a similar response—a natural, innate appetite on the part of younger generations—to receive that."
Focus on your legacy.
Granted, conveying the accumulated lessons of a lifetime is easier said than done. In deciding exactly what you want to put out into the world, look inward first. Start by identifying your strengths. The most obvious place to look is your career—but don't just focus on your job title, Also, consider what topics and activities you're passionate about and that you find interesting. Think about how you spend your time and what you can easily do with love and conviction. Focus on your life sentence throughout your journey, and use it to keep you on track.
Live your legacy.
Now that you have a plan of action, it's time to implement it. Start purposely and passionately living your life in the name of your legacy and pushing towards that goal in every aspect of your life. You cannot pick and choose what people chose to be touched by, so no matter what it is make sure that whatever they focus on can still impact them. Every part of you can and will be a legacy. Being the well-rounded, well-educated, and all around positive individual in your community and any life you come in contact in is a recipe for a legacy that will proceed you for generations. Remember, only by changing the way you live will you be able to create the legacy you want to leave. You cannot dictate your calling, but you can most certainly dictate your impact!