What will be your legacy is a question most people never think about, at least until their final days. At that stage, they might be regretful and wish they’d done things differently.
For the most part, I believe everyone wants to be remembered as a good person who made a difference.
Your legacy is largely determined by how purposefully you lived and the impact you made on others. Three aspects to consider include your material possessions, family and the difference you made in the world.
The actions you take in your life show what’s important to you. How these influence others can have a lasting impression that exists long after you’re gone.
It consists of helping others as well as doing things for yourself that have positive effects on people or society.
After you’re no longer here, you don’t want to just fade away. It sounds silly to put it that way because why should you care? However, most people do want to be thought of in a positive light. Remember no one will tell your story if you don’t.
Undoubtedly, you’ve heard the old saying that no one regrets not spending more time at work.
Guess what, the most common regret is living an uninspiring existence! In effect, conforming to social expectations and doing what others think you should. Some influences can include:
What’s important to you? In our post Finding Meaning in Life, we discuss the importance of living purposefully. Once we’re old and infirm, the greatest regret is often missing out because we listened to everyone else instead of ourselves.
1. Material Possessions Are Part of Your Legacy
Almost by default, we think of legacy as passing on money, property and other possessions. In some respects, the wealth you pass on is a measure of your success. The fallacy is this is only one part of what will be your legacy.
While preserving intergenerational wealth is considered the right thing to do, it can also lead to family squabbles. When an estate is being divided up, greed often rears its ugly head.
An in-law or other family member feels they’re being unfairly treated and deserve more.
In fact, your legacy may be marred by the events that follow. Especially if you leave a mess which winds up being contested in court.
To minimize this, keep your will up-to-date and ensure everyone understands your final wishes. Being secretive or not clearly documenting everything can lead to issues.
In fact, you should have all your affairs in order. Our post Gaining Inner Peace with a Living Will discusses many related aspects to this.
What Do Heirs Do with Their Inheritances?
She wasn’t close to her aunt and was delighted to learn she would receive a little over $10,000. Free money, now what to spend it on?
She’d always wanted to visit Italy and now she could do it in style. In a two-week whirlwind tour, she blew through every nickel. Mind you, she had a great time and, hopefully, remembered her dear aunt.
The problem with inheritances is that, often, they’re viewed like a lottery win. Many heirs’ thoughts are on what they can buy. What will make them happy? Hence, a spending spree.
A wiser choice might be to pay down debt or invest it. Even to sock it away for a rainy day. Neither way is right or wrong, per se, however I think striking a good balance is the key.
You can do something nice for yourself at the time and still save some of it for the future.
2. Family is Part of Your Legacy
The second aspect of what will be your legacy are all the values and beliefs you pass on. Were you a loving person freely sharing your time and support? Did you lead by example inspiring others to do their best and follow their dreams?
The impact you made on others will influence how you’ll be thought of (or not). Our post how do you want to be remembered explores this in greater depth.
When you’re able to make a positive difference and help others, you’ll be thought of fondly. And, hopefully, your assistance helps them live a more fulfilling and beautiful life.
Often, however, we see ourselves much differently than how others view us. For instance, you might be proud of rising through the ranks and taking control of events. Yet a son or daughter might view you as cold and overbearing.
Until you understand how you’re perceived, there’s not much that can be done to improve anything. Once you’re aware, you have the opportunity to influence their views through your words and actions.
What your legacy is going to be is up to you. If you’re an uplifting caring individual, you’ll likely be sorely missed. On the other hand, they might be glad to be rid of you.
An Amazing Legacy
There are certain people who inspire and change our lives. We feel blessed to have known Brian. He was one of those people with a cheerful disposition and always willing to lend a helping hand. He cared deeply about others.
He was the consummate family man jokingly stating once again he received the “Father of the Year” award. They were close knit and he was extremely proud of his family. A loving wife, two sons, a daughter and nine grandchildren!
After retiring early, he dedicated a year to building a geodesic dome shaped home for his son. His life revolved around his family, yet he had many friends as well.
In fact, over 300 people attended his funeral. He had touched so many lives and many reminisced on how he had deeply impacted their lives.
Most people strive to have a positive impact on others. In saying that, they’ll be defined by the actions they take each and every day. Looking for opportunities to do good, helping others and doing it selflessly is the greatest legacy you can leave.
3. The Difference You Made in the World
The third aspect is the impact you make on the world around you. This is about accomplishments which serve a greater good. Some examples could be:
I had a great English teacher in high school. He knew how to inspire and engage our young minds. Instead of reading plays in a book, he decided to take us to the theater where we could watch the performance.
When we got back to class, we'd discuss what we saw and he would make sure we understood the significance of certain scenes or situations. Without him, I would've never gotten an appreciation for Shakespeare, in particular Hamlet.
It was a great way to get and keep us all involved. We didn’t even know we were “studying” the play. I don’t think one person in his class did poorly on any tests!
The main thing is to focus on what’s important to you. Something where you believe you can make a difference. It could just be some every day things you accomplish that inspire people in ways you never dreamed.
It doesn’t have to be world-changing but it should improve the life of, at least, one individual. Sometimes even small gestures and acts of kindness can make a significant difference.
Closing Thoughts on What Will Be Your Legacy
Life is precious and you need to take advantage of every day. It’s important to live, love and be happy with what you’ve done. You should be true to yourself and your life purpose.
You don’t need to be rich and famous with a building or park named after you. The way you live becomes your true legacy. In effect, it’s what makes you immortal.