What do you want your legacy to be?
What is it about human beings that we all want to be remembered, be known as more than merely ordinary, be seen as someone who truly made a difference, leave a mark and maybe even make the future a little brighter?
I have been working in the area of estate planning for many years, and I have asked the question – “What do you want your legacy to be” to thousands of people. But I had never been asked that question…until recently. Our CEO, Chris Dennis asked me that very question in our second face-to-face meeting. I was taken aback and had to tell Chris that I would have to think about it and get back to him the following week!
I am also a life coach so I promptly took myself through an Identify What Matters process. I asked myself the following questions and pondered them. Some of the questions I already knew the answer to others not so much.
- What’s important to me?
- What are my core needs and values?
- How do I want my life to touch others? Now and in the future
- What would make me proud?
- If I could to do one thing to improve the world, what would my contribution be?
- How can I increase the well-being of those around me?
- How can I leave my mark on whatever I do?
Over the week, I jotted down the answers to these introspective questions. My words became the building blocks of my legacy philosophy. Knowing what’s important to me, what drives me and how I would like to be remembered creates tremendous clarity…and passion. I found that considering my legacy gave me an internal compass to help me move with purpose and determination even in uncertain times. It also offers a concrete sense of purpose in choosing what I am giving my energy to on a daily basis.
The whole concept of leaving a legacy can also be a deeply powerful way of connecting with others. I explored the connections I have with those who had gone before me (my dad and my brother), to those whose lives I touch in the present (family, friends, colleagues), and those who I may never meet (the families we serve).
And I believe that leaving a legacy isn’t only about leaving what you earned but also what you learned, and we all have an opportunity to make a difference every single day. In my opinion, leaving a legacy doesn’t call for great wealth, fame or even taking giant steps— I don’t have to be a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King to leave a positive mark right now, one that I hope will linger long after I am gone.
As Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner reminded me in their book, A Leader’s Legacy, “by asking ourselves how we want to be remembered, we plant the seeds for living our lives as if we matter.”
I encourage you to take some time and explore what you want to leave behind, as well as, what you want to carry forward.