Many of us are asking ourselves the question: “What am I here to contribute?” But we can take that question still further: “What is the legacy I want to leave behind when I’m gone?”
Leaving a legacy is not just a practice reserved for the wealthy. It’s a common human trait to want to leave something of ourselves behind. For some that may be leaving their mark in business or in the arts; for others it’s carrying on the family name through children.
Types of Legacies
Your legacy might include a combination of some of the following:
• A business or non-profit organization that carries on your work after you’re gone.
• Beauty, inspiration and wisdom passed on through creations such as books, music, and art.
• Money, goods, and property, including endowing scholarships or creating a foundation.
• The “ripple effect” of your daily impact on friends, family and your wider community.
• The values you impart to children and grandchildren.
Components of Legacy-Building
Begin with the end in mind. The old saying goes: “You reap what you sow.” Accordingly, it’s critical to know what end result you want to achieve so that you—and those who come after you—reap what you deem to be of highest value. In The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey says it’s imperative to first have a clear vision of your destination. He recommends developing a “personal mission statement.” Based on your core values or principles, the statement focuses on what you want to be and what you want to contribute or achieve.
Clarify your values. With a coach or on your own, explore your values. What do you value most deeply? This is not about “morals” imposed from outside, but reflects what you believe at your core is of greatest importance.
Determine your arena of impact. To clarify your desired impact, ask yourself:
1. Who do I want to impact? What people or community? (My town, Alma Mater, the environment, teens, victims of war.)
2. What gifts do I have to share?
3. What is the best vehicle for sharing my gifts?
4. Who can help me reach my goals? Who do I want on my dream team?
5. What’s my next step to go from where I am now to where I want to be?
6. How can my impact be sustained after I’m gone?
Imagine your funeral. As a final step to motivate you into action, imagine your funeral. The speakers include your family, closest friends, and business associates. What do they say about who you have been and the impact you’ve had on their lives and your world? Are you satisfied with what you hear? Is this the legacy you want to leave? As Martha Graham said, “There is only one of you in all of time.” It’s up to you to leave a legacy that reflects your unique expression.
Author’s content used under license, © 2008 Claire Communications