A legacy is a part of a person that lives on long after that person has passed. A legacy also leaves behind the story of a person so they are not forgotten.
A legacy is the story of someone’s life, the things they did, places they went, goals they accomplished, their failures, and more. Legacies are pathways that guide people in decisions with what to do or what not to do. By wanting to create a legacy example for people to follow, Mother Teresa left behind her legacy of positive and selfless actions. Hitler left behind a legacy of negativity and destruction.
Both are equally important in setting an example for the future so that they can behave the same way or avoid making the same mistakes. Leaving behind a legacy is important no matter who you are. Heroes, villains, and every day people leave behind a legacy that creates meaning in our lives. A grandmother’s legacy may be important to her family. One grandmother may leave behind a recipe. Every time that specific recipe is made, the memories or legacy of the grandmother is remembered. A family’s heritage is a legacy that a person would be interested in.
Legacies leave pathways for future generations to want to be something great. It’s also a way to pass on life experience to others that need it. A legacy is a part of a person that lives on long after that person has passed.
Your legacy is something you’re creating every day, whether you realize it or not. Everyone has a choice between leaving a positive legacy or a negative one. Most people never consciously choose one or the other — it just happens. But the goal for you is to make a conscious decision about the legacy you’ll leave. So, let’s start with what a positive legacy looks like.
Know What Matters
To start purposefully creating your legacy, think about the following three questions. I’ve used these questions myself and have given them to my clients to think about and answer. They will really make you think! You will want to answer them honestly to create a legacy that matters and endures.
- 25 years after my death, what, if anything, will those beyond my family remember me for?
- If I had to give everything I own to a cause (not a person), what would that cause be?
- If I could snap my fingers and acquire an experience or talent, it would be ___________ because ___________ .
While on the surface these questions may sound simple, when it comes time to answer them, you’ll realize that each question requires a lot of thought. In fact, most people have to think about the questions for days before really knowing the answers.
Everyone has a choice between leaving a positive legacy or a negative one. Most people never consciously choose one or the other — it just happens. But the goal for you is to make a conscious decision about the legacy you’ll leave. So, let’s start with what a positive legacy looks like.
- Live your legacy. Our children listen to us most intently by watching us live. So, live with character, conviction, and passion. The most indelible legacy is the way that we live.
- Live like you mean it. Engage your life with passion and gratitude. None of us know how long our lives may be. But we can leave the legacy of living like we care, and living in a way that honors our creation. People will remember how you live more than the details of your achievements.
- Love like your life depended on it… (it does). Even when we have nothing else to give, we still have love. Loving our spouse and our children with commitment and enthusiasm is a legacy like no other.
- Keep a journal. Not a writer? No problem. Just develop the habit of keeping a regular record of what’s important in your life. One Dad kept notes in the front of his Bible. Jot down key events like births, weddings, and achievements, along with a comment or two. When that dad passed away, his journal turned out to be priceless.
- Share the family stories with your children. Be an open book. Share your stories. Believe us when we say the kids prefer these even to Harry Potter, and the telling can become a conversation they value well into adulthood.
- Be honest. Nothing communicates like authenticity. Share your failings as well as your triumphs. A legacy that speaks of transparency and an open spirit is a legacy that will benefit many generations.
- Ground your purpose in a greater purpose. We each live a story. The best stories are grounded in principles and purposes that are timeless and certainly bigger than we are. Live a story that lasts an eternity.
- Give your family the gift of time. Most children and grandchildren remember presence more than they remember presents. Commit enough of yourself that your legacy is the fact that you loved enough to be there. Your time is one of the most valuable gifts you could give anyone!
- Live for others. The great legacies of history are people who dedicated their lives to the service to humanity. On a smaller scale (but no less important) is our service to those we love, to our family, friends, and community.
- Talk about your vision after you have departed from this life.
Share with your kids what kind of lives you would like them to live, even after you have died. Having those thoughts constantly play through your children’s heads can help navigate them as they face crucial choices. “What would Mom or Dad do?” is the most powerful legacy of all.
“Loving your spouse and your children with commitment and enthusiasm is a legacy like no other.”
We spend our lives accumulating stuff. Think about it… When you leave this Earth, what will you take with you? … It’s not about the STUFF!
When Rockefeller died, a fellow asked one of the accountants… “I wonder how much he left?”— the accountant’s reply was “All of it.”
How Will Your Legacy-Driven Mindset Will Define Your Leadership
Your leadership is not shaped and your legacy is not defined at the end of the road but rather by the moments shared, the decisions made, the actions taken, and even the mistakes overcome throughout the many phases of your career. Leadership done rightly is a reinvention process – a continuous discovery that informs your mindset, new skill sets and aptitudes. At each stage of your career, you learn how to keep creating sustainable impact and influence. With each step you take, you will identify new ways of mastering the fundamentals which in turn provides you with greater clarity and depth of thought to further improve your leadership approach and communication style.
Answer these questions for yourself: If you were to evaluate the last 10 years of your career and its various stages, what is the story you would tell others about your legacy? If others told the story, would the same narrative hold true? Based on the narrative, what would the next 10 years look like? What would you change or do differently?
The best leadership legacies are a by-product of success coming to those who are surrounded by people that want their success to continue. When you can inspire those around you to take a leap of faith with you, you are creating a legacy defining moment in your leadership career. Whenever you have this opportunity, embrace it.
1. Identity and Values
What are the values and beliefs that influence how you lead, your behavior and your attitude? Do others know the real you and what you represent as a leader for the betterment of a healthier whole?
2. Guiding Foundational Principles
Once you have been able to solidify your identity and set of values, how do they translate into a set of guiding principles that others can begin to expect from you?
3. Courage and Risk-Taking
As a leader, you must trust your gut and be courageous enough to take calculated risks. At times, this requires you to trust yourself enough to challenge the status quo and push the envelope of conventional wisdom – even if this means putting your reputation on the line.
4. Genuine Care to Advance Others
Understanding what inspires happiness in those who support your leadership is critically important. Throughout your leadership journey you must continue to learn how to better serve others and genuinely support their career advancement and overall engagement at work.
I remember one of Nikken’s Diamonds saying, “I want to be the number 10 money earner in the company, and I want the first 9 to be in my downline!
5. Responsibility and Accountability
Legacy building is about being mindful of the opportunity and the responsibility you have to serve your own advancement by serving others. Only you can set the tone and define the performance standards that you expect for yourself and from others. As such, you must be incredibly self-disciplined to hold yourself accountable to consistently deliver to those standards every day, every step of the way.
When you think about it, legacy is the establishment of traditions that can be passed onto future generations. The model is the family business, where history and experience are directly passed on to children and other family members so that they can successfully take over and grow the business. As a leader, it is your responsibility to uphold the legacy and traditions of those that came before you – AND you must hold yourself accountable to build upon those traditions to further strengthen the culture, human capital and brand of the organization you serve.
Leaders who feel stuck in their careers are those that care more about recognition than respect. Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, had it right when he said what he wanted his legacy to be: “To have created one of the most respected companies in the world. Not necessarily the biggest.”
It is not until leaders desire to be significant that they discover the true meaning of leadership and legacy building. When this moment is realized, the lens that you see through becomes crystal clear; you begin to understand that being accountable for the advancement and success of others will ultimately define your significance as a leader.
Let me make a point here. In order to shape anything such as your legacy, you have to BELIEVE it is important …. otherwise, you are doomed for failure. Once BELIEF is established, then your ATTITUDE changes relating to the activity, and then follows the change in BEHAVIOR that gets the RESULTS we are seeking. BELIEF-ATTITUDE-BEHAVIOR-RESULTS.
The phrase I live by is, How you do anything is how you do everything! Simon Sinek attributes that phrase to Zen Buddhism in his book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t.
I understand now that each and every action I take, word I speak, and decision I make contributes to the creation of the life I choose to live.
I have said this phrase to myself many, many times in my life … particularly when it’s a cold or rainy day and I’ve been to the grocery. There I stand at the trunk of my car in the rain after loading my groceries from the grocery cart. Do I push it to the cart rack, or do I just put it out of the way and drive off? That’s when I hear, “How you do anything is how you do everything,” and I put the cart back in the rack and smile out loud on the way back to the car!
One action at a time. One “taking the high road moment” at a time. One carefully chosen word at a time.
Because how you do anything is how you do everything, it is important to be honest about how you do the “anything”. For example, how do you perform at work? What are your friendships like? How do you approach a challenge? How do you consistently treat other people?
If you are late with deadlines at work and don’t pay close attention to detail, then the chances are that these characteristics can be seen in your personal life and relationships as well. If you often find yourself having conflict with friends and family members, you will probably find that there is conflict in the other areas of your life too.
So, let me ask you this, do you fully understand how you do “anything”? And, if you aren’t fully satisfied with your “anything”, perhaps now is the time to break old patterns and set a new standard.
As a Life Coach, when something isn’t working for one of my clients, the next question I encourage them to ask is, “How else might this be showing up in my life?”
I invite you to take a closer look at your own habits, particularly those that are not serving you. It may be that just one simple concept, like the inability to accept help from others, could be sabotaging different aspects of your life without your awareness. A simple shift in one habit, instead of a long list of resolutions, could open up an entirely new set of possibilities for you.
Remember, it’s not what we leave FOR others that matters; it’s what we leave IN them that matters most. Possessions and wealth do not make a true legacy. It’s about leaving behind the essence of your Authentic Self. That’s what the world needs from you. So, serve others by leaving behind the best and most beautiful parts of you. Today and every day from here on out, create your legacy.
I love what Mark Twain said, “When in doubt tell the truth. It will confound your enemies and astound your friends.”