Living your legacy today
BY BOB AND JUDITH WRIGHT
Most of us think of our legacy as something we leave behind. Some people even view their legacy as an ego trip—building a company, making a philanthropic donation, or putting their name on a building. Others may think of the inheritance they’ll leave for their kids and wonder if their estate is enough. Some have more complex, even manipulative, approaches and may even hold inheritance and the threat of writing people out of a will as a bargaining chip.
But you are a part of your legacy now, and it doesn’t need to be some far-off, future goal that people talk about once you’ve passed on. Whether you realize it or not, you are currently creating a legacy for yourself in the ways that you live your life and relate to other people every single day. Your legacy is in fact happening all the time. Instead of a one-time donation – you’re constantly building it, leaving thoughts and experiences with every single person you touch.
“So, ask yourself, what kind of legacy are you living and generating today? Are you living in this moment the way you want people to remember you?”
Start Living Your Legacy Now
Rather than looking at your legacy in terms of your company, your children, or your finances, what if you started looking at the kinds of experiences you create for and with other people in your life and the possibilities you open for them?
My father’s legacy was his wonderful sense of humor. His wit was something he often shared with us and all those he encountered. While humor isn’t concrete—it’s not something you can hold, touch, or see—it’s something valuable he added to our lives. His way of being and the experiences we shared laughing together became his legacy to us.
Bob learned from my father by observing the way he treated other people, and Bob has always remarked that my father never mocked others or put anyone else down. When someone made a statement most of us would view as stupid or outrageous, my father would simply listen, smile, and say, “That’s a point of view!”
My father’s legacy with Bob was simply created in the way he treated other people in his life. Like my father, your legacy can be created by developing meaningful relationships with the people in your life – whether that be a son-in-law or a colleague at work.
It’s the moment that really matters, not saving for something for after we’re gone from this earth. After all, how many people do we cross paths with each day? For some, the moment we meet them will be the way they remember us. It may be only one moment we share or connect, but it’s the experience we generate that leads to the way we’re remembered. Ask yourself: Is this interaction something I’d like to leave behind with other people when I’m gone? Is this conversation one I would like others to remember? Are my actions making an impression on those around me that I would like them to hold when I’m gone? What do I hope lives beyond me?
Leaving Your Wake by Sharing Your Strengths
When a boat goes in the water it leaves a wake that quickly disappears. The water moves and washes away the path of the boat. Like the waves, many of the things and experiences you’ve amassed in your life will be washed away when you die.
“You can develop your legacy by sharing more of yourself in every moment of your life.”
But what moments and experiences have you created for other people that life and death can’t wash away? Your legacy lives on in the memories of those who know you. So, what are some things you could do today with and for the people in your life, knowing the wake you’re leaving behind? What about in the next hour? What about right now? What are you contributing to the lives of the people around you?
Do you simply exist and get by in each day and encounter, or do you constantly seek to find deeper meaning and contact? Do you gossip, complain, and feel sorry for yourself, or do you work toward an enhanced quality of life with MORE contact, MORE nourishment, and MORE fulfillment?
How would you change if you looked at things this way? Use the aspects of your life and yourself that you want to change as a chance to assess and clean up what you’re doing. If you don’t lead with your strengths, you’re remembered for your weaknesses. So how will you share your strengths? How will you elicit and support the strengths of other people?
Each of us has gifts, conventional and unconventional. We may possess qualities that go unnoticed. How many of us don’t even really know members of our own families? If they don’t lead with their hearts and let us see their feelings, we may not understand what matters to them until it’s too late. It’s important we not make that mistake. When we share our strengths and celebrate the strengths of other people, we learn to emphasize the things that make us special and the things that make us seen by others.
At one of our More Life Training events, an unassuming gentleman joined us. He wore glasses. He was shy and bookish. As others networked and engaged in discussion, they thought of him as “the quiet guy in glasses.” Then came a moment when he picked up a Rubik’s cube. The room got quiet as he solved the cube in just a few seconds. People were amazed and begged him to do it again (he did). He was a genius when it came to solving puzzles. Another woman in the class started to sing, and everyone was blown away. She had an absolutely amazing voice. As these gifts emerged throughout the room, many people were surprised at what they’d overlooked.
“What about creating new traditions and ways of being that are unique to YOU and require you to develop yourself more and more?”
Our ability to share our unique talents and contributions with others is as important as—and perhaps even more important than—our ability to share some kind of a financial contribution. You can develop your legacy by sharing more of yourself in every moment of your life.
Passing on Traditions as Our Legacy
Family vacations, holiday meals, and the activities we do together…we may think of these as our most sacred “family traditions” and may hope they continue through many generations beyond our lives.
But what about the less-traditional traditions? What about creating new traditions and ways of being that are unique to YOU and require you to develop yourself more and more? To become MORE of yourself, focus on your contact and influence on the world. As you generate deeper connections and engage with others, the tradition of you emerges.
When I think of my mother’s legacy of family traditions, I remember that she was a huge fan of the holidays. Every holiday was a joyous time for our family thanks to her efforts to include the little touches that were so important in creating a magical, loving family environment. Now, I don’t carry on the same traditions as my mother, but the heart of the tradition – to really celebrate the seasons – is a tradition I do carry on.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS – BOB AND JUDITH WRIGHT
“The Heart of the Fight: A Couples Guide to 15 Common Fights, What They Really Mean & How They Can Bring You Closer. Judith Wright and Dr. Bob Wright, are a husband/wife duo and Chicago-based relationship counselors. They are award-winning authors and trainers and have appeared on numerous TV and radio programs including ABC’s 20/20, Good Morning America, Oprah, the Today Show, the Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Marie Claire, Better Homes and Gardens, and Vanity Fair. They are the co-authors of “The Heart of the Fight: A Couples Guide to 15 Common Fights, What They Really Mean & How They Can Bring You Closer.