“Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.” — Shannon L. Alder
What does legacy mean to you?
For many of us, leaving a lasting legacy is the physical manifestation and culmination of our life’s work. While the technical definition refers to legacy as something that is handed down or passed through generations, the very meaning of each of our legacies is something that we build momentum toward our entire life: Academic pursuit, knowledge, memories, and the love of family and friends.
Our legacy represents everything we’ve built and created–our family, friends, and the knowledge we’ve accumulated along the way. For some of us, that means the work we’ve built for our professional pursuits, a business or business acumen that can be passed down in the form of a family business. For others, it’s our wisdom and life’s knowledge that we have accumulated over the years.
If our will is designed to make sure our final wishes are met and to have a firm handling of moving financial assets to beneficiaries, then the legacy is the desire for us to be remembered in some way, long after we’re gone. Not all of us are fortunate enough to have a building named after us, or to be emblazoned in bronze or cast in iron, but there’s no reason why we cannot all strive to ensure that our contributions and place in this world are remembered long after we’re gone.
Family Means Everything
For the vast majority of us who don’t have statues put up in our honor, our purpose in life is to be part of a loving family. While this doesn’t seem like a life-altering trajectory for a legacy, it’s tremendously important to be able to have built a foundation of a connected family who embraces love, loyalty, and strong values. Long after we’re gone, the family members — brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters —will all be able to point to your legacy as their true navigational North Star, and use the same traditions for their family, and onwards your legacy continues through the generations of the family tree.
Knowledge & Wisdom
Legacy has a strong relationship with knowledge, and also the wisdom which we accrue throughout a life well lived. More than just academic pursuits, our knowledge can be the lessons and things we’ve learned, how we fixed mistakes and moved on from the past in order to be better in the future. You don’t have to be a college professor or a teacher to be able to use your knowledge in order to help give someone the ability to learn from you.
As we near or enter retirement, we’re looked upon by others for our years of experience and it’s from these life lessons and accrued wisdom that we can pass down to younger generations of family and friends in the hopes that they’ll be able to use those lessons to become the thing they dream most about. Long after we’re gone, our legacy will continue to take shape as they continue to live a life through your experiences. A legacy built around a strong foundation of knowledge does not merely have to be passed down to family, it can also be shared with your community in the form of mentorships or volunteer work, too.
If you want to, unlock your personal trajectory and unleash your potential. It starts with looking within, and adopting specific “growth mindsets” that allow you to be inspired by the world around you. In doing so, you can be excited by the challenges life offers as a way to thrive and throw yourself into new places and to stretch the boundaries of your limitations.
Share Simply & Often
We can begin our legacy by simply sharing the joys and things we’ve learned with others every passing day, without hesitation. A legacy can be shared even as we walk this planet today, by sharing the things we know and learned with those around us, whether they’re family and friends, colleagues, or even our neighbors. In order to build a strong legacy later, you can start by freely giving and sharing yourself now.
Few things are stronger than our loyalty. They’re tested in bad times, and remembered in good ones. There are perhaps few stronger foundations of our legacy than how we remained a bedrock of continual presence and support to the people we care about the most.
Support Things That Are Meaningful To You
Whether it’s a cause, a religion, a foundation, or an organization, a legacy can often be enveloped around the things we champion and hold dear. At the end of our life, it’s these groups or communities that will honor our legacy and live in the passion and spirit that you brought to them for years.
Your Story is Worth Telling
There are lots of interesting products out there emerging to help us curate our past, share memories, and translate them into photographs or artwork. One of the more unique ones these days is a company called StoryWorth. They work to help curate and collect your life’s story and then transform it into a book. It’s one of the most wonderful manifestations of your unique life story and all the things you hope to pass down for generations.
How to Craft Your Legacy
There’s no right or wrong answer on how you can craft your life’s legacy. Here are some questions you can use to think about how your life’s work can be translated into a long-lasting legacy. By asking these questions, you can build a foundation for how you can determine what your legacy is and how it can make a positive impact for years to come.
What does your life stand for?
We all have our personal, unique viewpoint on life and how it has shaped our drive, goals, and overall purpose. How can you distill from that the overarching vision of what your life means and stands for?
How do you want to be remembered by family and friends?
Whether it’s your dedication to family or professional pursuits, how do you want your legacy to be cemented through the eyes of the ones who love you most?
What impact do you want to leave on your community?
Ok, so maybe you can get your statue. Or, likely you can look for ways that you have helped lead the folks in your community through volunteering, leadership, and mentorships.
What does service mean to you?
Whether you devote time to religious pursuits or volunteering, these are areas that can drastically shape your legacy and help you identify ways that it can continue to contribute to your community.
What were your professional accomplishments and contributions?
For many of us, our life’s work and professional accomplishments are huge drivers of what we see our legacy as being. Decades of working knowledge is a hugely valuable asset in the business world, and this is an area where a legacy can be shaped and crafted based on what your contributions were to the particular industry, profession, or vertical.
What people have you touched?
Thinking about both family and community, who are the people who you have gone out of your way to impact? Was there a particular person you dedicated time and effort to help in life? Who do you think has truly been touched in a sincerely moving way? If you’ve truly impacted someone deeply, chances are, they’re already carrying your legacy by living your life’s lessons in profound ways.
What do you choose to leave behind?
Beyond family, what is it that you can leave behind that allows future generations to remember your work, to live your purpose, and to make a difference?
This article is intended for general informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as financial or tax advice. For more information about whether a reverse mortgage may be right for you, you should consult an independent financial advisor. For tax advice, please consult a tax professional.