Updated: Oct 17
You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. - Mae West
Legacy is the long-lasting impact of how you show up today. As I absorb the news about current events in support of justice and human rights, I think about how each of the individual and collective decisions becomes part of a legacy -- for better or worse.
What You Do
Actions speak louder than words. It's one thing to get and be angry. It's another to take it out on others. As we feel the impact of actions that result in the death and dying of innocent people, we can see how easy it can be to cast blame or defend actions based on past events. One for one. Making wrong a right. Peace can only come through war. These beliefs fuel our actions and become part of how others remember us.
For example, when I was growing up in a small town in Wyoming with my four sisters, our parents kept us busy. My mother believed in education and applied learning and, along with Dad, was committed to raising us with an appreciation for nature, creativity, and service. They both volunteered on boards for the local school and numerous non-profits, supported our various activities, and did their best to make us feel equally loved and cared for. They were also a strong team around managing their financial lives, making sure to engage the professional help they needed to prepare for life after they were gone.
Their legacy is one we're proud of and also celebrated by others who benefitted from their commitment and skills. It's also been a lesson in what a positive legacy looks like and a vision for what we can aim to do in our lives.
Who You Are
Our core beliefs and values define who we are and drive our actions. Because our parents valued the environment and education, they passed those values onto us. We followed along without much sense of a greater design -- as if there was one. After all, I don't think they got up every morning thinking about their legacy. More likely, they were focused on how to get from one day to the next and to make sure we were taken care of after they were gone.
For example, they took a huge risk by buying a property with some friends to protect it from outside developers. The impact of this decision would be felt for years to come -- both positively and negatively as they struggled to make payments and manage all that came with it. What I appreciated was that they acted according to their values -- to be good stewards and to trust that it would work out in the end.
Leaving a Positive Legacy
If you want to leave a positive legacy, I encourage you to reflect on the actions you take and the thoughts and beliefs that drive those actions. If you've been rolling along without much question about the impact you have on others, maybe it's time to get curious. Like my parents, it's possible that you're already laying the groundwork and it's only a matter of checking in with whether it's the path you want others to follow.
Note: If you care about the impact you want to make now and for future generations, check out my Positive Legacy Coaching opportunity.