Creating Your Legacy
Legacy is defined as “something received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past” (Webster). It also means how someone is remembered, and what contributions they made while they were alive.
What does it mean to have a legacy? What is ‘LEGACY OF LIFE?’ Can a person really shape his or her legacy? What different kinds of legacies exist?
A LEGACY OF LIFE is designed to assist individuals with their focus and their priorities. It helps each of us direct energies in a somewhat organized and planned way so that we are remembered, ideally, in ways that we desire. LEGACY OF LIFE focuses on our accomplishments and our achievements so they are remembered. While we cannot fully control our legacy and how we are remembered, we are more likely to achieve the desired results if we seek them, than if we move through life without direction or purpose. That is, if we want some hope of being remembered in certain ways, then these memories are more likely to occur if we plan for them, than if we just think about them and do nothing.
For perspective, each of us, through our lives, has encountered a wide variety of people. We recall one or more teachers, a relative, a parent, a neighbor, a friend, a leader in the community, and others; we have countless encounters with others through our daily lives, as we share space and time together in stores, on our highways and walkways, in nature, at cultural or recreational events, in group discussions, and in virtually all walks of life. While most of these encounters are brief, some are long-term and some are intense. Some are more meaningful than others. Many of these encounters, whether brief or long-term, have resulted in memories. Further, some of these memories are more positive than others; however, each of the memories results in some impact upon us. Are the memories of these individuals – whether positive or less than positive – what the other person intended? And, for those who made a lasting impression, this view may be shared by you and others, and can represent their legacy.
Being planful with your LEGACY OF LIFE can be done in a variety of ways. Associated with this narrative are numerous worksheets that can serve as a starting point for you and for others. As you do this, consider the following steps:
These worksheets are provided as a starting point. Select the one or ones most appropriate for your desires, and modify them as appropriate for your use. They are simply a starting point, and represent several ways to think about your legacy. They do not represent the ‘end-all’ for the legacy – just a start. What’s most important about achieving a legacy is getting started!
After you have written your legacy, think about how you are going to achieve it. Think in terms of short-term and longer-term strategies. What will it take to achieve your legacy? What are milestones that you can identify, to suggest that you are on track for achieving your legacy? What are ways to maximize the probability of your legacy being achieved? While no ‘guarantees’ exist that the identified legacy (legacies) will be achieved, your likelihood of success is greater when you have a specific plan. What concrete steps can you take to move you closer to achieving your legacy? What will enhance your progress, and what will get in the way? With those strategies or items that will enhance your progress, identify these clearly and do what you can to maximize and strengthen these. And, for those that will get in your way, what can you do to minimize their impact?
As you write the legacy letter(s), you may find that some of the individual legacies are at odds with one another; if this is the case, you should review the legacies to see if conflicts actually exist; should refinements be necessary, you can make them. This is a situation where discussion with others can be most helpful. It may also be necessary to prioritize your desired legacies, and also to develop contingency plans so that adjustments are made if one is not accomplished.What is most important with these legacies is to listen to your inner desires, hopes and dreams, and to be thoughtful in how you present them. You are writing these for yourself, so that what is, indeed, important to you is identified clearly and specified for you to review and refine. Most important throughout this process is to acknowledge that this is a process – it is a journey. Its aim is to prepare these in the ways most helpful to you, and to assist you as you guide yourself over the next years of your life.
Central to creating a legacy is that this is done personally. That is, each individual is responsible for creating his/her own legacy. That is not to suggest that this is done alone, as input from others can be most helpful in the formative stages as well as in making changes over time. Other people can also be helpful in identifying approaches that will further enhance the potential for achieving the desired legacy, as well as to reduce those factors that seem to get in the way of such achievement.
This section has a segment that describes what a legacy is, as well as ways of preparing this. It also includes a variety of worksheets that can be printed out and used, or adapted for individual purposes.Also included is a PowerPoint slide show that illustrates how preparing a legacy can further exemplify the seven life health principles; this provides many of the slides included in the “LEGACY OF LIFE: Creating Healthy Futures” talk as part of George Mason University’s Visions Lecture Series in 2006-2007. It incorporates some data slides that are used to demonstrate the need for different approaches, and perhaps a different paradigm, for addressing many of our nation’s drug and alcohol problems.
Please click below to download the worksheets:
A Personal Reflection (pdf)
A Wellness Perspective (pdf)
A Letter to Yourself (pdf)
Copyright George Mason University