What do you think of when you hear the word “legacy?” Do you think legacies are only left by certain people? Maybe those who make a certain amount of money or have a certain level of fame or recognition?
If this sounds familiar, think instead about how you too can leave a legacy. Better yet, think about how you can choose what legacy you want to leave and use the following three steps to start, or keep, building it each and every day.
Legacy is not what’s left tomorrow when you’re gone. It’s what you give, create, impact,
and contribute today while you’re here that then happens to live on.
Step One: Take Stock of What You’ve Built So Far
If Gary V is right (and let’s face it, he usually is), you’re building your legacy every day. What you do, who you are, and what you stand for builds over time. Your doing, being, and standing for may change but somewhere along the line you’ve built the life you have now by making decisions and then making things happen.
What have you consistently done over time that you’re most proud of? If you’ve changed directions a lot, what do you have to show for that? Think not only of tangible things but also of qualities you may have developed such as resiliency, courage, spontaneity, and persistence.
Think about what you’ve built and what you’ve learned that you can share. Chances are good you’ve gained some hard earned wisdom in all areas of your life – mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, physical, and social – that can help someone else. Look for kind and compassionate ways to spread your knowledge; you never know who you may impact.
Lastly, if you’re not inspired by what you’ve built so far, be curious about how you can change course and move in a new direction.
Step 2: Develop Your Message
Whether you’re building from a strong foundation or starting over from the ground up, developing a message for your legacy sends a strong message to yourself, others, and the Universe about what you want to have live on long after you’re gone.
To do this, focus on what you want to be and let all your doing flow from there. Modern society encourages us to rush through activities, frantically mark items off our to-do lists, and then expects us to do it again tomorrow, often times without reflecting on what we’re being in the process.
If you want to be kind and compassionate, do things that further those feelings. If you want to be calm, healthy, and full of energy, do things that fill you with those feelings (even if all of them require you to step away, relax, and recharge).
Your legacy is created by intentionally showing up and being present in your mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, physical, and social lives in ways that not only benefit you but others as well. Let how you show up and be drive not only what you do but how you convey your message.
Think about your message as your tagline, a single sentence or phrase that sums up the essence of who you are and what you’ll be remembered for. Don’t think of such a short snippet as diminishing or limiting, think of it as a way to focus. If you need help, choose a few words that best describe your essence and have fun from there.
Step 3: Think Long Term
Rome wasn’t built in a day (but it can probably be burned in one) so when it comes to your legacy think long term while still living – and being – in the present. Legacies are something that are built over time, much like the Roman coliseum, one block at a time, day after day.
The creative tension created by thinking long term yet living and being in the present will force you to be intentional and decisive. How are the choices you’re making today building what you want tomorrow or five years from now? What do you want to look back on and not only be proud of but also remember fondly? What kind of impact do you want to have consistently over time?
There is only one thing worse in the world than being talked about,
and that’s not being talked about.
You began building your legacy the moment you came into this world. Now it’s time to start or continue being intentional about it. By starting with what you’ve already built, defining your message, and thinking long term, you can continue to become the person who has an impact both in this lifetime and beyond.