Have you ever thought about the legacy you're leaving your family, your community, your world? Most people never give it a second thought. But a legacy is something you're creating every day, whether you realize it or not.
What exactly is a legacy? Webster's Dictionary defines "legacy" as "something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past." Some common examples of legacy are:
• She left us a legacy of a million dollars.
• He left his children a legacy of love and respect.
• The war left a legacy of pain and suffering.
• Her artistic legacy lives on through her children.
So what do you want your legacy to be? In my work as a life coach to Hollywood celebrities and CEOs, I help people overcome the mental blocks and get them thinking about what they wish to leave behind. Regardless of where you are in life, you can clear away the clutter and start creating your legacy.
Two Types of Legacies
Everyone has a choice between leaving a positive legacy or a negative one. Most people never consciously choose one or the other -- it just happens. But the goal for you is to make a conscious decision about the legacy you'll leave. So let's start with what a positive legacy looks like.
Oprah Winfrey has lived most of her adult life from her Authentic Soul. She has been a pillar of kindness and has stood for truth, education, and giving back. She's one of a kind. Millions of people tuned into her show for over 20 years. During her farewell show, Jada Pinkett Smith said, "Oprah, you never had children but you mothered millions." Madonna said, "People always ask me who I admire. I always say, 'living or dead?' There are many diverse dead people I admire. Alive? Just one person--Oprah Winfrey." Why does everyone love and respect Oprah Winfrey? Because Oprah has introduced us to many experts and experiences that have transformed our lives. For example, she...
• Created the webinar with Eckhart Tolle through SKYPE so the world could participate and learn from the man who changed lives through his books
• Gave us Dr. Phil who has helped many create a better life
• Introduced us to Dr. Oz who has helped us live a healthier life and examine subjects that many were afraid to address
• Led us to many other experts who helped us with fashion, clutter, weight, and other topics to help us live a better and happier life
Oprah has made a lasting, positive imprint on the world, helping to introduce millions of people to their Authentic Souls. Through the many lives she has changed and touched, her legacy will live on forever.
That's a positive legacy. Now let me share the heartbreak that accompanies a "negative" legacy.
A fifty-something year old client of mine, whom I'll call Sarah, was the antithesis of Oprah. She was from England and had a troubled childhood. Her mother was an alcoholic and her father was absent from her life. She ended up having three children out of wedlock and felt she had to somewhat abandon her children in order to make a living.
To hide her pain, Sarah couldn't help but give unsolicited advice to everyone she came in contact with. I'm talking everyone...cashiers at grocery stores, salespeople in the mall, and strangers she'd meet at events. Yet, she couldn't get her own life together. She hid behind criticizing others and focusing on what the world wasn't accomplishing so she wouldn't have to look herself in the mirror.
Every area of her life was unfulfilled. Out of need, she entered into a marriage of convenience. She had no close friends. She was a hoarder, she was depressed, and she suffered from low self-esteem. She couldn't trust others, so her business ideas could never take off. She couldn't stay connected to her kids because she felt ashamed of her lack of money and success. She desperately wanted to create a life she could be proud of before she died, but she didn't know how to make that happen because of all her internal pain and her internal dialog telling her how stupid and worthless she was.
Sarah ended up passing away in her early sixties. Her legacy was an unfulfilled life, without ever being able to give herself or her children the love they needed because she was so stressed out, sad, and ashamed of her lack of money and success.
Often, when we think of legacy, we think of things--material possessions. But as both of these examples illustrate, your legacy isn't always about things. Usually, it's about who you are and how you touch people's lives.
Know What Matters
To start purposefully creating your legacy, think about the following three questions. I've used these questions myself and have given them to my clients to think about and answer. They will rock you to your core. Answer them honestly to create a legacy that matters and endures.
1) Twenty-five years after my death, what, if anything, will those beyond my family remember me for?
2) If I had to give everything I own to a cause (not a person), what cause would that cause be?
3) If I could snap my fingers and acquire an experience or talent, it would be ___________ because ___________ .
While on the surface these questions may sound simple, when it comes time to answer them you'll realize that each question requires much thought. In fact, most people have to think about the questions for days before really knowing the answers.
Remember, it's not what we leave FOR others that matters; it's what we leave IN them that matters most. Possessions and wealth do not a true legacy make. It's about leaving behind the essence of your Authentic Soul. That's what the world needs from you. So serve others by leaving behind the best and most beautiful parts of you. Today, and every day, create your legacy.