Another designation for the month of August asks us, “What Will Be Your Legacy?” I attribute the natural desire to leave a legacy to the basic human need for Significance. Everyone wants to have an impact, to make a difference and to leave something of themselves behind to be remembered by. Leaving a legacy will be more important to someone with a higher need for significance. Of course, everyone will leave a legacy, but people with a higher need for Significance think about it intentionally. If you’re not intentional about it, you may leave the sort of legacy you’d prefer not to leave.
Thinking about your death is not the easiest thing to do. The thought is unpleasant and, for many, fraught with uncertainty. And yet, lying on your deathbed, you will find satisfaction in leaving something valuable behind, something that will represent you into eternity.
In my book, Choosing Me Now, there is a chapter about how to meet your need for Significance; leaving a legacy is one of the ways I focused on. There are three ways to leave a legacy.
One way to measure your legacy is through the people you have touched. For some, one’s legacy is their children and their children’s children. Having another person on the planet that has half your DNA can be the most satisfying thing ever and cannot be minimized. I have two sons I am extremely proud of and eight beautiful grandchildren that will carry my legacy far into the future. When comprehending the reach of your relational legacy, everything you do, everything your children do, their children do and their children’s children do started with you and even those that came before you. This is an extremely comforting thought to me as I age.
People can also leave relational legacies having nothing to do with familial ties. We leave behind people whose lives we have touched, not just our family members. Our interactions with people can add to their lives, take away from their lives or have neutral effect. What relational legacy are you cultivating?
Another way to measure your legacy is by the outcomes you have produced. I have created a successful business, written four books, a parenting curriculum for court-mandated parents and a board-certified coaching program. I am proud of these creations; they will be part of my tangible legacy that hopefully will be enjoyed for years to come. My father-in-law built buildings and bridges. My father was a land developer. Artists, song writers and actors leave their mark in a tangible way. There are multiple ways to leave tangible legacies. What will yours be?
You can also measure your legacy by the people you’ve served. Some people have jobs where they save lives, heal the sick, teach, preach, protect, clean and counsel. There is a relational factor in every job; it’s possible for people to benefit from anything you can think to do. When thinking of your legacy, you can think about all the people that were helped by the work you do.
Perhaps my largest legacy to date are the countless people whose lives have been touched by things I have said and done—some of them I know, others I don’t. I had the excellent fortune of learning the concepts of Choice Theory psychology, now the study and application of it my life’s work, when I had just turned 27. The information contained within Choice Theory is so valuable, I find it impossible not to share. I have taught it directly to those asking to learn it and to those mandated to hear it, and I have taught it indirectly by demonstrating living with Choice Theory for anyone who has come into contact with me over the years. Most recently, I’ve developed my own process, Mental Freedom, which is an extension of Choice Theory into the self-discovery realm.
When you operate in your passion, you cannot help but leave a legacy. It may not be the tangible kind, such as children, a building you had a hand in constructing, or a book you wrote, but there will always be the legacy of the lives you improved by operating in your passion in service of others. What will your legacy be? What will you leave behind to make the world a better place than when you first arrived?