Would you believe me if I told you that thinking about the legacy you’re creating at this very moment, is also helping you live a longer, fuller life? While most think of a legacy as what we leave behind, what it really means is both how we choose to shape our present lives so that the future has something to hold onto. The analogy often used when discussing this concept of planting a tree and how over time the roots will spread and the tree will grow, often in a manner we can’t easily see when we first planted it. Legacies, like that tree, are planned. We pick the tree, the location and how well we tend to it as it matures. Its roots will spread, become interconnected and stronger or weaker depending on how well we take care of it. Susan Bosak, a social researcher and educator puts it this way, “an interconnection across time, with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us.” As this month of longer evenings starts I’d like to ask you, how well are you tending to your legacy?
In thinking about how and what we’d like to pass along to the future, we are giving ourselves a grand opportunity to take stock of where we are now. When I ask my clients what kind of legacy they are working towards the answer usually comes in the form of a person, ‘my children,’ ‘my grandchildren’. Often I hear about businesses or community projects, an accomplishment such as a book or piece of art created. But here’s the tricky question; how much of those pieces did you plan in a conscious, thoughtful manner? Do these accomplishments reflect what means the most to you? If your child is in prison or your business has failed does that mean you’ve failed as well? Unlikely.
How does this help us live longer? By thinking about both what we were given by past legacies as well as what we hope to leave behind, we have the chance to change in the here and now. A group of researchers (Ken Dychtwald, et al) have identified what they call the Pillars of Legacy: values and life lessons, instructions and wishes to be fulfilled, possessions of emotional value, and property and money. What’s the most important of these pillars? Values and life lessons wins, hands down. What makes that so important? Because if you think about it, values and life lessons are what we have learned, mostly through tough situations, and we want to smooth the road ahead for future generations.
Possessions are just things and while we attach emotional value to them, or allow them to take on the embodiment of someone dear to us, they remain objects. Property and money is nice, very nice as a matter of fact, but as we’ve discussed before future generations have a track record of not being able to hold onto it and pass it further down the legacy chain.
Can you look at your current life and tell me you’re living with the integrity and courage you aspire to? If not, what are you willing to change right now to make those values come into line with your present situation? Are there barriers that require movement to enable you to start building again? What’s slowing you down?
If you are living a life of courage and integrity, please accept my sincere gratitude for what you’re passing along; I’m sure your tree is healthy and full! It is an honor to bask in its shade.
Wishing you all the best for the week ahead!