Part One of a Three Part Article Written by Randi G. Fine
Have you ever asked yourself what your ultimate purpose is; what you are supposed to add to this world and what imprint you will leave on it? Are you living the legacy you hope to leave behind?
Author Ray Bradbury wrote in his book Fahrenheit 451, “Everyone must leave something behind when he dies. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die. It doesn’t matter what you do, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away.”
Each of us will leave a legacy behind after we pass on; that is a given. It doesn’t matter how young or old we are; we never know when our days are up. Would you be proud of the legacy you left behind if your life ended today?
We should each aspire to live our lives every day in ways that cast a positive light on us. Furthermore our lives should set an example that others who follow after us will benefit from.
In essence, living a legacy requires consideration for tomorrow. That does not mean living for the future. To focus on our legacies we must certainly consider future outcomes. But living our legacies means making each moment count, living each moment with intention.
An intention is a course of action, physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual, that one intends to follow. It is an objective or vision that guides our thoughts, attitudes, and choices. We send our intentions out in the form of a thought but we must fulfill their destination with our deliberate actions. This is important because you are building your legacy every day, whether by intention or not.
A life that just happens does not inspire anyone. No one will remember it. So the most important question to ask ourselves when planning our legacy is, “In what light do I want to be remembered. Will others see my life as having been lived to the fullest, or will they see it as a life of someone who just got by?”
Ultimately we have no control over how others will remember us, but we certainly can influence it. To do that we must have a direction—we must identify what we want to contribute and achieve while we are here.
Whatever we achieve in life, the knowledge we acquire, and the challenges we rise above, gets passed down through the generations that follow after us. Our words and actions become ripples in the sea of time. They will impact the lives of our family, friends, and community, and continue to carry on long after we are gone. The legacy of our lives will impact the lives of those we hold dearest—our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and future generations. Our words and actions of today influence the way we will be remembered tomorrow. What stories and memories will you leave behind?
Everyone will be remembered for something. We all hope to be remembered in a positive light. That memory is influenced by the way we live our day to day life, by our attitudes, outlooks, values, and convictions. It is better to be remembered as an optimistic person than a pessimistic person. It is better to be remembered for our inner strength than for our weakness. It is better to be remembered as a faithful person than one who is faithless. And it is better to be remembered as one who is kind than one who is hostile.
Are you living a life of intention or do you merely exist? Are you living the life that is best suited for you and your uniqueness or are you living the life that others want you to live? Are you following your heart or following the crowd?
What kind of legacy do you envision for yourself? Do you hope to leave a legacy of love?
If so there are many ways for you to do that. You can be a loyal, true person who supports and celebrates the successes of others. You can treat others with compassion, and kindness. You can love deeply and unconditionally. You can teach others to fight for what they believe in. You can advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves. You can be charitable. You can be accepting and forgiving. You can nurture and respect all creation; the Earth, animals, and the family of mankind. You can love life. You can spread light. You can love yourself. And you can allow others to love you.
Perhaps the legacy you want to leave is one of purpose.
Leaving a legacy of purpose requires living for purposes greater than our selves. To live for purpose we must positively impact the world while we are here as well as long after we are gone. We can do that through the generosity of our time and service or through financial endowments. Some people donate money while they are alive. Some bequest their estates to charities, religious institutions, or scholarship funds after they pass on. But one does not have to have money to leave a legacy of purpose. For most people it is the work they do in life that leaves a legacy of purpose, whether for individuals, a business, a foundation, a non-profit organization, school, or religious institutions.
You may hope to leave a legacy of excellence or inspiration.
You can accomplish this by pursuing excellence in something or everything to inspire excellence in those around you. You can encourage others to raise the bar on their own standards. Strive to make a difference in whatever situation you are committed to whether through outstanding teaching, school, charitable work, parenting, the arts, or the business world. Inspire and teach others to have hope, whether through your words or messages, or by quiet example. Call on the adversity you have risen above or the difficult feats you have bravely achieved to accomplish wonderful things with your life. Your diligence and optimistic outlook is what helped you reach and exceed your goals. Others are empowered by your exemplary life, and the legacy continues.
You can also leave a legacy of encouragement.
Be someone who encourages and stands behind others cheering them on. Know how to treat people with respect. Make others feel special. Be generous with praise and gentle with criticism. Lend a helpful hand to those who are giving their best effort but may still be struggling. Be considerate of the well-being of others. Offer help to those who are striving to reach their goals. Parents, spouses, friends, teachers, and coworkers have the greatest opportunities to leave legacies of encouragement.
Leaving a legacy does not require financial wealth or notoriety. There are many unsung heroes walking or who have walked this Earth. Each of us plays an essential part in the overall puzzle of life. All our lives have meaning, influence, and purpose. Each of us has something remarkable to pass on to our descendants and to the world.