Psychoanalyst Erik Erikson wrote that in the middle years of adult life we come to realise: “I am what survives me.” But what did he mean? We as a species have the passion and ability to be motivated to, not only make something of ourselves, but to share that with others?
Let’s consider JFK and MLK, both died before their legacies were fullfilled, but they will be forever revered for their efforts. We as a people invested in their legacies and their vision which in turn inspired a generation. Now consider yourself, do you feel what you have learnt, your life experiences and your skill sets will be invested for future generations? Would it be a comforting thought to know that your personal strife, hardships and efforts will have been for the benefit of others? Your morals, values, beliefs and opinions will one day have the potential to benefit or influence your children and their children?
A legacy is a gift you leave behind without expecting anything in return, just as a farmer may plant a tree knowing full well that they may never taste the fruits it bears. It is something you create during your life solely to benefit future generations. When you leave a legacy, the most important gift you can give your loved ones is not a tangible item such as money, but a piece of yourself in the form of values.
Knowing that one day I won’t be here helps me stay focused on what I’m doing in the present so that my goals are in line with my legacy. It offers a concrete sense of purpose in choosing what I am giving my energy to.
Imagine your funeral (not the happiest topic) but one worth serious thought. Beyond your last will and testament, what part of you remains on earth? Your legacy remains, the power to shape that legacy is in your hands today. In order to be that example to future generations, in order to pass on these beliefs and values, you have to live them consciously, right now. Remember what you do for yourself dies with you, what you do for others lives on.
None of us are promised a tomorrow so lets take this opportunity to live our legacies, actively engage in it everyday, living each day as if it was our last… because one day we will be right!
Information cited from physiology.com, Success Magazine and Barbara Greenspan Shaiman founder of Champions for Caring.