The way you choose to live will leave a mark on this world.
That mark will be your legacy.
It will be what you pass down to all those generations that come after you.
It will be your contribution to the world.
It will be how you are remembered.
It will be the footprint you leave in the sand for others to follow.
You want it to be a good legacy, right?
You want to leave behind a world that is better in some way.
You want to have a positive impact on the direction the world moves in once you are gone – especially your little piece of it.
But how do you do that?
How can you determine what that legacy will be?
Here are 9 core ideas that will determine your legacy.
1. Make every minute count with the people you love.
Beyond any shadow of a doubt, the biggest impact most people will get to have on this Earth is that which we have on our loved ones.
And we choose what that impact looks like by how we spend our time with those we hold dear, and how much time we afford them.
Your legacy shows up in the amount of true quality time you share with family and friends.
So choose to spend more time with those people who really matter to you.
And when you are with them, don’t have one eye on your phone and the other eye on the clock.
Be fully present with them and let all your worries rest, for a while at least.
And try to leave any negative baggage at the door wherever possible.
This doesn’t mean that you cannot and should not discuss your issues with those you love and trust. That’s a necessary thing sometimes.
It does mean not making gossip and moaning and negative conversation your default. That is not a legacy you will want to leave for anyone.
Instead, do things that fill you and them with joy.
Step out into nature, let loose and have fun, share in moments that will become fond memories once you are gone.
Do not underestimate the impact this will have on them and their lives.
2. Make your example count.
Another way in which you can influence others – and the world – is through how you live your life.
Whether you realize it or not, the things you do and the choices you make set an example for those around you.
This is especially true of your children and grandchildren, but also of friends, colleagues, and even strangers.
When they see you acting in ways that benefit others, they are more likely to want to follow in your footsteps.
By helping people, by volunteering, by supporting good causes, you normalize this sort of behavior which makes them more likely to do the same.
And it’s not just charitable actions that make up your legacy.
The way you treat other people, the way you treat the environment, the way you treat yourself – these things all set an example for them to follow.
If you want to leave a good legacy, choose to set a good example.
Choose collaboration, compromise, and acceptance instead of conflict, stubbornness, and anger.
Choose sustainability. Choose fairness. Choose respect for people and planet.
Choose to be kind to yourself.
The example you set is also seen in many of the following points, starting with…
3. Make every dollar count in how you spend it.
The almighty dollar – or whatever your local currency is – has come to hold a great deal of power.
For better or worse, money has its place in the world, but what you choose to do with yours will influence the kind of legacy you leave.
Every time you spend it, you are making a statement about the kind of person you are and the influence you wish to have on the world.
And money has a memory. The dollar you spend today will have a ripple effect that lasts for years and decades to come.
Your dollar can make or break companies. It can sway the direction those companies go in.
Where money is spent influences the direction of travel for whole societies.
Sadly, this has, for the most part, meant society moving in a direction of exploitation of both people and nature.
But that is slowly changing.
More and more people are choosing to spend their money in ways that promote sustainability and a more equal distribution of wealth and opportunity.
You can build your legacy through the things you choose to buy and the companies you give your money to.
Choosing products and companies that have strong ethical and environmental practices at their core may sometimes cost a little more, but the difference that extra makes is beyond doubt.
You are making a statement of your belief and purpose. You are endowing that money with a positive energy which then creates a positive impact in the lives of others.
Be conscious of how your spending impacts your legacy.
4. Make your wealth count in how you bequeath it.
Should you have some money left at the end of your life, you get to decide where it goes.
Whether it’s a fortune or a modest sum, how it gets used matters.
You may wish to leave it all to your family, and that’s totally okay.
It’s normal to wish to see your loved ones comfortable and free from the stress that a lack of money can cause.
Or you might decide that some of the wealth you have amassed should go to the good causes that you have supported throughout your life.
Of course, you don’t have to wait until you are dead and buried to share what you have with others.
You can do it in your lifetime too.
Perhaps you help your grandchildren to buy their first cars.
Maybe you organize and pay for a big family holiday – one that will create memories to last a lifetime.
Or you might donate a large sum to a charity to fund a project they are working on.
Just like your everyday spending, the choices you make around these larger sums of money and wealth demonstrate the kind of person you are and how you wish to be remembered.
5. Make your passion count.
Many people struggle to feel passionate about anything.
But passion is contagious, and by showing your passion – no matter what it is for – you inspire others to discover theirs.
You may find that their passions are wildly different to yours, but by helping to awaken it, passion becomes a part of your legacy.
Passion is action, and action is what the world needs more of.
Passion can drive great change, but it can also leave a more personal mark.
It can have a positive effect on the mental health of others. It can give them energy, willpower, and determination.
Passion can provide a sense of meaning in life. It can help people feel more positively about their life and the world as a whole.
So whether your passion is for the arts, the environment, animals, sports, or restoring classic cars, embrace it and share it with those around you.
Don’t be afraid to express your passion to others, even if you know they don’t share the same passion or might not know much about it.
People tend to feel engaged with someone who is displaying and communicating their passion.
6. Make your wisdom count.
Whilst age doesn’t necessarily endow someone with wisdom, everyone will have at least some lessons that they can teach others.
During your lifetime – even if you still have lots of time left – you will experience things that change you in some ways.
It may be one big and powerful event that changes your whole outlook on life, or it may be the culmination of many little things that make you realize some important truth.
Life will leave its mark on you.
You can then leave your mark on life and the world by sharing what you have come to know, understand, or believe.
Perhaps you worked extremely long hours in a highly stressful job in order to attain great wealth. But you have regrets about how little time this left you for your family, friends, and doing the things you enjoy.
Maybe the premature loss of a loved one taught you the value of every moment and every breath you take.
Or maybe time has shown you how looks are held in too high a regard and that people should embrace who they are and what they look like, rather than fight against it.
Whatever you have learned, don’t take that wisdom to the grave with you – share it.
Counsel others, give advice when asked, explain to future generations what you have learned over the course of your life.
Write a book. It doesn’t have to be published or be a bestseller. It can just be a personal book that you leave to your family and friends in which you share your wisdom.
You’d be amazed at how something so small could impact the future lives of those who read it.
7. Make your hopes and dreams count.
Just as with your wisdom, you can pass on your hopes and dreams for the future.
This may not even be a future you are going to be a part of, but you can still wish for a world that is better than the one you leave.
You can have hopes and dreams for future generations.
They may choose not to share the same hopes and dreams, but that is their choice and it shouldn’t stop you from expressing yours.
In some small way, you will leave a mark on those you tell.
You can also communicate specific hopes and dreams to each person who is important to you.
Writing a letter is a lovely way to do this.
In it, you can express your love for them and then talk about the things you wish for them in the remainder of their life.
Perhaps that is that they find peace of mind because you know they often worry about things.
Or maybe you wish for them to fulfil their dream of starting a social enterprise.
Do not underestimate the impact such a letter might have. By knowing that they have your support and belief in them, they might find the resolve to make your and their dreams come true.
8. Make your words count.
The words that you have spoken, and that you will speak in the remainder of your lifetime… boy, there are a lot of them!
And these words hold a lot of power.
The way you speak to people. The messages you convey. The ideas you communicate. The wisdom, the hopes, the dreams you share.
Your words are a legacy all of their own.
The impact they have on those you speak them to can be immense.
So you must choose them carefully.
Be conscious of what you speak, how you say things, and when you say them.
Speak positively. Speak words of comfort and reassurance. Speak words of wisdom.
Speak respectfully. Speak with courage. Speak knowing that your voice matters.
Try to see the impact of each word that passes your lips – not just the immediate impact, but the lasting influence that it might have on those who hear it.
Your words can be a gift, or they can be a curse.
Make sure they are a gift.
9. Make your vote count.
You may not think of politics as being a part of your legacy, but it is.
The leaders we elect as a society – at all levels of government and in all organizations – have the power to influence and shape the future for good or ill.
Wherever you sit on the political spectrum, vote with your conscience, but examine the policies of each party and each candidate carefully.
Ask yourself, genuinely and honestly, which would be the better option for the long term future, not just the immediate political cycle.
It can be tempting to vote for whoever promises to benefit you as an individual the most, but if you want to leave a legacy, you have to look beyond yourself.
Who is going to have the biggest positive impact on the lives of the most people, now and into the future?
That is who you should be voting for. And it shouldn’t matter if this means abandoning long-held party allegiances.
It also shouldn’t matter if this means voting for someone who you know is unlikely to win.
It may sound counterintuitive, but even a losing vote matters.
If enough people vote for a particular set of policies, even if that party or candidate ends up losing, it changes the political conversation going forward.
After all, the winners of any election will want to attract or appease those people who did not vote for them, and so they may shape their policies in such a way that those things that matter most to you, and other voters, still get acted upon.
Your vote today is a part of the legacy you leave behind for tomorrow.
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