Whether we make the choice or not, we’re all leaving a legacy behind. You don’t have to be “rich” to leave behind a legacy that positively impacts the lives of others. Sometimes the simplest gestures live on through future generations.
Leaving a legacy is an act of responsibility of creating permanence. Caring people don’t simply leave behind good or bad memories. Instead, they create their legacies by building a life founded upon caring enough about others to leave a meaningful and positive legacy. When it’s time to depart, what can you leave behind?
Consider the following 10 questions as you assess what kind of legacy may be the best for you:
What do you want your life to stand for?
How do you want to be remembered by your family and friends?
What will those beyond your circle of family and friends remember you for?
What kind of an impact do you want to have on your community?
How will the world be a better place because you were in it?
What contributions do you want to make to your field?
Whose lives will you have touched?
What lessons would you like to pass on to future generations?
What do you want to leave behind?
How can you serve?
And now, here are some examples of how you can leave a legacy that benefits your community and the world at large:
Sharing beneficial knowledge
Contributing knowledge that continues to be implemented after the individual’s passing might seem like a tall order, but it isn’t.
This could take the form of sharing beneficial knowledge with the right intention. It could be a principle someone lived by and taught others to follow such as “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” It might be day-to-day mannerisms that those around us learn and follow, and pass on to others. All kinds of beneficial knowledge—big or small—with the right intention count towards the value you leave behind.
Perhaps your knowledge could take the shape of a book you author, delivering fresh insights or new takeaways in your field of interest or specialization. Think about this: How many of us really contribute knowledge of valuable and perpetual relevance to others? If you have something of value to say and share… Make it so!
Create something of ongoing benefit
An ongoing benefit essentially means creating a ceaseless/ongoing form of charity. There are many accessible and impactful activities that one can do that will continue to circulate benefit beyond our existence, and that continues to benefit humanity long after they are gone.
Some examples of an ongoing benefit are:
Buy a Life Insurance Policy for Someone Special There are many options to life insurance policies but talk to an insurance broker about a policy where you take care of the lifetime payments. The policy will have an accruing cash valueand the beneficiary can borrow against it.
Pre-purchase a Memorial Park Bench and/or Trees These are relatively inexpensive and can be appreciated and enjoyed by many generations to come. A commemorative park bench provides a spot to rest and relax and is usually placed in a location with a view. The bench is a welcome place to stop and rest for people out for a casual walk or even the more energetic hiker. The memorial tree provides beauty and shade to the passersby and contributes to the health of our planet and ecosystem. As well, the contribution may also be tax deductible. Contact your local city or municipality for more information.
Leave Money, Tools or Knowledge for Your Descendants These serve as a foundation on which they can build their financial futures. A will, living will or end-of-life plan will let your family, your lawyer and the government know your intentions.
Write Down Family Recipes and Family Traditions At least as valuable as money, leaving behind a map on how things were done in the past will be invaluable to future generations. The “Making Memories” section at CheckOutPlan.com is designed for this purpose.
Pass down heirlooms such as handmade items, quilts, cedar hope chests, or wooden crafts Add these items to an end-of-life plan to ensure that valued possessions don’t end up in the “Donations” box.
Pass down skills, language, traditions and knowledge Again, the true wealth of any family is the bridge to those who came before. Technology provides a myriad of ways to record and share this valuable information.
Write a Just-in-Case letter
Write down everything you’d want to tell your loved ones if you knew you didn’t have long to live. Check-Out’s Having “The Talk” section helps you capture the essence of who you are by encouraging you writing about your life lessons, values, accomplishments and hopes. Think of it as an emotional heirloom. You can also record video messages for your loved ones or create a memorial scrapbook for them. Use the tools in CheckOutPlan.com to write and store your letter, videos and digital scrapbook material.
Leave a Legacy Quotation
Whether you write it yourself or utilize the vast body of inspiration quotes out there, a legacy quotation can succinctly provide comment on who you are, or what you stand for.
Legacy quotes can be incorporated into many elements of your end-of-life celebrations or memorial including on a gravesite marker, in your eulogy, on the memorial program guide.
Here are some legacy quotes for inspiration:
“If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” – Benjamin Franklin
“To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Try and leave this world a little better than you found it, and when your turn comes to die, you can die happy in feeling that at any rate, you have not wasted your time but have done your best.” – Robert Baden-Powell
“We all die. The goal isn’t to live forever, the goal is to create something that will.” – Chuck Palahniuk
Build an institution with significant social impact
Institutions, if properly established and administered, help our communities and long outlast our existence. For those who have the means, building real institutions instead of internally-focused contributions is a legacy with significant social impact. It’s easy to start looking for opportunities to make an impact that lasts long beyond our lifetimes.
Some examples of worthy institutions are;
The David Suzuki Foundation
Jane Goodall Institute
Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind
Sea Shepard Foundation
There are so many worthy causes that need our help! A web search for “Top-Rated Charities” will help you discover ideas for institutions that align with your values.
Whole body or organ/tissue donation
While this kind of contribution might not be easily recognized by the world at large, to the person whose lives you will impact, it can be of massive significance. There are many stories of families doing their best to honor the person whose contribution has allowed the life of their loved one to improve or continue.
Most of us have strive to live moral, healthy lives without harming others – and when possible, helping others. We are stewards of this world; and we ought to leave it better than we found it. When you donate in the true spirit of helping others, you’re helping yourself, too. Everyday lived well, with a sense of purpose, and with the goal to help others increases your happiness and wellness. What will your legacy be? What will live on after you’re gone? Live your best life by creating a legacy you can be proud of.