How to Leave a Lasting Legacy That Inspires Others

Published August 13, 2020
mother and daughter looking at view

Everyone wants to be remembered, and it's easier than you might think to learn how to leave a legacy. These ideas can help you leave a lasting legacy for your family, friends, and coworkers.

What Does It Mean to Leave a Legacy?

A person's legacy is a gift that passes from one generation to another within a family or group. It can be a gift of money or property, but more commonly, it's a gift of knowledge, values, or love. A person's legacy is how they will be remembered by those who come after them.

Eight Real-World Ideas for Leaving a Legacy

Your legacy involves your daily activities and interactions, as well as how you handle the tough times and important moments. You can never know for sure how you'll be remembered, but there are a few things you can do to help shape your memory.

Speak Your Truth

What do you value in life? Is it family, integrity, hard work, the environment, or something else? Take some time to identify what's most important to you. You may even want to write your core values to help clarify them for yourself and others. Then talk about those values when it's appropriate. Tell your children and grandchildren what matters in life. Share your insights with younger coworkers. These are the words people will quote when they say, "My mom always said...." Make those words count.

Act to Support What Matters

Words are important, but so are actions. Live your values too. If you are committed to protecting the environment, let your children and grandchildren see you showing up at protests and calling your congress people when the environment is threatened. If you believe family is the most important thing in the world, try to be there for every birthday and ballet recital (even if it sometimes has to be virtual). If you feel its important to embrace new experiences, be the person who tries the weird new food or the crazy amusement park ride. Others will see you living your values, and they will remember.

Granddaughter talking to grandfather

Share Your Good Fortune

No matter what kind of life you are living, you likely have many blessings. How can you share those? Sharing your good fortune may involve leaving a financial gift to family members or an important cause. You might consider setting up an endowment to provide funds for a scholarship or grant. However, you don't have to limit yourself to financial good fortune. Share the flowers you grow in your backyard with a friends and neighbors. Share your love of books and learning by volunteering at the elementary school library. No matter what you choose to share, it will be remembered.

Be a Mentor

One way to leave a legacy at work is to become a mentor to younger team members. You can also mentor people in other organizations, such as charities where you volunteer. Passing on your knowledge and wisdom to the next generation is rewarding in itself, and it also ensures you'll leaving a lasting impact on the organizations you care about.

Give the Gift of Your Time

Life gets busy, even if you're retired. Making time for the people and causes that matter to you sends a message. Whether you're volunteering, spending time with grandchildren, or showing up for a friend in need, others will see and remember how much you care. To make sure you prioritize what's important to you, block out this time on your calender as if it were an appointment.

Share Your Family's History

Even if you aren't into genealogy, you can enjoy sharing your family history with younger generations. Here are a few specific ideas:

  • Tell the stories your parents and grandparents told you; your grandchildren will remember you telling these tales. Consider a family tree project to help you get started.
  • Write down family recipes and make them together, giving each child or grandchild a copy of those recipes in your handwriting. When they make your chocolate chip cookies, they will think of you.
  • Go through photos with your loved ones. Talk about what you remember as you look at the pictures and jot down notes on the back.
  • Tell the stories of important heirlooms in your family. Where did that special vase come from? Who owned the desk in your sitting room?

Tell Your Own Story

While your family history is important, your own story matters at least as much. Write it down. It doesn't have to be anything formal, and it doesn't have to be long. Look at some short memoir examples to get inspired, and then just pick up your pen. You'll be surprised how easy it is. If you feel daunted at the idea of writing your story, sit down with a younger family member and make an audio recording. Look at oral history forms for ideas of what to talk about; it's easy once you get started.

Happy grandfather sitting with his grandson

Love Without Hesitation

Perhaps the most important way to leave a lasting legacy involves how you approach love. Many people hold others at a distance, even if they do not mean to. As much as you can, try to let down your guard and risk being rejected or hurt. If you love without hesitation, those around you will be able to form a deeper emotional connection with you. If it's deep enough, that connection will be your legacy. Live so that your love for others transcends death.

Leaving a Legacy Is a Long-Term Goal

You can't leave a legacy for family and friends overnight. It takes time, and it also takes intentional action. Give some thought to how you want to be remembered, and then write some inspiring long-term goals for yourself to make it happen.

How to Leave a Lasting Legacy That Inspires Others