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  • Writer's pictureSarahHauer

What Are You Leaving Behind?

Updated: Apr 3

That is the question I indirectly ask my clients in my get-to-know-you worksheets for coaching. I asked it of myself directly when I discovered that a lot of people don't have an answer.

In positive psychology, there are factors that help determine a person's level of happiness. Legacy is one of those factors. It goes hand in hand with having a sense of purpose. On average, happy people have goals, plans for those goals, and actions to back them up. They want to leave something behind to be remembered and be valued for as long as possible.

"Sarah, what legacy are you leaving behind?" Well, I hope it's more than my hat.

What is legacy? I've been going around asking people the definition. Most answers I have gotten have included no idea, money you leave your kids in a will, accomplishing some great feat before dying, or donating money or a building to a school or hospital. All those answers are correct and incomplete.

There are many definitions for legacy. My favorite is the Oxford definition found on Google that says it's the lasting impact of a person. It's the most complete I found today. It can be monetary, or a character trait, or an impactful change made to a family or social environment, etc.

I like to think of it as what my loved ones will talk about at my funeral. That's it really, because as a former archaeologist, I know we all end up forgotten at some point. Some sooner than later. However, a healthy character trait is something that can be passed on for generations.

Legacy seems to conjure up unattainable ideals for the average person. Only high achievers leave a legacy, right? Not so. We all leave some sort of legacy behind. It's inescapable.

Legacy can be negative. Someone's legacy can be that they sold drugs to kids. It can be that so-and-so never followed through on any of his lofty goals. She couldn't tell the truth even when her life did depend on it.

It can be positive. Grandma baked the best cinnamon rolls in the state. He always had a shoulder for me when I needed him. He paid for all the kids at the elementary school to go to the zoo for a field trip one year, just cause he wanted to.

It would be nice if I could leave this earth with a somewhat hefty nest egg for my progeny. But that's not what I want them talking about. I want them saying things like: Mom was resilient. Mom forgave easily. She was a person of honesty and integrity. She stayed on course when things went south with a smile. She showed us by example how to set goals and go for them.

Thing is, my kids are not going to say those things if I don't do those things. We choose our own legacy by what we do and don't do; by our own decisions and follow-up actions or inactions. Actions are what define our legacies.

The words we use will be meaningless when we move on from this world. In the end, the standards we set for ourselves and truly live by will be the legacy we leave behind for our kids and loved ones to be proud of and emulate, or be ashamed of and reject.

What legacy are you leaving behind?

Thanks for reading!


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