Lately I’ve been thinking about legacy. What is legacy? The Macquarie Dictionary defines legacy as (and I paraphrase):
- A gift of property by will; a bequest.
- Anything handed down by a predecessor.
- A consequence.
I see legacy as falling into two broad categories: the formal legacy – what an individual constructs to leave behind, often recognised through work achievements; and the informal legacy – what an individual leaves behind, almost as a residue of their life. The formal legacy is consciously constructed; the informal legacy is organically-derived, more fluid, and may vary through different people’s eyes depending on their relationship with the person whose legacy is being considered. It’s the difference between what you build for people to remember you by versus what others remember about you. It’s often the difference between what’s left behind at and from a person’s work-for-money and their work-for-love.
It’s natural to reflect on the year gone by, as well as hopes and goals for the future. This seems especially relevant after such an extraordinary year as last year, with its vast changes due to Covid-19. This can be expanded to the broader question: What would you like to leave as your legacy?
An activity I did once at a conference involved writing down what I would like to have read out at my funeral. This then formed my goals of how I would like to live my life and what I would like to achieve. I invite you to ponder the question: What would you like to be read out as your eulogy? For that’s how you can strive to live life today – so that it becomes how you are remembered.
Legacy can have a ripple effect: something can seem less evident or important at first, then it builds over time. To me, it is formed in the present – for the future. It’s how we live our lives now that determines how we are remembered after we’re gone. The quote at the top of this post – and there are variations of it – sums up to me the positive attitude that leaves the best legacy that anyone could hope for: one of a life well-lived, true to self. It is a quote of boldness and living fully in the moment.
I’m going to end this post with a link to a haunting song, “Dancing in the Darkness”, by Aussie musician Sally Seltmann. Like the quote just mentioned, it’s about embracing all of life, all of what we are, no matter how crazy it can feel at the time.
May you be all you can be.