What legacy will you leave?

Legacy. If you look up the word “legacy” in the dictionary, it states that the meaning is “an amount of money or property left to someone in a will”. In short, something that is transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor. This made me wonder, is that the total sum of what legacy is? Something materialistic, money, and things, which you leave behind to your offspring? What about the bigger sense of the word? What about values, beliefs, skill transference? What about the words that are spoken about great men and women, something much bigger, when they pass on? What about the words that describe the human beings that they were or something that speaks towards their contribution to humanity? What about vocational legacy?   

Yesterday, two very well-known and larger-than-life men, passed away in Bloemfontein. The one was a well-known sport-announcer and prominent in rugby circles – and the other a lawyer, who specialised in criminal law. As I look through all the things people say about them in the media, I wonder if they felt like connoisseurs. Did they feel like they were looked up to? Did they feel like they have arrived, that they were authoritarian in their different vocational fields? Were they aware of this kind of legacy and what they left behind when they were still alive? In the end, legacy also is not only reserved for the positive and uplifting things that you leave behind. Think to the extreme about Hitler for instance. He left behind a legacy of pain and suffering that carried through up to this day.  

Jim Rohn’s definition of legacy personally resonates with me – “We are stewards of this world, and we have a calling in our lives to leave it better than how we found it.” How then, you may ask, do I build my legacy? Is it something that I am consciously building and working towards in my life or is it something sub-conscious? Does legacy automatically come along as I set and work towards my goals and dreams?  

It is said that these are the Top 5 regrets people have at the end of their life:

  • I wish I dared to live true to myself and not what others expect of me.  
  • I wish I hadn’t worked so hard. 
  • I wish I had the courage to express my feelings.  
  • I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.  
  • I wish I’d let myself be happier. 

Interestingly, none of these regrets speaks toward money or materialistic things. Don’t get me wrong, of course we need to have a goal and conscious focus on building some kind of a monetary legacy as well. My point is, this should not be your only focus and goal when thinking of what you want to leave behind. As human beings, we are wired to contribute and it is therefore built into us to build something bigger than ourselves, even if we might never see this come to fruition.  

The other thing is, at what stage in your life do you start to not just thinking about yourself and your immediate family, but when do you start reaching out to change others’ lives? Your legacy, in my opinion, should include ploughing back into the community where you work and live. This can be done by donating your time, money, or expertise.  

How do I consciously work on my legacy to leave a lasting footprint that improves the world? You start by defining what the word legacy personally means to you. Do you want to impact your family, your community, your country, or the world? What is your true purpose? The answers to these questions will help you build and develop something meaningful that goes beyond just creating financial wealth. It is important to know yourself, as well as your strengths and your weaknesses. For many, the most obvious place to focus on is your career. Don’t however just focus on your work and your title, but also think about your core strengths. You need to focus on areas that make you tick.  

Lastly, think about how you want to be remembered. Ultimately, your legacy is all you’ve got to create something meaningful that will outlive you. For instance, most business owners would want to pass their business onto the next generation. Hiring an ActionCOACH Business Coach would be a terrific opportunity to ensure you’ll be passing over a powerful family business to your children and/or grandchildren.


Marie-Louise Smith, ActionCOACH Business Coach 

marielouisesmith.actioncoach.com | marielouisesmith@actioncoach.com


Photo by Clément Falize on Unsplash