Leaving behind a legacy: Middle Aged Men
A man was once asked, "Don't you want to leave a legacy?" The man responded, "Not if I have to die first!"
Our legacy is what people remember about us after we're gone. It's what we leave behind. Part of the midlife struggle is defining to ourselves how we want to be remembered. We wonder if we have made a positive and lasting impact. Will anything I've done here last beyond my departure?
We don't have to be a rock star or a president to leave a legacy. A legacy is like a drop of water. The drop never reaches the shore, but the ripples it creates will extend outward to the shore.
Our impact on the world will likely be greater than we imagine it today, but there are some things we might start doing now that can insure the tomorrows of our legacy. Here are some things to chew on:
- Show kindness. The greatest legacy is that of kindness, compassion and love towards others. Commit yourself daily to taking part in the lives of those around you and to performing random acts of kindness. This will not only impact your legacy, it will also impact the quality of life you live today. We benefit when others are blessed by our investing in their lives.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Winston Churchill once said, "I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else." Only a positive attitude can have a positive influence. As we get older, we may have a tendency to be a bit too cynical about nearly everything. However, making a lasting impact requires us to believe that change is possible. Don't let your legacy be a sequel to Grumpy Old Men.
- Influence change. Impact, by its very definition, implies change. Influencing positive change is not a matter of simply performing your best; it is your ability to bring out the best in others. It is this influence that will be remembered by those who carry on your legacy. Mentoring others as opposed to doing yourself should more and more reflect your role in the community and the lives of those around you.
- Do something meaningful. Perhaps a better word is practical. It doesn't have to be anything earth-shattering in order to make a difference. Most communities have numerous organizations that in some way benefit a segment of the community. And they're often short of people who are committed to ‘the work.' It could be your church or local youth club. Search yourself, your interests, strengths and experiences. Begin by simply finding out what is going on, talk to people and go to a couple of meetings.
- Make your vision known. Clearly articulating your vision will inspire those who follow you to take up the banner after you are gone. Great legacies are not the result of a single isolated event; they are the summation of your own accomplishments and the accomplishments of those you will influence over time. Martin Luther King had a dream, but if he had not clearly articulated that dream, it would have died with him. Take the time to clarify your dreams, however modest, and be willing to talk about them so as to be able to pass them on to those who follow you.
Every great journey begins with a single step. A lasting legacy will influence action long after you're gone. We may lament how we have spent our days to this point. Yet, it's never too late to leave a mark. Oh, and make sure that laughter is something people remember you by. It will bring smiles to those left behind for years to come.