One of the greatest truisms of the human condition which we all share is the need to be remembered after our deaths. Life is short and fleeting, while death and the oblivion it brings is forever. The need to somehow surpass death and exist if only in memory is a primal, driving force behind art, literature, great buildings and monuments, and many of our most cherished cultural touchstones.
You may be forgotten, but your legacy can attest to your existence long after your death.
Consider for a moment the legacies of those who came before you and how they touched – and continue to touch – the world we live in. From Aristotle to Shakespeare, Jefferson to Darwin, Einstein to John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., each and every one of them left them mark on the world in such a way that their legacy will never be forgotten.
Closer to home, consider the legacies within your own family. Every family story – from the grandfather who emigrated to America, to the cousin who fought in the European Theater in World War II – are part of your family legacy. The stories we tell each other keep their memories alive, and one day our stories will be part of that tradition. Their legacy lies at the heart of what it means to be a family.
Here are five key reasons why leaving a legacy is important:
The Foundation of Life
The stories we tell ourselves are the bedrock on which we build our lives and our identity. The most important stories are those about those who came before us. Their legacy is the foundation of our world, and our lives. Leaving a legacy behind for those to follow allows them to gain perspective on our lives as well as the world they live in, a world that we helped create.
You have a responsibility to leave a positive legacy
Your words and your deeds are your legacy. You have a responsibility as a part of the family of humanity to help make the world a better place for your family, and for all of the families to follow. A positive legacy ensures a better world; it also ensures that you will be remembered for the good that you do in your life.
Choosing good vs. evil
A legacy is a powerful force for change for both good or evil. You have to choose between being famous for good and positive deeds, or infamous for evil deeds. Your legacy will determine not only how you are remembered, but will leave ineligible mark on generations to come. A legacy can inspire good deeds, or it can inspire evil deeds. You have the power to choose which kind of legacy you leave behind. Ultimately, however, your goal is to leave a legacy of goodness that will inspire others to surpass you with greater good deed and service to others.
It replaces the negative pull of selfishness with the higher calling of selflessness
Actively striving to leave a positive legacy allows you to resist the urge to act for self-serving, selfish reasons and instead act in ways that benefit others. This selflessness is an enormously powerful, positive force that can not only help you achieve your dreams, but will allow you to achieve them in such a way that is mutually beneficial for yourself, your community, and your legacy. There is no greater legacy than one that has been built on a foundation ofselfless acts for the common good. You should strive to build a legacy that is built around helping others and making the world a better place for others rather than one built around fame, recognition, or financial self-enrichment.
The Big Picture
One of the most important benefits of actively striving to build and leave a positive legacy is that it can help you keep the ‘big picture’ in focus. Your legacy is bigger than you are – long after you are gone, your legacy and the after-effects of your deeds will continue to reverberate through the lives of those who follow you. You are one small cog in a history of mankind that stretches back for millennia, with each succeeding generating building on the dreams, aspirations, and legacies of those who came before them. Most people go through their day-to-day lives concerned with the ‘small picture’ – today’s work, plans for the weekend, their next vacation, what they plan on having for dinner – and completely miss their bigger picture of the impact of their actions on the world around them. Breaking out of this tunnel vision and realizing the larger role you can play by leaving a positive legacy is a critical step in making the world a better place for everyone.
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