I spent some time yesterday watching the History Channel. Featured were extraordinary people who left behind an immeasurable influence on the world. I started thinking about people like Martin Luther King, Jr. John F. Kennedy. Nelson Mandela. Michelangelo. What do these people have in common? They created lasting legacies on the common human experience.
Legacies exist on a continuum. They can be for the good, or not (Hitler comes to mind). But either way they leave a mark on the world, they create and shape the world and the people who come after them. A legacy might be one of hope, or peace, or service. It might be a legacy of possibilities, or perseverance, or creativity. It might be oppression, or intolerance. It might even be a system or structure, such as the Peace Corps or the Vietnam Memorial, that symbolizes a collective legacy. Lasting legacies shape and define people. We might be influenced by legacies of a widespread scale such as these examples, or a smaller scale, such as the legacy left by one’s grandmother, or dad. A teacher, coach, or pastor.
One thing that I think is important for us to do from time to time is think about our own future legacies. This is a bigger picture idea; we all want our lives to have mattered. It helps move us out of selfishness and live a life with purpose. It allows us to see beyond ourselves and consider our actions and behaviors as they relate to and help to shape or define that legacy. It forces us to commit to something beyond ourselves. To have an impact on a life, or lives, requires unselfish goals and a steadfast commitment to living a life that matters. It requires human connections and authenticity.
In thinking about my own journey, I wrote down a few ideas that represent significant values and hold important meaning for me. Values and aspirations that, when pursued passionately and fiercely, will hopefully join forces to create that legacy. Here are three of those thoughts:
I want to encourage dreamers to not only have dreams, but chase them. Pursue them with all their might.
I want to validate. For others to know they are valuable simply because they exist. That their personal worth is not something that is up for debate-not now, or in 10 years, or in 30 years…
I want to inspire someone to create, or invent, or produce, or discover, or write, or spend years trying to solve what once was considered a mathematical impossibility.
And then it hit me:
My own legacy might be seen in the legacies that will be left not by me, but by future generations.
I am an educator. Every day, I have the opportunity to do that fierce pursuing, to live out those aspirations and defining values that I hope will become a part of my own legacy. Maybe even to touch the legacies of people yet to grow into their own aspirations. My legacy just might be that of a Legacy Builder.
And I’ll take that.
Here’s to all my fellow Legacy Builders, as you go about fiercely pursuing your own passions and shaping the legacies to come. I am honored to be in your company.
What might your legacy be? What steps are you taking each day to reaffirm and build upon it?