Have you ever stopped to think about the legacy you’ll leave behind? (Yes, even if you’re only 20.) What is a legacy? My online dictionary defines it as “something that is handed down or remains from a previous generation or time”. You may think of it as an inheritance, birthright, or heritage. So, in a broad sense, a legacy could literally be everything we leave behind. In our ongoing quest for personal excellence, we would be remiss not to think beyond our brief tenure on this earth. When our time here is up, nothing goes with us. Not our finances, our possessions, our work, or our loved ones. If literally everything you do, create, contribute to, or accumulate has the potential to outlast you, what do you want those things to “say” about you when you’re gone? This is much bigger than memories or reputation. This is your mark on the world. This is your legacy.
Whenever we think of a legacy or inheritance, we often think in financial terms, so let’s address that first. In fact, the wise King Solomon from ancient times tell us that a good man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children. Have you put much thought into what you can do to leave a legacy you’re proud of? If you’re not pleased with your current situation, quit complaining, quit stressing, and do something about it. Remember, there is a solution to everything if you’re willing to dig deep enough. There are infinite ways to honorably make money in this world. Are you willing to think outside the box? Are you willing to look past the conventional path if it’s not serving you well? Are you willing to think creatively and roll up your sleeves to exert a little bit of elbow grease? You may not be able to turn your situation around completely by tomorrow, but you can make a big difference in one year. 5 years can be a lifetime and 10 years can be an eternity when it comes to the change you can create if you start today. Don’t blame your parents, your spouse, your kids, the government, your boss, your company, your clients, or the economy. Where is that going to get you? If you have a hope and a prayer for your situation to change, the only person you should get mad at is yourself for losing so much time. Then forgive yourself, ask forgiveness of those around you, and get on down the road! You can’t get back yesterday, but you can sure as heck save tomorrow! Take charge, take a class, take on a new business, but whatever you do – take responsibility. Get out there and fight for what you want, instead of settling for whatever you can get.
Now, for sure finances are a major piece of your legacy, but they’re certainly not the only piece of the puzzle. How about your language? Have you given much thought to the legacy of your language? Do your words breathe life into the people around you? Are you known as an encourager? One filled with faith, hope, belief, and expectancy? Or, are you the Negative Nellie and David Downer? Take a quick scan of the people you spend most of your time with. Would they describe you as a balcony person or a basement person? Do you lift others up or bring them down? Do you give energy to a room, or do you suck every last drop of enthusiasm out of the people you spend time with? Words are potent. In fact, we’re told they have the power of life and death, and we must understand that the lasting effects of our words can linger in the air long after we’ve left the room…long after we’ve forgotten we ever said them.
Parents, how about your children? Are you creating a legacy of abundance, or a legacy of scarcity within your kids? This goes way deeper than money. If you had to stop and count, how often would you imagine that the phrases, “We can’t afford it”, or “We don’t have time for that” pop up in conversation around your house? If we are 100% committed to rising above excuses and releasing the old victim’s mentality, we must be willing to think a new thought here for the sake of our legacy. When we choose to take total ownership for our situation – total responsibility – for our past, our present, and our future, we will understand in a new way that we have time for what we make time for and we afford what we want to afford.
As we begin to understand and respect these principles in a new way, we learn that the choice to simply select different language can mean the difference in a child who grows up to expect scarcity or seek abundance. If my children repeatedly hear, “We can’t afford it” and “We don’t have time” for 18 years, they will become very different adults than those who hear “We’re choosing not to invest our money (or time) in…” They’re absorbing the difference between choosing and reacting. Now, of course you don’t have to use such formal language with your three-year old, but you get the point. We are rewiring the belief systems of impressionable hearts and minds by simply choosing our words carefully and respecting the legacy or our language.
This whole legacy concept really boils down to three things: awareness, priorities, and timing. Let me explain:
- Awareness – We become aware that our children develop their character more from what is “caught” at home than by what is “taught” in the classroom. Their belief systems are formed based on what they see and experience as children, and from how they watch us interact with the world. Are you always mad or blaming others for your “hard luck”? Are you always tired, always broke, always sick, always complaining, always busy, always making excuses? Then don’t be surprised when little “Mini Me’s” start springing up in your home. Statistics prove that poverty, jail time, education, achievement, and wealth are all just as hereditary as bone structure. You don’t catch “jail time” from your daddy, but you do catch an approach to life.
- Priorities – What we can afford and how much time we can find all boil down to what’s important to us. That’s why there are big screen televisions in subsidized housing all over this country. It’s why some of us can barely make ends meet while we drive around in a leased luxury car. Priorities aren’t spoken – they’re lived. What do your life patterns say is important to your family? If you want to change any of them, then redirect your actions, not your words. Talk is cheap, so bite your tongue, swallow your pride, and make different choices. It will all pay off, and what a story you’ll have to tell. Instead of being a “coulda, shoulda, woulda”, or a “has been”, you’ll have a story that your children are proud to tell.
- Timing – You can either pay now and play later, or you will play now and pay later. Which is more important to you? Short-term gratification? Or long-term reward? Another Proverb tells us that a wise man stores up grain during the harvest, but the lazy man goes hungry during a famine. Remember, the reason most people never achieve the life of their dreams is because they give up what they want most for what they want in the moment. It may take more strength to make the right decision in a moment of weakness, but timing is everything. Every decision you make will either reinforce your current legacy, or help you create a new one.
One last thought for today: how eternal is your legacy? What do you want people to remember about you? What kind of impression will you leave on this world? What do you stand for, what does your life represent? Do people know what you believe, and can they see it in your daily life? You don’t have to be world famous for your legacy to matter. In your own small way, you can impact the lives of generations to come – your generations to come. But you must be intentional, because no one ever accidentally leaves a legacy that matters.
Most people who will never really embrace this type of conversation. They may laugh it off, shrug it off, or criticize and condemn you (and me) for being so “out there”. But, I’d rather be laughed at by the people I’m not responsible for while leaving a legacy I’m proud of for the few I am responsible for any day of the week. The world doesn’t have to get what you’re doing. The ones who matter will get it – and that’s all that matters.