The last 2 weeks have been spent having summer fun with kids and grandkids. These experiences amplified the discussion that was already going on in my head. What will I leave as a legacy? What will be left behind when I am no longer here?

It’s a universal question that takes on more significance with each passing year. No one knows how long his or her life will ultimately be. But there comes a point where we see more years behind us rather than in front of us. A greater sense of urgency develops to create meaning and legacy for those who’s lives we have touched.

But how do we think about leaving a legacy? Often it is discussed in the most superficial terms of what assets we will leave as an inheritance. Legacy is so much more.

Legacy is both what we have received from our ancestors and what we leave. It is both the gifts we have received ourselves and those we have given to others. It is both tangible and intangible. It is as complex as life itself.

The Life We Live is the Legacy We Leave

The ultimate expression of life is not our physical assets. It’s the impact we have had on the lives that we have touched. In this sense we use all the gifts we have been given to bestow gifts on others. Some are tangible like money, and property. Some are intangible like wisdom, beliefs and attitudes.

When we think in terms of all the resources that we have available and the gifts that have been given to us, we can see the limitations of financial resources. I have seen enough situations to know that money handed to the next generation isn’t always a blessing. It isn’t the money itself, or how much or how little we pass on. It is how we have used what has been gifted and how those actions impacted how we were in this world.

It reminds me of the quote by Shannon L. Adler. She said, “Carve your name on hearts, not tombstones. A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”

Living a Life of Values

What values are we demonstrating for the next generation? What assets do we have available to share as gifts? What hardships and challenges have we faced in life and how does that experience provide a legacy? These are not things that we typically think about as a legacy. But let me give you an example of what I mean.

Most of my ancestors came from Ireland during the time of the potato famine. They chose to leave the homeland for a hope of better opportunity. To them, the experience was hardship and loss. I think of the hardship they endured as a gift to all future generations. To me it was an opportunity.

What Does the Next Generation Need?

I have been thinking about things the next generation needs in relation to my assets. These are a few of the ideas that I came up with. They have nothing to do with material things.

Wisdom

We have lived many years, seen many things and experienced life. It is easy to dismiss our experiences as being irrelevant to the world that our children and grandchildren will experience. How they will live in this world will be very different from our experiences. But principles and values endure. What principles and values do you want to gift them?

Time

Time with those we love is the most precious gift we can give. Listening and connecting is something desperately needed today. You will always be remembered by how you made someone feel. Feeling heard is the most precious gift.

Perspective

One of the nicest things my grandson has said to me is “you always make everything sound so much nicer.” I don’t remember what we were discussing, but I helped him reframe the issue and thing about it in a less catastrophic way. It was a light bulb moment for both of us.

Unconditional Love

We all crave to be loved and accepted for who we are. Love is a gift with no limit. It’s actually a gift that multiplies as we share it.

Mindfulness and Gratitude

Society preaches the constant pursuit of more. One of the most valuable lessons we can teach is the ability to recognize what we already have. Learning to be mindful, to savor the moments and be grateful can lead to a happier and more contented life. We are happy with whatever resources we have available.

Conversation

Sometimes I feel that this is a lost art. But I can feel the need that we all have to connect deeper with others. Teaching that skill will serve the next generation well.

Presence

The pace of life is constantly quickening. The need to learn presence will best be taught by us. Demonstrating presence is all that is required.

Resilience

No one goes through life untouched by challenges. We have all had experiences that have challenged us. How we have persevered and strengthened ourselves in the process is a gift worthy of passing on.

These are just a few of the things that I have thought about. Ultimately, it is the life you are living that will be the legacy you leave.

What about you? What do you think the next generation needs from you? How have you thought about the legacy that you want to leave? Have you thought about gifting the challenges you have experienced in your life? Please join the conversation.

MaryEllen MillerMaryEllen Miller writes about the New Retirement. She explores the ideas of reinventing how we live and work in midlife and beyond. MaryEllen discusses how to build both financial and human capital to create the most thriving and fulfilling period of our life. Please visit her website here.

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