What If Tomorrow Never Came: How To Build Your Legacy

How you see yourself, and how others might refer to you are often two different things.

While you might be concerned with protecting your reputation, have you ever given thought to how it might live on? What it stands for is something many of us don’t really consider until we reach a certain age and realize that we’re not immortal.

If tomorrow never came, what would you be leaving behind for the world to remember you by? This is something that has probably crossed your mind before. However, what are you currently doing to ensure the legacy you are en-route to, is one you can be proud of?

The Moment of Denial

When most people hear the word, legacy, they start to think about their portfolio, life insurance policy, will, and lingering debt. In reality, when you consider what should be most important, it isn’t your money, property, and financial inheritance that will be remembered the fondest and longest, but rather what you’ve left to the world that can be used and cherished for years to come.

There are several options a person has when considering their future. You can offer up words of encouragement and knowledge to your children and/or business partners, or confess your love and admiration to your significant other or close friends. You may also give away personal relics that will serve as reminders for who you were. You can donate money and time to a noble cause, give away property or stock, or designate a final resting place that will be visited by loved ones for decades to come.

These are all worthy goals. However, probably one of the most sought after goals in life is the one that says you left the world in better condition than when you entered it. That the world is better off for having known you, and people will look back on your life and appreciate the sacrifices you made to accomplish the things you set out to do. But what if you haven’t set out to accomplish anything? It’s probably time that you decide…

How You’ll Be Remembered

When you consider the legacy you are leaving behind, what matters most is not how you see yourself, but how others weigh your character and accomplishments. A better way to describe this is to ask yourself this important question, if a tree falls in the middle of a forest, and nobody was ever there to witness it, does it really matter? And when the day comes that you fall, will you matter? That choice is up to you.

There are several recommended means to leaving behind a noble legacy. One important thing to consider is that not all legacies are considered equal. In fact, depending on the route you choose, your legacy can last anywhere from a couple months to many centuries. Starting from the least to most memorable, let’s discuss your options.

  • Property and Money– The problem with property and money, is while they may represent years of hard work and dedication, giving away a portion of your financial worth is not often as significant as you’d like it to be. In fact, it may only be remembered for as long as it takes to buy a new SUV or plastic surgery procedure. This is why it may be better to begin giving away small portions of your inheritance while you are around to enjoy it. This will cut out a portion of the red tape and taxes, plus you can oversee how it is being used, and ensure it is going to a good (memorable) cause.
  • Experiences– It has been said that one of the best ways to create happiness for yourself, is to spend your money on experiences, rather than tangible objects. It is easier to bestow fond feelings towards someone you’ve had the chance to experience life with. The one word of caution is not to think of it as one last hurrah before the curtain closes. The problem with saving up for a certain point in your life, is that you never know when the end will come. Instead, it is better to live your life creating memorable experiences with as many people as you can.
  • Donations– Speaking of good causes, donations are another good way to leave behind a good portion of yourself. Part of a legacy should be to empower your existence while you are still around. Knowing that you have (and will be) supporting a worthy cause can give you a real feeling of accomplishment. And the good news is, no matter what’s currently in your financial profile, there is always room to volunteer your time, which can make as much difference as a moderate monetary donation.
  • Gifts– Think of the last time you crossed by an object in your home that reminded you of a fond person or moment in your life? This is the power of leaving behind a personal artifact to a friend or loved one. These can take the role of a relatively small gift, yet carry the emotional value of a much larger inheritance. The greatest limit to a gift is that it often loses a portion of its value and significance as it is passed to the next generation.
  • Goals– You may not have thought about it before, but almost all your goals can be accomplished by those you leave behind. This may be best taken advantage of in business, where a loyal staff or partner can take over from where you left off, and continue to accomplish your life’s goals. This is often called a business exit strategy, and is worth doing right. Incidentally, to successfully leave any business in good hands, the torch must begin to be passed years before your actual retirement, so it is really never too early to start.
  • Lessons and Values– Along the same lines as passing the torch in business, is passing your life’s lessons and values to those who will make good use of them. Many successful people find the most satisfaction in teaching others what they’ve learned in life, and seeing this advice accomplish things that would have never been possible if they’d kept it to themselves. The fact is, you can only do so much as one man. Invest a portion of your time and energy by sharing your knowledge, and your contributions to the world could become infinite.
  • Body of Work– If you think about a few of the most famous legacies that date back centuries (Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Benjamin Franklin, etc.), many of them involved a body of work that impacted the world. While personal artifacts and lessons can lose their significance over time, a body of work continues to inspire, because it does not require someone’s memory to give it value, as it is inspirational in itself. This could be a book, art, or an invention. This may not be an easy feat to accomplish on a large scale. However, there are many levels to this success, including a self-published novel.

Live Life as if it Defines Your Last Words

Live your life with direction and inspiration, as every moment offers the opportunity to create a new and worthwhile legacy. When all is said and done, a person is rarely judged by the number of quality accomplishments in their life, but the quality of life that resulted from their accomplishments.