We all leave a legacy – let’s make it a valuable one

By David Penney

Over the coming weeks we are going to be hearing a good deal about legacy. You could hardly miss the wall-to-wall coverage of the England women’s football team or the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, and yet much of the focus has not just been about success today but the contribution both will make to future generations. Indeed, it is interesting that while social media has been awash with clips and memes from the Lionesses’ superb semi-final win against the Swedes, the video that has gathered the most attention is of pundit Ian Wright talking about how the current tournament will only be viewed as a success if its legacy is more girls playing football at school. For the organisers of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games, the importance of legacy has been clear from the outset with the local council publishing a legacy plan in 2021 that detailed how the investment in the event would be used to benefit the people of the city for years to come. The truth is that legacy matters, whether for sporting events like the Commonwealth Games or for our own businesses and personal lives. Legacy is about putting a stamp on the future, and it is nothing more than human nature that we want to leave a legacy because we want to feel that our lives and the things that we did throughout it mattered. Legacy can mean different things to different people and every one of us has the opportunity to decide what we want our legacy to be. It could be something as unspoken as how we raise our children and watching them grow into fine upstanding citizens, leaving a financial legacy for future family generations or it could be something that has a far wider impact. However, at the heart of understanding how to leave a positive legacy, we first have to have a sense of purpose. Our purpose in life is as unique to us as our fingerprint and it is the thing that gets us out of bed in the morning, that thing that drives us forward. It is life’s long game rather than our short-term goals. Establishing a clear sense of purpose is not always easy and so often your purpose will be related to things that you are interested in and the things that bring you happiness. In Japan, this concept is known as ikigai, literally translated as following your joy, and is an increasingly important concept when it comes to understanding purpose and establishing what your future legacy could be. Without that clarity of purpose, it is easy to continue moving through life on autopilot and leaving your legacy to chance. By understanding your purpose, it is far more difficult to be knocked off course as you will always be clear which way is forward. By identifying, acknowledging and ultimately honouring your purpose, you have a far better chance to live the life that meets your own aspirations and provides you with the fulfilment that you crave – and ultimately the opportunity to create a meaningful legacy, whatever that might be. When it comes down to it, the harsh reality is that our legacy is all that we have. We cannot take our physical possessions with us and so people’s memories of us and the impact we have that persists beyond our physical existence is what will ultimately define us. The idea of legacy is a central theme within our own industry, working as we do with individuals and families to make intergenerational decisions that will provide a positive future legacy. It’s not always an easy process but we see time and again how people become much more comfortable with what the future may hold when they are committed to something positive that will live on after them. So whether your legacy is about your family, your business or a wider issue that you care deeply about, the process of leaving a legacy has to start now. Find your purpose and do those things that matter now rather than waiting for a more convenient moment – the old saying that we regret the things that we didn’t do rather than the things we did is often heard because it is true. Most importantly, follow your joy, whether that is in your personal or professional life – and if you are lucky it will be in both. Great legacies are not left by angry and unhappy people. Alfred Nobel, of Nobel Prize fame, only bequeathed his fortune to the celebration of innovation after a newspaper accidentally published an obituary about him rather than his recently deceased brother and described him as a ‘merchant of death’ for his work inventing dynamite. Unfortunately, none of us will get to read our own obituaries so in the coming weeks when you hear about the importance of legacy, think about what it is you want to be remembered for and take action to make it happen.

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