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We all want to leave our fingerprints on the world. When we reflect on our mortality, we inevitably wonder how we’ll be remembered and what we want to accomplish before passing away. In other words, what legacy will we leave? In such times, we often find that the things that occupy our time are trivial and unsatisfying. Acknowledging the reality that we will die allows us to put things in perspective and focus our energies on the really important things.

When you pass away, how do you want people to remember you? What are you passionate about? Answering these questions will help you make the most of your life and leave the legacy you wish to. Each of us has a unique opportunity to live a meaningful life and create a legacy that will inspire people. Here are some tips for building a legacy that will make a difference in the lives of others.

Identify the things that are most important to you

small girl in a yellow shirt in between her grandparents placing her hands on their cheeks

Before you start to build your legacy, spend some time in reflection so that you know what direction you want to go. As respected author James Cabell once said, “While it is well enough to leave footprints on the sands of time, it is even more important to make sure that they point in a commendable direction.

Take time to determine your direction. What do you care the most about? What are your strongest beliefs and convictions? You may want to list the values that mean the most to you. Do you want to be known for your integrity, humility, generosity, or trustworthiness? Do you want others to see you as a leader? A hard worker? Someone people can always count on? Consider the person you want to be and write down the traits and values you want to strengthen to become that person.

Live your legacy in everyday life

older man helping a young boy ride a bike

Once you have your values laid out, you can look for ways to live them out and build them in yourself. Thinking about the story you want to leave behind can be helpful, but taking action is what truly creates your legacy. In the rush to create an inspiring and exciting legacy, letting big projects consume you can be tempting. But it’s also important to remember the small things: a kind word, a smile, an opportunity to laugh.

Think about ways you can live out your values. If you want to become more humble, you could find ways to serve others. If you want to be more generous, you can donate your money or time to a cause you care about. If you want to be known as reliable, show up on time and follow up with your commitments. By building the traits most important to you, you can live out your legacy every day.

Learn from your loved ones

group of older people hanging out, drinking tea, and laughing

There’s nothing better than the inspiration you get from the people you love. Do you admire the legacy of your parents or grandparents? Do you have a mentor you look up to or a friend whose life inspires you? Pay attention to why these people’s lives inspire you. You could even interview them to learn more about their story and perspective on life.

As you build your legacy, ask your family and close friends for feedback. Your loved ones know you better than anyone, and they can give you ideas about activities that could contribute to your legacy. If you don’t want to talk openly about your legacy, that’s also fair. But be sure to listen to those around you. Paying attention to the people who motivate you will remind you of what is important as you work to build a meaningful legacy.

Consider ways to pass on your legacy

girl hugging an older man in a green shirt

Once you begin to live out your values, you can start thinking about how you want to communicate them to others. While living out your values will create your legacy, personal projects can highlight the story you’re leaving behind. You may want to write a book about something important to you. Or you could write a letter that contains life lessons you have discovered. You may get active in community service or donate to charities you find meaningful. Invest time or money in causes that you really want to support. By taking action and investing in what you care about, you inspire others to do the same.

Ask how your decisions could potentially impact others

older couple having fun outside

When considering what projects to invest in, try to envision how your different options could affect people. While it is obviously impossible to predict how your actions will be interpreted after you are gone, putting some real thought into the results of your actions is beneficial. On close examination, you may see that some of your projects are more practical and beneficial than others. Since the activities you engage in represent an important part of who you are, make sure you spend your time in the best possible ways.

As you think about your legacy and the mark you want to make on the world, don’t lose sight of why you’re doing everything. Stop periodically to reevaluate your goals and intentions. Building a legacy is a great way to inspire others, but don’t let your desire to be remembered become an obsession that keeps you from living out your values. Focus on what matters most to you, and you can create a positive legacy.

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