by Wendy Keller, Asker of questions
A friend in his mid-70s called me yesterday. Referring to a renowned mutual acquaintance of ours who just turned 80, he asked me “Do you think he thinks much about what kind of legacy he wants to leave?” Considering that the acquaintance is famous and has made a huge impact on the health of millions of people, I thought it was an odd question.
That’s when I realized this: my friend is comparing himself to that other guy and finds himself coming up short. This friend has been groping for his destiny for the 25 years I’ve known him.
That got me thinking about this oft-used term “legacy.” I think it is baloney! I think trying to leave a legacy is completely ridiculous. “Legacy” is ego. Worrying about it, planning it, striving for it- is ego. Nothing more than that.
Who cares if people remember you after you’re gone? This isn’t ancient Egypt where if people stop saying your name, you’ll die in the afterlife.
Most people would agree that trees are good to have. They hold down topsoil, purify the air, give birds a safe place to sleep, and they provide shade. Poems and odes have been written to trees. I have a “personal tree” I commune with that has supported me through some difficult times in my life. I like trees. I think they are valuable.
But trees don’t think to themselves, “Hmmm, I’d like to leave a better legacy. What should it be?” No. Trees just ARE. They do what trees do. They do it to the best of their ability, every day. An apple tree gives the planet a different gift than a Noble fir. But both are valuable. They don’t envy one another. An apple tree planted in difficult conditions gives differently than one planted in optimal ones. That’s just What Is.
Because you are human and not a tree, you likely have a map in your head, a “should be” ideal image of yourself and your “legacy.” You have rules embedded by your parents, your culture, your religion, and your society. But what if you could lay all that aside and just be what you are? What if you chose to be your best self instead of what you think your best self should be? What if you let yourself be free? Imagine allowing yourself to be free to act in alignment with the purest intention of your heart! What greater benefit could you possibly give this Earth during the time you’re walking on it?
What if you let yourself be free – free to be all that you truly are without letting the rules and images of what you “should” do and be constrict you and make you feel less than adequate?
In his book “The Acorn Principle” my friend Jim Cathcart wrote, “If you tell a little oak tree to work really hard and use massive self-discipline so that maybe it can become a redwood, because redwoods are “better”, what’s it going to be when it grows up? A really insecure oak tree!” Are you like that? Are you trying to force yourself to be a great artist when all you really want to be is someone who does art as a hobby? Are you trying to be a great salesman when really, your desire is to be a mechanic?
Why stress out over your “contribution” and “how you’ll be remembered” when all you’ve got for sure is right now? In this moment, how do you treat the person sitting next to you on the bus? Your co-worker? Your body? Your mind? Your kids? Your talent? That’s your legacy right there, right now.
Unchain yourself from the guilt that you aren’t doing something right, that you’re not leaving the “right” legacy, and BE your real self. Just that. That’s all the legacy you’re here to give – the genuine best of you.
It is enough to find the true, beautiful fullness of your soul and live it fully every day.
Would you like to have some loving, supportive, non-judgmental, caring coaching?