Written by: Dolly Garlo
We come into the world alone – and we leave the same way … the time we spend in-between … time spent alive, sharing, learning … together … is all that makes life worth living.” ~Jean Grey, Marvel’s X-Men
I was 45 when thoughts of legacy first came into focus. Many things had come together, but others had started to unravel. Many people travel a similar path – now possibly at even younger ages. It often includes both financial and estate planning. A broader, conscious approach can produce a personal legacy derived from a happy and welllived life that also eliminates the angst, doubt, questions and worry about making the right decisions along the way.
As a critical care nurse, I had the profound experience of saving lives (or helping hospice dignified deaths), and then pursued a career in law to have more of an impact, and improve my financial situation. Building my own health care law firm pretty much by the seat of my pants was a success that necessitated putting my professional practice before just about every other part of life. I married, but also experienced the pains of divorce. As a daughter, I participated in my parents’ estate and end-of-life treatment decision planning. That had its own set of challenges. As a business owner, I started to tire of a problem-solving career based in conflict, and had to figure out how best to move in a new direction. I found the emerging arena of business and life coaching, and recombined things once again.
If change is the one constant in life, reinvention is the process. These experiences made me realize just how much easier it could have been with the right objective guidance to make the significant decisions involved. It just didn’t exist, especially to address the influence and impact I truly wanted to have – the stuff of legacy.
Your Life and How You Live It Is The Key That Unlocks Your Legacy
This is your one life. It is defined by your choices in that dash between the dates of birth and departure from this physical plane – two events over which we have the least control. Aside from the outside forces of competition and comparison, this is about personal best and figuring out how to live this one life as fully as possible. Ultimately, it transcends our other relationships, except perhaps the one with our maker.
Each person’s life touches the world in a way only that person can. This is your unique brilliance – the light that shines from the life energy of your exclusive DNA. That is far more important to legacy creation than “who gets my stuff when I die?” It is a question of “who gets the benefit of my life energy while I am alive?” And how. And whether you enhance or deplete that ultimate gift. Because what lasts flows from that.
In the course of my legal career, I had the unique opportunity to provide pro bono representation of unknown heirs in intestate succession cases – where someone had died with so little they never wrote a will. I found that even they had a significant legacy: not their stuff, they were remembered for the profound impact they made on others. That need not be based on wealth or tangible assets.
Life is short. The fastest way to discover your purpose for being here is to identify the people, places and things you love and that truly move you the most. From there you can live as fully as possible using your preferred interests and skills, and whatever resources you have to contribute, with greater certainty that just being who you are indeed has meaning as part of the grand design. That may be the best way to create the legacy you will ultimately leave for the benefit of future generations. Because everyone has a legacy, whether they think they do or not.
Each of us has that superpower. The key is to recognize and exercise it, avoiding our own versions of kryptonite that can cripple the process. That is where professional assistance can be crucial – financial, legal, and especially for making underlying personal choices. Sometimes professional therapy is needed, but more often it calls for what I call life, leadership, and legacy planning.
Honor The Privilege of Life and Legacy Through Joy and Gratitude
Many issues of personal life, family, defining success, financial security and independence, work and lifestyle, wealth, inheritance, meaning, purpose, and legacy begin to arise at midlife or mid-career. From my own and clients’ experiences, my work evolved into helping individuals systematically and consciously address them all at pivotal points of life change and craft a plan to instill confidence that nothing important is missed.
I call this planning approach whole life wellness, a method to help people truly have it all and make a positive impact – which is possible.
It’s not really about having it all (everything – where would you put it?) and not necessarily all at once. It is what feels abundant for you: having your all. Most people don’t want everything anyway, and “more, more, more” is not a strategy; it is an endless, expensive, and unsatisfying quest.
Acquiring personal and real property, and having significant personal experiences, unfolds as life evolves. At mid-career and beyond, people often start to wonder how to preserve what they’ve built, change direction to experience greater fulfillment, simplify, and divest. And make a bigger difference.
Pursuing deeply held personal aspirations – with work, people, and community involvements most important to you – provides the foundation for happiness and satisfaction and results in your highest and best contributions. Too often these deep personal aspirations are held in check, kept as secrets, bound by taboos, or limited by doubts about being able to have what we truly want in life – which, after a point, is not about more stuff.
Openly admitting and satisfying these desires results in a true appreciation of one’s unique life – a genuine sense of joy and gratitude. It allows for a continual running toward experience instead of the slower trial and error approach of experimenting with unknowns and fleeing from what we don’t really want. It also makes it easier to meaningfully share it, both in life and how we benefit those we touch later at the family, local, national, or even international level.
While people utilize financial and estate planning to make and preserve wealth, they too rarely explore a lifeplanning process that informs those efforts. With it, legacy can unfold in myriad unexpected ways beyond mere asset transfer. That can include conveying personal values, experiences, places, learning, histories – intellectual, social, and environmental capital, not just financial capital – though a number of means.
Actively pursuing that – rather than just striving, dreaming, or thinking about it – is what allows you to both live it and leave the world a better place for having done so. That is the change work of reinvention, toward your personal best, that leads to legacy level contribution you truly enjoy.
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