When your life is over, how do you want your family members to remember you? When we decide to leave a worthwhile legacy to those we love most, the decisions of how to allot our time and use our resources become easier. The thought of leaving a legacy clarifies our directive and narrows our focus. What legacy do you want to leave your family? How will others remember you after you've passed away?
Religious leader Henry B Eyring said, "Whoever you are, and wherever you may be, you hold in your hands the happiness of more people than you can now imagine." It's easy to get caught up in the erroneous belief that, unless we possess great wealth or power, our lives mean very little. However, we all have a sphere of influence that extends well beyond ourselves, and we have within our power the capacity to change lives.
In a recent address, Eyring shares how knowing the history of his ancestors keeps him working toward creating a family legacy for his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. As we look toward the past, it becomes increasingly clear how we can have a positive impact on the future. When our lives are over and done, the time we invested into our families will matter much more than the material goods and prestige we accumulated. Worldly accomplishments are fleeting, but dedicated fathers and mothers are celebrated for generations.
It's in the little things
In our day-to-day lives, we can start building our family legacy today. It's the simple memories, not the grand gestures, that will stick out most to our children after they are grown and gone. Consistent quality time spent with our kids and grandchildren, although seemingly insignificant, will become the fabric of their memories. Family dinners, holiday observance, and daily acts of deliberate parenting will do more to form a family heritage than any vacation money can buy. Our families need us on a daily basis, free from distraction and fully engaged in the moment.
Think back to the daily activities your parents and grandparents shared with you as a child. They are probably very simple things, like cooking together, attending church, supervising homework, and spending time outside. In today's world, we often try to do more thinking this will give our kids an advantage. We sign up for endless extracurricular activities, and we become so busy that family time goes by the wayside. Ask yourself, are our family activities contributing to our family legacy or distracting us from our true goals? Chances are, more is not necessarily better.
Share your best self
The best way to leave a family legacy is to give the best of yourself. Share your personal, as well as your ancestral, stories with your children and grandchildren. Letting your kids know where they come from will help them decide where they are going. Create a strong moral fiber for your family, complete with traditions, rules and expectations. In an increasingly disconnected world, the next generation needs to feel grounded to those who have gone before.
Most importantly, leave your children with what Eyring calls a "heritage of hope." Give your children a reason to believe that tomorrow will be even better than the past because they are a part of it. Our future depends largely on our children's recognition of the past and their willingness to carry on our family legacy. We determine, day by day, how our family will remember us after we've gone. Let's make today the day we do something to build our personal and family legacies.