When you die, some people will remember you by the imprint you've left in their lives, hearts, and minds. People shape their perceptions of you through your interactions with them. Sometimes, the way you affect others is based on things that you may never be aware of.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- 1. Successes and Failures
- 2. Military Service
- 3. Your Generosity
- 4. Charitable Acts
- 5. Your Community
- 6. Your Family
- 7. Your Business or Career
- 8. Legacy Project
- 9. Your Story
- Examples of Things People May Want to Be Remembered For
For example, past misunderstandings might’ve created hurt feelings left unresolved. Or, on the other hand, the simplest act of kindness on your part might've changed someone's life for the better without you ever knowing.
While you can't control how others choose to remember you, you can decide how you live your life according to your truth, values, and principles. How your legacy or life’s story is remembered can be up to you. It’s made up of a combination of your successes, failures, contributions, words, actions, and other ways you’ve made a lasting impression on others.
1. Successes and Failures
Your successes are measured by others based on the external things they place the greatest value on. Sometimes it has nothing to do with what you consider a success or failure in life. The more public you live your life, the more others have an opportunity to gauge your accomplishments and setbacks.
Things publicized like educational goals, career advancements, and downfalls all make up other's perceptions of your legacy. People will remember you by your successes in life as much as by your failures. In some cases, your failures often overshadow your successes depending on the impact they had on others' lives.
2. Military Service
Military veterans and members of the armed forces leave a lasting legacy in our country's freedom and security. Their lives and legacy are honored through traditional military burial rites provided by the government.
If you are a present or past member of our nation's armed forces, you can extend that legacy by documenting what you've experienced during your time of service. The legacy of heroic events can best be told by those who lived to experience them.
3. Your Generosity
Giving to those in need and helping others without expectation will surely have you remembered as a kind and giving person. However, being generous with others involves more than the act of giving money or other financial measures. What people will most remember about you is how you treated them and how you added value to their lives.
Generosity can be shown in many different ways. One way is how much of your time you give to others to show them that you care and value them in your life. When you make time for someone, it can be more valuable to them than any amount of money you give them.
4. Charitable Acts
The proverb that says “charity begins in the home” is fitting when you’re considering your legacy and how you want others to remember you. It doesn't mean you leave all your money and worldly possessions to only those in your immediate family. This isn't the only way for others to remember a family member once they’ve died.
It means that children learn charity in the home, and what you teach others about kindness and giving is what creates a lasting legacy tied to the meaning of being charitable. Living your life in service to others is what gives meaning to many and what makes a life worth living.
5. Your Community
When you have lived a life committed to helping those around you and in your community, you should bring special attention to this when considering your legacy. Some people give of themselves in very selfless ways and never take credit for their work. When considering end-of-life planning and how others may remember you for helping your community, give yourself credit where you deserve.
If you were instrumental in building a community resource center, consider making a note of it in your end-of-life planning documents. If you devoted your time to feeding the homeless, consider writing it down. If you helped to clean up the public park in your spare time, add this to your legacy so that others can appreciate your efforts and contributions in years to come.
6. Your Family
At death, people tend to focus on the good that you’ve done as a way to remember a family member. We are conditioned to say nice things at the funeral about the person who died. We tend to push aside any negative aspects of their personality as a way to honor and respect the dead.
However, in considering your legacy, think about how you interact with other members of your family, how you might have treated them, and the things you might have said to create hurt and resentment. This can be a great opportunity for you to write a letter of apology and to ask for their forgiveness.
7. Your Business or Career
If you've worked hard to develop a unique career or have successfully built and managed your own business, these are the stories that families and communities take pride in.
Consider leaving behind details of how you managed to find success, what setbacks you encountered along the way, and any special words of wisdom to help those that come after you. If you had to overcome hardship, tell your family about it.
What was it? How did the times you were living in contribute to it? And, how did you overcome it?
8. Legacy Project
When you're unsure how others will remember you, it can be helpful to create a legacy project to tell the story of how you want to be remembered. This can be anything left behind that tells a complete story of your life, your dreams, your goals, and accomplishments. It's never too early to start working on this as it takes a lifetime of living to complete.
You may consider starting your project by telling stories of your past that no one knows about — places you've been, things you've experienced, and romances you've suffered. You might choose to work on this project on your own or invite your family to join you in sharing their family stories.
9. Your Story
Remember that you are the creator of your story. You control the narrative and how you want others to remember the life you lived. If any part of your life has been misunderstood or otherwise miscounted, set it straight.
You may choose to do so while you're still alive, or leave it in the form of a journal to be discovered after you've died. However you choose to tell your story, it's yours to tell, not for others to add the details to the chapters that only you have direct knowledge of.
Examples of Things People May Want to Be Remembered For
People can choose to be remembered for many different things. What’s important to one person can be of the least importance to another. If you’ve yet to determine what you want your legacy to be, the following is a list of things that people may want to be remembered for.
When choosing yours, take stock of all the things in your life that make it uniquely yours.
- Philanthropic contributions. Meaningful philanthropy in your life doesn’t have to be the type that sets out to change the way the world remembers you. The vast majority of us do not lead such extraordinary lives of accomplishment and position. Yet, you can start by giving locally where it matters most in your daily life. Giving to your church, community, local schools, and organizations is all equally important and can change the lives of those whom you interact with the most.
- Elected office. If you were honored with a position of leadership through an elected office or other similar position, consider telling the story of how you became involved with politics. Share the pitfalls and wins of your journey in reaching that position. As generations pass, they’ll have a written or oral history straight from you of their ancestor’s position of leadership and authority to pass along to the younger generation.
- Education. Educational accomplishments are often revered in most families. The higher the education, the higher the praise and admiration. Telling your story of how you chose your educational path and how you set and met your goals may be encouraging to others looking to accomplish the same.
- Military service. As described above, military service is such an honored tradition in our country. If you were a part of the armed forces in any capacity, consider telling your story to others to serve as inspiration. We all have our military members past and present to thank for the freedom and safety that we enjoy living in this country.
- Family contributions. For some people, the most important accomplishments are the contributions they’ve made to the care and wellbeing of their family and home. Taking pride in being the main provider to the family or the main caregiver in the household is also honorable. If this is your main legacy and how you wish to be remembered, tell others about what motivated you in deciding your life’s main purpose and how you set out to accomplish your goals. List what you’re most proud of, and where you wished you could’ve done better.
Your Legacy Lives On
Whatever life you’ve chosen for yourself has great meaning to you and should be memorialized in such a way that others will remember you for it. It’s nearly impossible for others to know what your greatest motivators and accomplishments in life were if you don’t tell them.
A carefully curated lifetime of memories can be accumulated for others to discover after you are gone. Your legacy lives on in the way others remember you and in the way you choose to tell your story in the end.