Your actions can exert a positive influence far into the future.
The choices that you make between now and the day that you depart this world have the power to leave a lasting legacy.
Your legacy might impact your family, your community, or even the world. Choosing to build a legacy will bring purpose to your life.
You can upgrade your motivations beyond meeting daily needs and direct your attention toward fixing a problem, helping others, or supporting your descendants.
- What Does It Mean to Leave a Legacy?
- Why Is It Important to Leave a Legacy?
- I Want to Leave a Legacy: Questions to Ask Yourself
- 29 Ways To Leave A Legacy
- 1. Fund a Trust for Your Children
- 2. Restore a Historical Building
- 3. Sponsor a Park Bench or Playground
- 4. Create a Park
- 5. Fund a Scholarship
- 6. Support Medical Research
- 7. Create a Family Archive
- 8. Create Art
- 9. Start a Tree-Planting Program
- 10. Set a Good Example
- 11. Live an Authentic Life
- 12. Write or Record a Journal
- 13. Commit to Your Family Enthusiastically
- 14. Prepare Legacy Letters
- 15. Do Good Deeds
- 16. Support a Charity
- 17. Volunteer for Causes
- 18. Promote a Cultural Tradition
- 19. Develop Your Career
- 20. Improve Your Workplace
- 21. Organize Family Reunions
- 22. Give Someone a Job
- 23. Donate to a Domestic Violence Shelter
- 24. Respect Others Whenever Possible
- 25. Fight an Injustice
- 26. Donate to Your Local Library
- 27. Leave an Endowment Bequest in Your Will
- 28. Give to Someone You Wronged in Life
- 29. Make a Family Recipe Archive That’s Passed Down
- Leaving a Legacy Examples
- 25 Leaving a Legacy Quotes
- Songs about Leaving a Legacy
What Does It Mean to Leave a Legacy?
In its simplest terms, your legacy is something meaningful that you give to the people who come after you.
You might see the benefits of your actions and gifts while still alive, but the results will continue after your death.
The process of how to leave a legacy starts with identifying your goals.
Why Is It Important to Leave a Legacy?
Knowing what you wish to accomplish can release reliable doses of motivation for decades.
The knowledge that you have the power to shape how people remember you can dissolve distractions and empower you to overcome challenges.
A selfless, grandiose act of historical proportions is not necessary to leave your mark on the world.
Aside from the altruistic aspects of developing your legacy, the process delivers psychological and spiritual rewards. The positive outcomes that you envision could comfort you during difficult days and give you the strength to keep going.
You will act with the knowledge that what you do matters. As you pursue good works, you may ultimately feel like you are enriching your soul.
I Want to Leave a Legacy: Questions to Ask Yourself
If you find the idea of creating your legacy appealing, consider these questions to help you determine what you want to pursue.
1. Is there a problem in my community that I could solve?
2. Is there something that I could do to make things easier for people who face problems similar to mine?
3. What is something meaningful that I could give to my children and grandchildren?
4. What resources do I have at my disposal that I could shift into a positive direction?
5. Do I want to build an organization to promote my goals or work as an individual?
6. Is there a charitable organization that aligns with my values that I could support?
7. Can I influence my professional field and help it evolve into something better?
8. Who do I want to help the most?
9. How can I use my experience to help others avoid costly mistakes?
10. Is there an injustice that I want to confront?
11. What issue motivates me on a truly passionate level?
12. What can I build that will be sustainable for future generations?
29 Ways To Leave A Legacy
1. Fund a Trust for Your Children
One of the most common ways for leaving behind a legacy is to bequeath an inheritance to your heirs. As the benefactor of your loved ones, you could spare them hardship and stress.
2. Restore a Historical Building
Some people find their passions in physical places. Bringing an old home back to its former glory can stimulate the renewal of a whole neighborhood. Your legacy might establish the place as a tourist destination or, at the very least, brighten the day of someone walking by the building.
3. Sponsor a Park Bench or Playground
If you have the means, you could pay for the installation of new park benches or a playground.
If your finances are more modest, then you could organize a fundraising campaign for the project. Your effort will connect countless people with the outdoors.
4. Create a Park
Parks promote healthier and happier communities because they give people access to exercise and nature. You may donate or acquire property and revitalize it as a community green space that will bear your name.
5. Fund a Scholarship
Education is expensive, and all students appreciate anything that lightens their financial burden. Even if you can’t set up a huge scholarship fund, anything that you contribute will make a difference for people who want to improve themselves and contribute to society.
6. Support Medical Research
Individual donations, fundraising activities, or the contribution of your own scientific expertise could reduce human suffering. Therapies and cures for terrible diseases require long and concerted efforts to overcome, and you could play an important part.
7. Create a Family Archive
Children naturally want to know more about their ancestors, but that information slips away amid the demands of daily life. A family archive could take the shape of a book that you write, a collection of family recipes, a scrap book of photos, or genealogical research. Your descendants will treasure the records that you assemble. The archive might even end up in a museum.
8. Create Art
If you have a talent for painting, sculpting, woodworking, writing, or musical composition, then your body of creative works could be your legacy. For your own personal fulfillment, you should embrace your urge to create. When you follow your artistic path, you build a legacy that could inspire pride among your descendants.
9. Start a Tree-Planting Program
Some communities are defined by their trees or their lack of them. Trees can bear fruit, cool down hot urban streets, create habitat for animals, and cleanse pollution from the air. Imagine how the trees that you plant will keep growing when you’re gone.
10. Set a Good Example
You could leave your mark on the world by how you live your life. People have been known to leave a lasting legacy because their actions inspired or encouraged others. Parents, of course, build legacies with the examples that they set for their kids, but your example as a professional, artist, or activist can draw others toward more fulfilling lives.
11. Live an Authentic Life
The urge to conform runs strong within human societies, but those who stand out often have the most compelling legacies. Living a life aligned with your values or dreams will give others the courage to stay true to themselves, which can be a priceless gift.
12. Write or Record a Journal
The details of your day-to-day life will fascinate your descendants. Your journal entries or video messages can build a connection between you and your descendants that remains strong when you are gone.
13. Commit to Your Family Enthusiastically
Maintaining a relationship with a spouse or meeting the needs of children challenges everyone.
The self-esteem of family members will stay strong when they know that you serve them because you want to and not because you view it as an unavoidable duty.
14. Prepare Legacy Letters
With legacy letters, people communicate messages of pride, encouragement, personal beliefs, and advice to loved ones. You can arrange for the letters to be distributed upon your death, and the recipients will feel valued because you cared to send them a final message of love and support.
15. Do Good Deeds
Not everyone can make a memorable splash with multi-million-dollar donations, but a life filled with small acts of kindness will leave your mark on the world. Raking leaves for an elderly neighbor, rescuing a pet, emergency babysitting for a single parent, or helping someone get a job are all things that will add up to a legacy.
16. Support a Charity
Many organizations already exist where you can build a legacy. Your financial gifts and volunteer labor can help a charitable organization achieve its mission.
17. Volunteer for Causes
When you decide to make room in your schedule for volunteering, you’ll nurture the gratitude and appreciation of those who benefit from your efforts. All communities have ongoing volunteering opportunities. Build a legacy by being someone who always shows up.
18. Promote a Cultural Tradition
Beautiful cultural traditions include music, dance, language, crafts, cooking, and much more. If you possess cultural knowledge, start a class or club so that you can transfer the skills to the next generation.
19. Develop Your Career
The pursuit of new credentials and knowledge could help you attain a higher position. You could eventually influence your field by improving techniques and standards and mentoring new talent.
20. Improve Your Workplace
People like to complain about their jobs, but you could focus on solving problems instead. You might spearhead a leadership program, address safety hazards, or develop efficient alternatives to wasteful practices.
21. Organize Family Reunions
Your relatives will value the effort that you put into organizing annual gatherings. You can foster new family traditions and provide a venue that helps aunts, uncles, and cousins forge lifelong bonds.
22. Give Someone a Job
You could give someone a chance and extend a job offer that could pave the way for that person to build a better life.
Even that first job you give to a teenager to mow your lawn could put a person on the path to a responsible life.
23. Donate to a Domestic Violence Shelter
Those who suffer abuse behind closed doors often have nobody to turn to. Your donations of money, time, supplies, or even real estate to a charity that helps people escape domestic violence will serve as a hand up to those living in fear.
24. Respect Others Whenever Possible
For most people, the world is a snobby, insensitive place. Your willingness to meet others on an equal footing will nurture kindness and gratitude in them. This is how to leave a legacy when you lack financial means.
25. Fight an Injustice
Your greatest legacy might emerge when you defy despair and apathy and demand justice. Although campaigning against pollution, discrimination, or a wrongful conviction might feel hopeless to many, your determination could correct an injustice inflicted on a person or community.
26. Donate to Your Local Library
Flowers are lovely and comforting — but they don’t last long.
If you want to leave a tangible, lasting legacy, request that people donate books instead of flowers. Then, give those volumes to your local library in honor of a family member who passed on. Consider getting a plaque to commemorate the gift.
This is a lovely idea for teachers who’ve positively impacted their communities.
27. Leave an Endowment Bequest in Your Will
Consider leaving an endowment bequest in your will. Pick one foundation or charity — or spread the wealth. These types of financial gifts can be a boon for non-profits and fund needed, valuable programs for years to come.
Some people choose to attach their names, while others do it anonymously.
28. Give to Someone You Wronged in Life
We’re all humans, which means we’ve all hurt or wronged someone at some point. It may have been unintentional; regardless, the impact caused another person physical or emotional harm.
And sometimes, it’s excruciatingly difficult to say sorry in person. So why not leave the person something in your will? It could be money, an object, or even just a note apologizing and explaining your regret.
29. Make a Family Recipe Archive That’s Passed Down
Are you a family that loves to cook? Then starting a familial recipe archive may be the perfect legacy for your clan. Imagine how special it will be when your great-great-great grandkids pull out one of your recipes 100 years from now.
Time capsules handed down from generation to generation are another idea that bonds the past, present, and future.
Leaving a Legacy Examples
What do you want your legacy to be? You’ll be inspired by these examples of legacies that have made a significant impact.
Environment and Human Rights
The influence that an individual can exert for generations is potentially limitless. Consider the late Wangari Maathai of Kenya. She won the Nobel Peace Prize for environmentalism and human rights. Her Green Belt Movement organized Kenyans to plant 30 million trees.
Nelson Mandela endured 27 years in prison for defying apartheid in South Africa, and now his name is recognized around the globe. He won the Nobel Peace Prize and encouraged South Africans to embrace forgiveness after years of bitter struggle.
Sanitation and Hygiene
The sanitation and hygiene associated with modern medical practices are direct descendants of the tireless work of British nurse Florence Nightingale. Her experiences with wounded soldiers during the Crimean War led to medical reforms around the world. She eventually founded a nursing school.
Dr. Jonas Salk has spared generations of parents from the fear that their children would contract polio and possibly die. In 1953, he developed the polio vaccine that has nearly eradicated the disease.
The alternating current available in your electrical outlets came from the genius of inventor Nikola Tesla. The Serbian immigrant to the United States invented the primary infrastructure that runs the entirety of the modern electricity grid.
The millions who have visited Yosemite National Park have the 19th-century naturalist John Muir to thank for protecting the location from development. His articles about the wonders of the Sierra landscape and political outreach ultimately preserved precious environments for future generations.
Computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee developed the technology for the World Wide Web. This platform brought to the masses the digital connections and exchanges made possible by the internet. Widespread participation on the global web has unleashed paradigm-shifting forces that continue to unfold to this day.
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25 Leaving a Legacy Quotes
Read through these legacy quotes for some additional inspiration as you consider how to leave your legacy.
1. “That is your legacy on this Earth when you leave this Earth: how many hearts you touched.” —Patti Davis
2. “You make your mark by being true to who you are and letting that be your staple.” —Kat Graham
3. “The legacy of heroes is the memory of a great name and the inheritance of a great example.” —Benjamin Disraeli
4. “People who think you could wave a magic wand and the legacy of the past will be over are blind.” —Ruth Bader Ginsburg
5. “When you have told anyone you have left him a legacy, the only decent thing to do is die at once.” —Samuel Butler
6. “The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children” —Philip Carr-Gomm
7. “We must begin thinking like a river if we are to leave a legacy of beauty and life for future generations.” —David Brower
8. “The choices we make about the lives we live determine the kinds of legacies we leave.” —Tavis Smiley
9. “Pride and power fall when the person falls, but discoveries of truth form legacies that can be built upon for generations.” —Criss Jami
10. “Make a difference, change the game for the better, leave a legacy, be a guide that someone else can follow and make better, and then someone else will follow that and make that better.” —Carlos Wallace
11. “What we carry defines who we are and the effort we make is our legacy.” —Mitch Albom
12. “Do you want to be remembered for the money you made or the life you live?” —Richie Norton
13. “Strive to leave a legacy beyond your limitations and far beyond the expectations of others.” —Stewart Stafford
14. “A fool is a man who disregards legacy.” —Daniel V Chappell
15. “Deposit your best in people, not your bank account, to leave a legacy that counts.” —Terrie Davoll Hudson
16. “Don’t just build a career, build a legacy.” —Abhijit Naskar
17. “Legacy is not what will be left of us once we’ve gone through our life. It’s what’s left of us that’s left standing once life’s gone through our life.” —Craig D. Lounsbrough
18. “Our greatest legacy is what we do to change ourselves.” —Alan Maiccon
19. “If I leave this world with only kindness as my legacy, it will be enough.” —L.R. Knost
20. “Legacy is greater than currency.” —Gary Vaynerchuk
21. “A man’s legacy is determined by how the story ends.” —Leonardo DiCaprio
22. “Do whatever you gotta do to chase your legacy every second of your life.” —Ray Lewis
23. “What you do is your history. What you set in motion is your legacy.” —Leonard Sweet
24. “What we are most passionate about becomes our legacy.” —Mike Crump
25. “Yesterday is gone, live for today and leave a legacy for tomorrow.” —Ifeanyi Enoch Onuoha
Songs about Leaving a Legacy
Here are some well-known songs about leaving a legacy, changing the world, and helping the people you love. Each of these songwriters has left a legacy themselves with these beautiful songs.
“Man in the Mirror” — lyrics by Glen Ballard and Siedah Garrett
I’m starting with the man in the mirror
I’m asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself, and then make a change
“If You’re Out There” — lyrics by John Legend
If you’re ready we can shake the world
It starts within
We don’t have to wait for destiny
We should be the change that we want to see
If you’re out there
If you’re out there
And you’re ready now
Say it loud
Scream it out
If you’re out there
Sing along with me
If you’re out there
I’m dying to believe that you’re out there
Stand up and say it loud
If you’re out there
Tomorrow’s starting now
“One Man Can Change the World” — lyrics by Big Sean
I hope you learn to make it on your own
And if you love yourself just know you’ll never be alone
I hope that you get everything you want and that you chose
I hope that it’s the realest thing that you ever know
Hope you get the pretty girls, that’s pretty and everything
Million dollar cribs havin’ million dollar dreams
And when you get it all just remember one thing
Remember one thing
That one man could change the world
“My Way” — lyrics by Paul Anka
For what is a man, what has he got
If not himself, then he has naught
Not to say the things that he truly feels
And not the words of someone who kneels
The record shows I took all the blows
And did it my way
“Leave Your Mark” — lyrics by Jesse Harris and Jessie Baylin
Leave your mark
Just leave your mark on me
Leave a mark
Just leave a mark on me
So if we part
I can still remember you
Leave a mark
Just leave it somewhere on me
“Because You Loved Me” — lyrics by Diane Warren
You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me
Make a Plan to Make a Difference
What form your legacy takes depends on your personal goals, values, and resources.
Regardless of the direction that you take, the process for how to leave a legacy begins with setting goals and building a plan to achieve them.
Once you assign a purpose to your life, you gain freedom from apathy, boredom, or depression. Leaving behind a legacy begins with this purpose and your passion for acting on it.
If you have difficulty getting started, imagine what you wish people would say about you at your funeral. Although the exercise is macabre, it can reveal a meaningful direction for your life and provide help and hope for future generations.