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What Is Your Legacy?

I found myself in conversation with a friend discussing the second edition of a professional book released last year. I commented that updating the book had not been a part of my plan for my third act, but it was a professional legacy. That conversation started me thinking more about my legacy and how I might use my third act to create and define that legacy. I use the term “the third act” to refer to that time after we transition from building a career and/or growing a family (our second act) into an intentionally designed stage in our lives which brings us meaning and purpose, opportunity to engage in our passions, enjoy the everyday pleasures and a sense of appreciation for the learning and rewards of our lives.

LegacyIn the past, I have often thought of legacy as the remembrance of a person who has died, the personal and, perhaps, professional memories of has left us…what others remember. More recently, I have come to understand that we can leave an intentional legacy designed before the end of our lives. Thus, the idea that updating my book for a second edition, is an intentional legacy. It is a concrete and practical way of providing guidance to future young professionals. It also provides me a way of reflecting on my own experience, capturing my learning from both the successes and failures, and offering some insight and perhaps even some wisdom.

Since I have been thinking about my professional legacy, I realized that another professional legacy I am leaving is The 3rd Act program I have co-created. As the bulging demographic of the baby boomers now reaching 60 continues, they will be responding to the question that poet Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” In researching the work on positive aging for the 3rd Act, we found that investing ourselves in activities or causes outside ourselves, is one of the most significant contributions to healthy aging. Thus I hope The 3rd Act, as one of my legacies, supports the quest of coming mature generations.

Many who are focused on a family legacy put together family trees, document family stories and create family videos to leave for future generations. For me, at the personal level, time with my grandsons, sharing family stories and taking them on adventures is a legacy I hope they remember time with Grandma for future guidance and reminiscing. My next third act writing project is to write a historical novel based on the lives of my grandparents.

And finally, I will mention my will, the document that many of us think of when we hear the term legacy. Somehow for me, this is the least significant component of my legacy. My material and financial resources bear little connection to the person I am, the contribution I have made to learning, making the world a better place or raising a daughter and influencing her children. For now, I hope my professional book, The 3rd Act and my personal time spent with family and community organizations are all memorable legacies. And there may be more to come.

What is your legacy? Have you given thought to intentionally creating your professional or personal legacy? What will you leave for your family and the generations that follow? What is your third act action plan for your legacy?

(A longer version was published in “Seasonings: A Journal of Senior OD Practitioners”, Volume 7, Number 1, Winter 2010.)
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