You Do Not Have to Leave a Legacy and You Do Not Have to Leave Your Mark on the World

We get the message pretty early on in life that we need to do something big, achieve a lot, make great strides, leave a legacy, save the world.

And while we’re at it, we should come up with a cure for cancer and end world hunger, too.

We get the message that the people who do these things have achieved the most. That these are the greatest humans. That this the level we should all aim for.

I call bullshit.

I suppose the intended message is that we should live in such a way that we solve the world’s problems. And that we can—and should want to—leave our mark on the world by means of achieving great things.

I heard this just recently from someone I admire who was was talking about doing things that help people, which is obviously a very good thing to do.

And then came the charge to “leave your mark on the world.”

Helping people is super if that’s what you’re called to do. Leaving your mark on the world is irrelevant.

Who does “leaving a legacy” benefit?

What difference does it make that we “leave a legacy” or “leave our mark on the world”?

It’s either a grab at immortality, or it’s just vanity.

Either way, what does it matter that we go to our grave having left some part of ourselves behind? Having left a legacy?

We’re going that way with or without leaving a damned thing behind, just by virtue of being a human on the earth.

It’s true that some people live big, broad-reaching lives.

And sure, leaving out of here in a wake of glory will make your family proud, might mean an inheritance for someone, and might mean there’s a statue of you somewhere and your name is in the history books.

But all that should be by-products of you just living your authentic life. Just living the best you can, which may not be that big in someone’s estimation, but again… irrelevant.

Here’s a great legacy to leave—teaching the importance of these things:

  • Being true to ourself and the inner wisdom that guides us
  • Being kind
  • Respecting other humans
  • Respecting and living in harmony with nature and our planet
  • Being generous-hearted
  • Keeping our curiosity very much alive and kicking
  • Having fun
  • Learning things just out of curiosity
  • Smiling
  • Laughing
  • Reaching for things that light us up
  • Enjoying our meals
  • Enjoying our moments
  • Being peaceful
  • Being loving

It sounds noble that we ought to leave a legacy or leave our mark on the world, but it’s an empty goal.

We take nothing with us when we head out of here—at least not that we know of, anyway—and once we’ve moved on, the best “legacy” we can leave is having lived as honestly and authentically as we could manage.

Leaving a legacy should be the other way around

If we simply make living our life authentically, peacefully, and lovingly our aim, then the leaving-a-legacy part will fall into place.

It’s backwards to live the other way around.

It’s also a set-up.

It’s a big let down when you don’t end up winning a Pulitzer for your big world-saving work. Or being a huge, big-time lawyer or rock star or athlete.

Or it’s a pretty big disappointment when you don’t even end up being just the mayor of your town. Or a manager at your job.

Meanwhile regular ol’ sincere humans go about regular ol’ lives and miss the boat on being “extraordinary.”

Or do they?

Are things like achievement and leaving a legacy the point of life?

So let’s flip it the other way—leaving our legacy; leaving our mark on the world ought to mean something deeper and richer than achieving a lot or getting to a high level of whatever.

And leaving our legacy shouldn’t be dependent on something that carries a load of guilt like “get out there and save people” does.

Great things happen readily and easily when we live like the ball of fire and life force we are. When we side-step the should-s and ought-to-s that get loaded on us from so early on.

Just live your life.

Learn to live as true to who you are and what your inner guidance leads you to as you can.

Go about your day. Go about your life. Enjoy your moments and don’t fret over the ones you don’t.

Listen for what makes your heart sing or just piques your curiosity, and go toward those things.

Some people do leave a legacy.

Some people do leave their mark on the world.

But none of this should be why we do what we do, not in the least.


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