A successful legacy is one that passes meaning and memory on to the next generations. This always requires reflecting on one’s life and formative experiences.
Unfortunately, it’s often overlooked. Why? Because we’ve never really been taught how to think about legacy so it feels like an insurmountable task. But it doesn’t have to complicated. Sharing your story is the perfect place to start—as long as you don’t let these three myths get in the way.
Myth #1: My life isn’t that interesting.
You don’t have to have invented sliced bread for your life stories to matter. We all have stories to tell. These stories naturally reflect our values, history, and traditions… this is incredibly meaningful material. It’s where the core data that informs your legacy can be found.
Life’s challenges are universal. Two people born a hundred years apart face the same questions on how to make a good life for themselves. What is your version of that? Don’t you think your own experience would be useful to your family? Storytelling is the vehicle to teach others in a compelling, non-preachy way.
Myth #2: My kids/grandkids don’t care about my stories.
It’s absolutely normal for young people to be more interested in the here and now rather than their family history. Most of us were like that. But when they grow up and have their own children, they will care a lot more. They’ll want to talk about you to their kids. If you’re lucky, you’ll be around to help with that. If not, what message do you want to leave these future generations?
What would you say to a future great-grandchild who wants to know where you were when the U.S. Capitol was stormed in January 2021? Or how about during the Civil Rights movement? Or during historical military events, whether you served in them or not? I bet you would have more to say than you realize.
Myth #3: It’s an ego trip.
This myth is the most damaging and untrue. No one wants to be thought of as self-centered. But sharing your personal history is the opposite of that.
The process of reflecting on your life and giving that information to your family is one of the greatest gifts you can give. It’s an act of love. Your family will love reading your story because they love you. It really is that simple.
It won’t matter if you make a spelling mistake, it won’t matter if your writing isn’t perfect. You’re not trying to make the New York Times best-seller list—you’re trying to leave a deeply impactful message about yourself for the people you love.
Even if it were an ego trip, think about it this way. Would you like to read 100 pages written by your one of your grandparents or great-grandparents? Of course you would! Would you care if that person came across as someone with an inflated ego? Probably not. It is the connection and continuity between generations that is important and what grounds us in the community that is our own family.
There is really no reason to miss out on sharing your legacy with your family. If you need help getting started, try downloading my free memoir-writing worksheet.
If you prefer to talk about it don't hesitate to call 215-645-7766 or email me at clemence @memoirsandmore.com. Whether or not we end up working together, I’m sure you’ll find it useful to discuss what you have in mind.