In the worlds of architecture, grand garden design and world peace, the likes of Antonio Gaudi, Capability Brown and Mahatma Ghandi all acted with the intention of leaving a legacy: something of value for others to benefit from. Across many areas of society, there are historical examples of acts with the intention to promote the greater good and leave something of benefit for others – to leave the world a better place for having been here.
From social projects, such as the establishment of The National Trust by Octavia Hill, to businesses built for future generations to be passed financial security and opportunity.
The idea of legacy and making our mark while we are here: acting with positive intent and considering the broader consequences of our actions in order to better influence more positive outcome, seems to be something of the past. The tighter the spotlight focuses on society, the more one notices the trend of ‘peacocking’ behaviours: using social media and social opportunities to show off: to steal the limelight for self gratification. You notice more selfish acts in commerce, profit, leadership and human behaviour, too. Are these simply the worst of human behaviours being highlighted or has there really been a neglect in considering what we do and the impact it has? It’s a difficult question to answer because some may immediately use climate change as an example of how we have, guilty as charged, left a terrible legacy for future generations – one we are admittedly trying to fix (or if you’re Donald Trump, happy to ignore), however, we only know what we know. Our knowledge now is all we have – we don’t have the benefit of hindsight. Yet.
However, the very action of thinking about legacy: challenging our actions, thoughts and behaviours, at work and at home, is the very simple beginning of making seismic shifts in what we choose to do. Acting with purpose and with the intention to leave a legacy, however small, changes much about our thoughts and actions. In turn our approach to others changes: we are more likely to collaborate, embrace creative thinking, value team work and positively challenge the status quo with a selfless attitude. I doubt that many of us would acknowledge that we are selfish – most people when asked will identify with positive character traits and dismiss the negative ones because, well, it’s not like we try to be bad people! The reality, however, is if we were honest, from time to time – all-be-it unintentionally, different. We could do things that might help us a little less and others a little more; we could take part in things that will leave a positive legacy not just for us but for others, too.
Now wouldn’t that small change make for an extraordinary difference?