Understanding Our Legacy
What will our legacy be? It’s a question Victoria Cheng, a Singapore based writer, was pondering in a recent blogpost, What’s your end game? Victoria was reflecting on career goals, finding our passions and understanding legacies. I’d like to explore a little more what the word legacy might mean for us. Often, when we talk […]
What will our legacy be? It’s a question Victoria Cheng, a Singapore based writer, was pondering in a recent blogpost, What’s your end game? Victoria was reflecting on career goals, finding our passions and understanding legacies. I’d like to explore a little more what the word legacy might mean for us.
Often, when we talk about legacy, we describe things we make, that we hope might live on after us. Businesses, works of art, giant stone statues that face out in to the Pacific Ocean, whatever it is, the focus tends to be on things, which will somehow act as monuments to our talent, success, effort, or just the sheer fact that for a few, fleeting moments, we walked the face of this earth.
Another Way To Understand Legacy
Of course, another way many understand legacy is not just in terms of things, but people. This sense of legacy is focussed on the generation, or generations that will follow us; how successful will they be, how well will they live and how helpful will the systems we have built be for them?
Pyschologists have a term for this kind of focus on legacy – Generativity – which literally means creativity across generations. Drawing from the work of Erik Erikson in the 1950s, generativity is a way of understanding the drive many have, as they get older, to try and make the world a better place specifically by investing in other people, particularly younger people.
Staring a family is, for many, the most obvious example of generativity. Parents naturally invest a lot in their children’s future and since ancient times, family has been seen as a vehicle for carrying on our legacy, keeping the family name and traditions alive. But, teaching, writing, mentoring and even starting charities and NGOs can also be ways to engage in generativity-styled legacy-building.
The Connection Between Legacy And Freedom
Sometimes generativity is used in a slightly different way (by scientists and philosophers) to describe the ability to create new and original content. It’s much like the stage where we learn to work without depending on teachers or supervision, to stand on our own two creative feet, so to speak. I believe the two meanings of generativity are connected. Once we start to rise above the system that nurtured us, once we start to really understand how it works, we become concerned for its health and for what it does to those who follow us.
Generativity, as a way to develop a legacy, is really built on hope and trust. Hope that the world can become a better place and trust that the goals of making a better place can be carried out by other people, who might even be better and more talented than we are. It’s a game for those who cherish the value of life and have seen enough of it to understand the good amazing, talented people can do, when given the freedom to reach their potential.