“I Am What Survives Me.”

March 1, 2020

“I Am What Survives Me.”

May 29, 2023

Developmental psychologist Erik Erikson offered the five questions below to help define one’s legacy. He wrote about “generativity” as being an adult’s concern for and commitment to promoting the well-being of future generations.

The philosophical roots of generativity date back to Socrates’ discussion of “birth in beauty” in Plato’s Symposium. The psychosocial challenge of “the middle ages” is, do we turn in the direction of generativity, or do we stagnate into a self-directed focus on our personal needs?

Here are five questions that could help you define your legacy—the perfect jumping-off point to discover what you will leave behind.

1. Who will be the primary beneficiaries of what I’m leaving the world?
2. What are the less obvious, but more valuable gifts I’m leaving?
3. How am I thinking, preparing, and offering this legacy?
4. When would it be most poignant or powerful to ritualize my offer to those who will outlast me?
5. Why am I doing this, and why is it meaningful to me? If it’s for my reputation, I’ve got the wrong idea.

For those of you who think this subject is too morbid, or you’re far off from your last rites, perhaps you could imagine your legacy at work, and how you would feel once you knew you were moving on. Or how you would feel in a mentee relationship? Or as the leader of a local community non-profit, when you have a finite duration as the Board Chair? Remind yourself that what survives you is your impact on others, whether you’re still on the planet or you’ve turned to dust.

Go deeper with a workshop, in person or online.

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