I am super fascinated by the idea of legacy: of leaving my children’s children’s children something of value. Whether an idea or a name or a tradition, legacy is the means by which people live forever. So it comes as no surprise to me when I meet new people, ask them what they do and get responses like, “I’m a doctor. My father was a doctor and his father before him” or “My mother is a brilliant engineer. I’m an engineer and my son is becoming an engineer” or “My father was a screenwriter and his father was a comedian and I’m an actress.” The logic of legacy makes perfect sense to me.
We become what we see.
We become what we believe we’re capable of and we look to the people who nurtured and raised us as the example of what’s possible in our own lives.
It isn’t about genetics so much as it’s about looking at who raised you and feeling confident that you can AT LEAST accomplish what they did…
That’s the upside of legacy.
The downside of legacy is that, at the same time that we pass on good things, we also pass on bad things: limiting beliefs, addictions, insecurities, deep faith in scarcity, and, scarier than all the ones I mentioned before, ancestral fear.
Fear gets passed on from generation to generation. Whether it’s the fear of not being able to make “end’s meet” because your grandmother lived in a 3rd world country where she barely ate each day then moved to the US as an adult and hoarded food for her children who then ate past hunger and grew up overweight, overfed and, yet, still malnourished who then brought you into the world who, not hungry for food, finds him or herself absolutely starving for life.
Can you see how generational fear can trap us from one generation to the next?
It is very easy to distract our daily lives with “trying” to get to the next level, with fighting to rise to a level that our children can be proud of so that, one day, our children will be able to meet someone on the street and respond to the question, “What do you do?” by saying, “I’m a successful entrepreneur like my mother and like her mother before her” or “I’m a New York Times bestselling author like my father whose father was also a writer.” The distraction comes in the fact that we think that “doing the work” is what will build THE legacy we desire. But, if we don’t investigate the legacy of fear that we have been born into, what all of our hard work is doing is setting our children up to grow in a garden full of weeds that NEVER go away.
Ancestral fear is not the enemy of legacy so much as it is a deterrent to the fulfillment of the legacy you desire.
Your children will not have the room to live their greatest dreams if they are unconsciously being held back by generational fears that have been left unchecked, unseen, unknown and unhealed. If what we want is a legacy that our great-great-great grandchildren can be proud of, where we begin is not with what we “do” but with the way in which we exist. The moment we face the fears that have been passed down to us is the moment we create a new vehicle through which we evolve the fear from limiting belief to courageous calling.
To guarantee a legacy of purpose and value for our children, we must begin with the transformation of our fear so that the transmission to the next generation is not one of limit, scarcity, and self-doubt but one of purpose, calling, and self-love.
The work is not a “doing”; it is a “being.”
So the next time you find yourself overwhelmed with all the actions and plans and activities of your pursuits, take a moment to ask yourself, “What fears were passed on to me and what have I done to transform them? Given that work, what fear legacy will my children have when I am no longer on this earth and is that how I want them using the fears that have come from one generation to the next?”
Your answer will guide your next action…