Make a New Legacy

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines legacy as:

“something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past”

You have a legacy, whether or not you know what it is. Perhaps it is one for which you don’t particularly care – a legacy of family members joining gangs, or getting tattoos, or dropping out of school or living their whole lives in debt. Perhaps it is a really great legacy that you hope to follow and pass along to others.

That ‘something’ can be money, property, values or a certain way of interacting with the world.

Most people, if they are like me, may not decide to choose which parts of their legacy to pass along to the next generation until later in life. Some people don’t even begin to think about making a new legacy. I believe that many of us just subconsciously assume that our way of doing things will reflect how we were raised. But there are some that choose to make their own new legacy, or at least pick and choose what to carry forward. In such cases, there may be some sort of catalyst causing them to decide to be different.

The social environment may be a catalyst to make a new legacy.

The social environment itself is subject to new legacy ideas. Dr. Benjamin Spock was one catalyst for a social change.

Generations of Americans were raised to believe that children should be seen and not heard or that if you spare the rod, you spoil the child. Families were run on a strict authoritarian principle and child raising techniques mirrored that principle. Then along came Dr. Spock. His book, Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care: 9th Edition changed the way American parents raised their children, gradually swinging public sentiment towards a gentler more individualistic attitude.

My own Grandfather beat his children with the butt end of a whip when he thought they were misbehaving. The generation of folks my parents age still spanked, but with open hands or more gentle implements. The current generation raising children prefers time out over any physical punishment. A new legacy of childcare began with Spock’s book.

The economic environment may be a catalyst to make a new legacy.

Your particular environment sometimes causes new family legacies to be introduced as well.

Change happens every day and is often incorporated as part of the family legacy. Necessity sometimes forces a family to change the pattern of their activity. Perhaps generations of family units have lived in the same part of the country for years, yet your parents were forced to move due to lack of economic opportunity in that area. Other times, they may have purposely decided to change that ‘live in one area’ legacy.

Your personal situation may be a catalyst to make a new legacy.

Individual’s may consciously decide that a change in legacy is needed.

If you were raised in a family that always lived with debt and never got ahead, and are changing your life to be debt free, you may be making a new family legacy. Dave Ramsey calls it changing your family tree and shared some stories on

“I’m changing my family tree by teaching my kids how to work for their money and not wait for it to be handed to them. I’m giving them responsibilities instead of doing it for them, and rewarding them according to their work,” said Cyndi Fifield.

One of my sister-in-law’s consciously decided that her children would be raised to be fearless, as opposed to being raised to fear action, the way she felt she was raised. She wanted them to believe they could pursue whatever they wanted, to be surrounded by a community, to have an opportunity to see different ways of life and to be encouraged to explore those.

I consciously decided to begin a legacy of family members striving for long term family wealth. Working across generations has not come easy to us but we are still reaching for success – using our extended family meeting, sharing of ideas and resources (money and ideas and facts) and trying to define our common beliefs to codify them into our mission for the next 100 years.

You can make a new legacy.

Spend some time thinking about how you were raised and what your life has been like so far. Let your spouse do the same and then have some discussions. What do each of you like and dislike about your parent’s way of doing things? Make a list. Pick and choose what you want to carry forward for your children and grandchildren. Talk with your parents about what they rejected from their own upbringing and what they thought beneficial to pass along to you. Ask why something you perceive as legacy got started. You might be surprised at the answer. It might have been started by accident or as a result of lack of another way to follow!

There is more information on our site about building a legacy:

Build Your Family Legacy, Discover What is Important

Home for the Holidays?  Define your Family Legacy

What parts of your upbringing do you want to pass along? What are you adding to the legacy passed to you?

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