What do you want your legacy to be?

 In Coaching

Use this question in your sessions to get insights into your clients.

Christine and I were discussing legacy the other day. We were taking a different conversational path to figuring out why we created VisualsSpeak/Exploring New Options and the visual approach to facilitation we have developed.

Some of the questions we explored are: Why are we doing it? What are the core values that drive us? What is the end result we want from doing this? How does it feel when we are working aligned with our values (legacy) and how does it feel when we are not?

The question “What do you want your legacy to be?” is an intriguing one, because it asks us to jump to the end and then look back to the present to see if everything matches up. It is a question that can hold us accountable to ourselves. By going back and forth between our desired legacies and where we are now, we create internal checks and balance systems to help guide us in our day-to-day lives.

In this two-part post I’m going to suggest some ways you can work with clients using this question to help them gain clarity and perspective on their lives. In part 2, I’m going to practice what I preach by doing a visual exercise on the ImageCenter asking myself this question. Oh, boy.

A visual approach to talking about legacies

We’re big proponents of using images to enhance conversations and getting big breakthroughs. Combine this question with one of our image decks to get the most from the process. I’m not going to spell out the steps you need to do a visual exercise here. For that refer to the post “Your client is overwhelmed…What do you do?” as it is a similar process.

A person’s legacy is about their core values

Asking a person about their legacy is a great way to find out about their core values. These are what make them tick. How well they’re aligned with them can give you clues about how to help your clients move forward and be successful.

Money is not a core value

People may tell you that they want to leave money as part of their legacy. That’s fine and quite normal. However, money is not a core value. It may be a core-driver depending on the person. If someone tells you that money is part of their legacy, dig a little deeper to see what money means or represents to them. This is where you’ll find the gold, so to speak.

Money can mean all sorts of things. What does it do for them? Does it ensure their family will be all right? If so, then one of their core values is family. You might dig a little deeper to find out what does it mean for the person to know that their family is ‘all right’.

Ways to explore legacy with clients

This question can be used to unlock all sorts of information about people of any age. It can be used in coaching, counseling and therapeutic situations. The difference between using it in these types of settings boils down to how far you dig and what areas you dig into. Always be clear about your role and the agreement you have with your client.

Creating a personal vision

Asking your client about their legacy gets them to think about how they are living their lives now and how that compares to the ultimate goals of their life. Also, what they might see themselves leaving aren’t necessarily going to be physical things such as money and real estate but could be more along the lines of emotional gifts such as love, respect, and wisdom.

In a sense, you are asking them to talk about their highest and noblest selves. In the back of their minds, people may be thinking along the lines of ‘If I live life to the best of my ability, people will remember me fondly and with love. They will know that I contributed something of value.’

Getting non-profits aligned

Another good place to use this question is with non-profits, because their work is usually all about core values. It’s the intersection of the core values of the people doing the work with their supporters that often decide how successful the organization will be. Non-profits that can articulate their values in a way people can understand and relate to are far more likely to get the support (financial and otherwise) they need than ones that don’t.

This question can also be used when a non-profit is going through a period of transition as they grow and have to face the realities of maintaining the work. These times are ripe for reviewing their values and ascertaining whether anything needs to change in order to continue doing the work and making it more relevant to the new environment.

Planning for Retirement

People in retirement or looking ahead to it are another good audience to pose the question. They are in a state of mind of looking to the future, so it would be natural for them to want to answer this question.

How are you going to make a difference?

I’ll be talking more about how this question relates to me, and the work I’m doing with VisualsSpeak in Part 2.

So, what do you want your legacy to be?



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