Legacy & Personal Values

Posted June 20th, 2023 in Business Culture by Dr. William (Bill} DeMarco

Irrespective of whether we are princes or paupers, we all leave a legacy. As important as it may be, that legacy is less about personal estates, personal accolades, and personal accomplishments than personal values!  Legacy is all about behaving in alignment with a personal model of what good looks like and handing off its reflection to other people, places and institutions. Legacy is always a reflection of personal values and how those values live in behaviour.

Values are greatly influenced by current and past cultures. For example, we live in an era where personal values typically trump familial, societal, and institutional values. Since values are the prism through which we view the universe, hearing stories of a different time and place where people placed greater value on giving purpose to collective effort than personal goals, it is often difficult for us not to be dismissive or judgmental of the values of past generations. Frequently they just don’t fit with current ideas of what good looks like. I recently came across a story of a Canadian family of a century ago that left a powerful legacy in Ontario. As you read the article linked here, you will likely discover that the legacy of those in the story is one of bridges, highways, botanical gardens, and public works. However, you will also discover that their legacy is also about lives of personal sacrifice and giving purpose to collective effort.

It would be easy for us to dismiss the story as an example of values and customs that are out of touch with today’s realities. Maybe they are. However, this way of thinking would miss the point of the article. The article offers us an opportunity to reflect about our personal model of what good looks like against the backdrop of a bygone era.

Remember, our real values live in our behaviour.  If you want to do a reality check on your true values, ask yourself what are you willing to fight for; then check your answers against the backdrop of your behaviours. This will likely get you closer to understanding your legacy as it stands right now.

Meaningful reflections!

 Dr. Bill DeMarco