The Positive Legacy Approach

There are many ways to approach our later years. Some individuals ask themselves the following question.

“What are the positive things I want to pass on to people before I pass on?”

Different people choose different ways to take this approach. Some do it by aiming to encourage people. Some do it by helping others as parents, friends, educators, mentors, leaders or in other professional roles.

Some do it by providing practical tools that people can use to in their daily lives and work. Some do it planting seeds of hope that encourage both present and future generations.

Some do it by aiming to build positive teams, organisations and societies. Some do it by passing on knowledge that people can use to shape a positive future.

Different people take different routes when following this approach. Let’s explore some of the routes they take.

The Success Approach

Some people aim to make a positive contribution by focusing on their life goals. There are many exercises on this theme. Let’s look at one of the well-known approaches.

Everybody has different pictures of success. What is your picture? Looking back on your life in later years, what for you will mean you have had a successful life?

Many people say they want to have built a happy family and had a successful career. Some also recognise that success can mean having a sense of peace. It means looking back and feeling they have done their best during their time on the planet.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. People often cover three themes when doing this exercise.

Positive Relationships

People may describe how they want to be remembered as a parent, partner or friend. A person may write, for example:

I want my partner and I to have given our children the opportunity to enjoy a happy childhood.

For example, I want them to say things like:

“Our parents were always there for us. They encouraged us, helped us to develop our talents and learn how to make good decisions.”

Positive Experiences

People often focus on how they want to enjoy life, pursue experiences and have no regrets. A person may write something like:

I want to have lived life fully.

For example, I want:

To have visited many countries … To have completed the book I promised myself I would write … To have made full use of my talents.

Positive Contribution

People often describe wanting to make a positive contribution to the world. Sometimes this can lead to having a sense of peace.

This may involve them following their vocation or doing something that improves life for other people. So a person may write something like:

I want to have used my strengths to have done positive work that has helped other people.

For example, I want:

To have …

To have …

To have …

You may prefer to clarify your life goals in another way. Whatever approach you take, clarifying these goals can act as a long-term compass.

You can bear in mind these aims when making key decisions. When given the opportunity to take a new job, for example, you can ask yourself:

Will taking this step help me to achieve my longer-term picture of success?

It can be useful to do one thing early each day towards achieving your life goals. This helps to provide a sense of meaning to the day. It also means you are doing something towards achieving your longer-term picture of success.

The Sage’s Approach

Sages are often seen as wise but they do not see themselves this way. They see themselves as lifetime students. They learn from eternal wisdom and also study humanity at its best.

Such people see the big picture yet are also practical. They are soul-wise and savvy. They move from the concept to the concrete and give examples that bring things to life.

Such a person may start by being a student and then a worker. Aiming to pass on knowledge, they may become a teacher. Then comes the most dangerous phase. They may want to become a guru. Sometimes they move on, however, and become a sage.

Sages often have a sense of perspective. There have been billions of people before them and there will be billions after them. All they can do is try to contribute to life during their time on the planet.

Such people often balance characteristics that appear to be opposites. They balance serenity with steel. Some sages seem to be skipping with joy and yet can also be serious. They can sometimes be a bit mischievous and have a generous sense of humour.

Different people take different journeys towards becoming sage-like. As mentioned earlier, some individuals go through the stages of student, worker, teacher, guru and then sage.

Some people go through all these stages, some skip from one to another, some take a different route. Let’s explore these steps.


Sages often start as students. They focus on something they want to learn and become fascinated by the subject. They may want to learn about people, spiritual faiths, science, art or another topic.

Such people throw themselves into the learning process. Gathering as much information as possible, they look for patterns and begin to make sense of what they are learning. They may also begin to develop their own models for understanding experience.

A person may try many different kinds of work, visit various cultures or test themselves by tackling specific challenges. They learn from the experiences and begin to settle on specific activity.


A person may then concentrate on an activity that gives them positive energy. They may still want to explore many fields, but they decide to focus on a deeply satisfying activity.

They may do many jobs in their chosen activity but then develop their specialism. They may become a subject matter expert, project director, coordinator, leader, prototype builder or develop another role. This can lead to them aiming to make a specific contribution.


Some people move into the role of being an educator, teacher, coach or mentor. Some take this step in a proactive way.

Some find themselves being asked to share their knowledge with other people. Different people choose different ways to take this step. Some choose to build on their strengths and aim:

To clarify the specific knowledge they want to pass on to people;

To clarify the kinds of people who might be open to such knowledge;

To clarify the best ways for them to pass on this knowledge.

They share the knowledge in a way that plays to their strengths. This may involve working face-to-face with people, writing, making films or using another media. Some people remain humble when taking this route. Some choose to take another role.


A person may be seen as a guru, but this can be a dangerous phase. They may think they have mastered something. Some talk about what they see as their personal brand rather than focus on serving others. Some people choose to follow another route.


Gurus want followers but a sage wants to give things away. They have wisdom in their bones and make complicated things simple. As mentioned earlier, the sage’s journey is full of paradoxes.

Once somebody thinks they are wise, they automatically aren’t. Once they think they are a sage, they are in dangerous territory. It is vital to remind themselves that they will always be a student.

Sages are sometimes approached by people who want to explore certain themes. When appropriate, sages then pass on knowledge that people can use in their own ways.

Here is an introduction to one approach that sages take in such situations. This mirrors some of the principles followed by mentors.

Sages start by creating a stimulating sanctuary in which a person feels at ease. They make the person feel welcome and clarify what they want to explore.

Focusing on the first theme the person wants to explore, they clarify the real results the person wants to achieve. They clarify the person’s picture of success.

They aim to support the person. Different sages do this in different ways. Then, at some point, they will ask if it is okay for them to share some ideas.

Sages then share knowledge, positive models and practical tools that the person can use in their own way. They bring the ideas to life by giving practical examples that resonate with the person.

Checking which ideas resonate with the person, they explore these further. If appropriate, they move on to how the person wants to apply these to achieve their picture of success.

Sages return to the person’s agenda and the next theme the person wants to explore. They repeat the process and share knowledge that the person can use in their own way.

They may conclude the session by giving the person chance to reflect on what they have learned or relearned. When appropriate, sages continue to provide support and help the person to achieve their picture of success.

If appropriate, how can you follow some elements of the sage approach in your own way? How can you continue to remind yourself that you will always be a student? You may also want to pass on knowledge. Let’s explore this route.

The Sharing
Knowledge Approach

Imagine you want to pass on knowledge in your own way. One approach is to focus on the What, Who, Why, How and When. It is to work through the following themes.

The What

What is the knowledge you want to pass on? You may have learned lessons from pursuing your vocation, doing projects, managing crises, leading teams, solving particular problems or whatever.

The Who

Who would you like to reach? Would they be young people, budding entrepreneurs, athletes, leaders, social entrepreneurs, therapists or other people? What would be the characteristics of these people?

The Why

Why would you like to pass on this knowledge? What would be the benefits for people? It can be useful to pass on what works. People gain strength when they see how they can succeed. They are then more likely to pursue these strategies to achieve success.

The How

How would you like to share your knowledge with people? You may prefer:

To act as a positive model … To act as a mentor, coach or trusted advisor … To run teaching sessions, seminars, workshops or other forms of education … To write articles, create websites, write blogs, produce learning materials, make videos or whatever.

The When

When do you want to share the ideas with people? What would be the preferred setting or situation for passing on the knowledge? When do you want to start on the journey and get a quick success?

Different people pass on knowledge in different ways. Great educators who know their subject often demonstrate the second simplicity. Getting to the heart of the matter, they say things that are simple yet profound. Let’s explore this approach.

People sometimes go through the following stages in life – simplicity, complexity and then again simplicity.


They start by seeing life – or the activity in which they are talented – as simple. Speaking with bravado, they state clearly what they believe to be true. Passionate about these beliefs, they demonstrate the idealism and confidence of youth.


They may then enter the age of complexity. Gathering information, they speak in a more complex language. Sometimes they over-analyse. This does not help them or other people. Whilst still performing well, they feel something is missing.

Second Simplicity

Overcoming challenges, they enter another dimension. They may return to their original philosophy, but experience has brought wisdom. The pains and pleasures of life bring an extra timbre to their voice.

The second simplicity is a profound simplicity. Speaking from the depths of their being, their words resonate more deeply. They have wisdom in their bones. Passing on what they have learned in life, they want to help others to succeed.

You will have your own approach to sharing the second simplicity. Let’s explore another approach to making a positive contribution.

The Strengths Approach

This is an approach followed by some people who aim to do work that helps other people. Such people focus on the following themes.


They build on their strengths and do what they do best. They focus on the deeply satisfying activities where they perform superb work. They clarify the results they want to achieve and set specific goals.

Strategies That Work

They follow the strategies most likely the deliver success. They study what works and do what works. They do superb work and embody the concept of continuous improvement.


They find solutions to challenges and do their best to achieve the picture of success. They also share what works and what can be improved in the future. They pass on knowledge to help others to achieve success.

Different people take different journeys on this road. Some move from being protesters to being problem solvers to being positive contributors. They aim to do their best to encourage both present and future generations

This can mirror the journey a person takes from their teenage years to maturity and then becoming an elder. Let’s explore the steps that some people take.


Some people protest about what is happening in the world. Some protest about what is happening in their own life. They may express these feelings in ways that are helpful or hurtful.

A person may feel angry, hurt or sad about what is happening in the world. They may express these feelings in responsible or irresponsible ways. The ways they do this can have positive or negative consequences.

A person may be feeling upset, depressed or hurt about what is happening in their own personal world. They may feel depressed, disrespected or helpless. They may express these feelings in ways that hurt themselves or other people.

Problem Solvers

Some people channel their energy into finding solutions. They want to improve life for people and the planet.

A person may become a problem solver in their professional life. They may find solutions to challenges when acting as an educator, health worker, technician, scientist or in another role.

A person may become a problem solver in their personal life. They may improve their ability to find solutions to personal challenges. They may also learn how to express their feelings in ways that help themselves or other people.

Positive Contributors

Some people aim to make a positive contribution during their time on the planet. Some make a conscious decision to take this approach. Some move onto it naturally as they grow older.

Some people encourage others by simply being kind. Some do work that helps people to improve the quality of their lives. Some pass on knowledge, models and practical tools that enable people to shape a positive future.

Some people take this approach because they have a wholistic view of life. They see the world as a living system in which things are connected across the planet.

Some subscribe to the views outlined by Buckminster Fuller. He explained this in the following way.

We are blessed with technology that would be indescribable to our forefathers.

We have the wherewithal, the know-it-all to feed everybody, clothe everybody, and give every human on Earth a chance.

We know now what we could never have known before – that we now have the option for all humanity to make it successfully on this planet in this lifetime.

Whether it is to be Utopia or Oblivion will be a touch-and-go relay race right up to the final moment.

We are not going to be able to operate our Spaceship Earth successfully nor for much longer unless we see it as a whole spaceship and our fate as common. It has to be everybody or nobody.

Different people choose different ways to make a positive contribution. Some explore questions similar to those asked by Buckminster Fuller at a challenging time in his life. He went on to produce books such as Operating Manual For Spaceship Earth, which was published in 1969.

You will have your own approach to building on your strengths and making a positive contribution. Sometimes it may also involve the next step.

The Sense Of
Peace Approach

Many people want similar things in life. They want to be loved, happy and successful. They may also want to encourage both present and future generations. Looking back, they want to feel they have done their best in life. They want to experience a sense of peace.

Different people take this route in different ways. Some choose to maintain a sense of perspective. They then aim to help other people and make a positive contribution.

During my life I have been fortunate to learn from people who have developed a sense of perspective. Such people then aim to maintain this approach in their daily lives and work.

Each person maintains this approach in their different ways, but they often demonstrate certain themes. Here is an introduction to some of the steps they may take to maintain perspective.

Imagine that you want to follow elements of this approach in your own way. How can you continue to maintain a sense of perspective? How can you continue to help people?

One approach is to clarify the positive things you want to give to people during your time on the planet. Here are some of the answers that people give when exploring this theme.

I want:

To give my family a loving home … To give people encouragement … To give my students hope … To show people how they can take care of their health … To show people how to make use of their talents.

To give people tools they can use to build great organisations … To give people models they can use to build successful and sustainable systems … To pass on knowledge that helps both present and future generations.

If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the positive things you want to give to people. The main aim is to encourage other people. Sometimes taking these steps can also help you to move towards a sense of peace.

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