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Legacy Writing

Documenting your life experiences, values, and opinions to share with others

"Legacy writing is a way of documenting your life experiences, values, and opinions to share with others. It can be a cherished gift to family and loved ones, and healing for the writers themselves." —Andrew Weil, MD

What will your legacy be? Do the significant people in your life know what you have valued most, what you thought was your purpose, or what you learned about life as you lived it? Do they know how you navigated life’s challenges, celebrated life’s gifts, or how you simply enjoyed beauty every day? Do they know you have found benefits from challenges as well as from life’s beauty? Do they know how you used your moments of reflection to make life-course corrections? Legacy writing answers these questions and more for others and for ourselves.

When we make explicit our values, purpose, and beliefs about our life—as well as our desires for our dying and death—we answer questions that others may wish to ask but can’t find the words. Our answers are rooted in our life stories of the past or life stories of significance in the present—and in passing on our wisdom, love, and blessings for the future. In contemporary legacy writing, as with ancient writing, we write for generations now and generations to come. It isn’t only presidents and public figures who wish to leave a legacy—many other people want to know how their life has made a difference, that they have influenced someone or something. Legacy writing fulfills our desire for someone to know us at a profoundly deep and personal level.

Legacy Writing Prompts

Following are three legacy writing choices. For the purpose of your six-week program, choose at least one option and write for at least twenty minutes. Later, you may decide to dedicate a longer period of time and write about more topics. Some have made such writing a project on its own. Many people report a shift in perspective when they think about how their response reflects their values and purpose.

Choice # 1: Legacy Blessing

Write a blessing for someone that promotes their happiness, well-being, and prosperity. Write for twenty minutes. In your writing, affirm their gifts and talents. Consider the milestones they will encounter in their life and offer your wisdom and support. Give permission for them to love others and to enjoy life when you are no longer with them. Let the receiver know how they have blessed you and what they mean to you.

Choice #2: Legacy of Gratitude and Joy

Write a statement of gratitude and joy about a person, specific event, or life experience. Write for twenty minutes. Describe your most joyous, wonderful, exquisite experience. Recall how you felt, what you thought, what you said, what others said to you, who was with you, and where you were. How do you feel about it now?

Choice #3: Legacy Narrative

Write a short story about yourself on one of the topics below. Write for twenty minutes. Repeat as often as desired.

* Your rites of passage

* What an important experience taught you

* How something changed your life

* Your dreams attained

* Your frustrated dreams

* Your fondest memories

* Things you looked forward to in the past and things you look forward to now

* How you handle the difference between expectations, challenges, and frustrations

* What makes you get up in the morning

* What keeps you up at night

* How you unwind or how you don’t

* What makes you resilient

* What five words you wish people would use when they describe you

See more about Legacy Writing in Expressive Writing: Words that Heal. Pennebaker and Evans (2014)

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