02/28/2014 02:30 pm ET Updated Apr 30, 2014

What's Your Legacy?

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Written by Jan Cloninger

I first met Preethi after she befriended my son in high school. She was a year older, very much wiser and the kind of person you are thrilled to see your child be friends with. She was, and continues to be, one of my favorite people in the world and an inspiration to me -- always with a smile on her face, love in her heart and kindness towards everyone she meets.

She's Dr. Preethi now. A pediatric resident. A young married woman. And a brand new mom. This weekend, we attended her father's memorial. Something you wouldn't have expected to occur for at least another decade or two. But if a person's life is measured by the number of lives he touched and people he inspired, then perhaps that's why he passed so young. He was an incredible, loving man, who left his mark on so many.

Preethi's light still shines bright. Her father ignited it. He instilled it. He inspired it. His legacy lives on through her and she will in turn be passing it on to her beautiful new son.

We each have a legacy that we've been given from our family and a legacy that we are going to give to our children. Often, people think of a legacy only in financial terms. They work hard to create monetary wealth in order to ensure that their family has comfort and opportunity in the future.

But our family legacy goes beyond dollars and cents. Our family history, both good and bad, is often what has a greater influence on how we perceive and experience the world. Think about the family legacy you received. What were you taught about life, work, love and self-worth?
What were the experiences, lessons and perceptions that have shaped who you are today in both the positive and not-so-positive ways?

Whether you feel you were blessed or cursed by your family's legacy, the good news is you have the ability to consciously decide what kind of legacy you want to create for your children. You can embrace or let go of your childhood experience and make choices that reflect what you want.

Think about some of the messages, examples and possibilities you're creating for your children when it comes to your values, education, sense of self, interacting with others and perspective on what's important.

Preeth's dad had such clarity about the kind of legacy he wanted to leave. And his efforts are reflected back through all the lives that he touched.

Are you creating a legacy you can be proud of? Are there any areas you'd like to develop more fully? What will your legacy be?

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