It’s Good For You

Research shows that approaching life from a spirit of giving and focus on making a contribution has positive health impacts including improved life-satisfaction, physical and mental health and even living longer. A great legacy created by Sir John Marks Templeton serves to demonstrate – and perpetuate – these benefits.

The name makes him sound like British royalty, and he was created a Knights Bachelor in 1987 for his philanthropic efforts. He was born in the state of Tennessee in the U.S., but lived most of his life in the Bahamas, and is probably best known as the Chartered Financial Analyst who became a billionaire by pioneering the use of globally diversified mutual funds – through his now numerous Templeton Funds for investors.

Beyond his work, however, Templeton’s great interest was in spirituality, and he built a great legacy based on it. In 1972, he established the Templeton Prize to honor individuals who make “an exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works” as stated on the organization’s website. He called recipients “entrepreneurs of the spirit,” and the first prize was given in 1973 to Mother Teresa of Calcutta, who received $85,000 for her charities. Based on sound management, the prize has grown to around $1.6 million annually.

To administer the prize, in 1987 Templeton established the John Templeton Foundation. It now awards around sixty million dollars every year to institutions and people for spiritual and scientific activities that explore values such as the nature of love, gratitude, forgiveness, and creativity – in an effort to reconcile science and religion without diminishing either. The Foundation made the prize and other grant-making activities sustainable, and though Templeton passed from this earth in 2008, his legacy is still very much alive.

In 2001, the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love was founded with a grant from the foundation. It studies unselfish love and the benefits of giving back. The institute’s most recent report “It’s Good to be Good 2009: Health and the Generous Heart” is available on the site. The report details that developing a generous way of being and then doing or giving from that state indeed has benefits for the giver.

I mention Templeton not to emphasize what someone with billions can do – most people readily get that, but think they cannot do something similar. Maybe not at the same scale, but you can do something that will be as important for the recipient of your efforts.

Rather, I provide this example to show how one person, during his lifetime, used his career and his wealth to really address the things he was passionate about. I also provide the example to demonstrate that there are funds available for all kinds of great projects to benefit people and the planet. Creating legacy is not just about disseminating wealth, but about your authentic interest and willingness to act from there. That’s the foundation from which all great legacies are built.

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