When was the last time you took a moment to sit down alone and just think about your life, what you have done and what you still hope to do? Power off all of the distracting devices you own, ditch your phone for a little while and devote a few minutes to determining what matters to you. Are you happy with the path you have chosen for yourself? Now, based on that answer, what can you do to change or maintain your situation?
While it’s true that life does not come with a “how-to” guide, the beauty of that fact is we get to make up our own as we go. Like a cartographer, we are free to chart a course through a pristine land of limitless possibilities. Although it is impossible to predict what obstacles we may encounter, and we possess neither the power nor privilege to avoid them completely; our response to these challenges is ours alone. Trouble is our actions could empower our resolve as forge ahead or end up sending us back from whence we came.
The key to confronting adversity head on, building upon success and learning from defeat, is to first set out in pursuit of what matters to you. This speaks to the earlier suggestion that you spend some time honestly evaluating your life, accomplishments and aspirations. As Stephen Covey put it in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, it is important that we “Begin with the End in Mind”. This idea is based on the principle that all things are created twice; first in the mind and again when they are realized in action. When you become clear, I mean crystal clear about what you want, only then will you be able to achieve it. Otherwise, you end up filling your time with mindless distractions until one day you are overwhelmed by the realization that your life has become the antithesis of everything you want or believe.
To avoid a total meltdown, Covey and others suggest creating a personal mission statement that will serve as your compass, helping maintain your bearings while you navigate life’s journey. There are a variety of methods for defining your mission or vision, but regardless of how you choose to do so, I have found it especially helpful to start by first identifying what you are most passionate about. Then, based on that, create actionable steps that will allow you to live a life centered about that passion. Unlike goal setting, this exercise is not meant to help you achieve a singular objective. Instead, the intent is to lay the groundwork for living a life that is aligned with your personal morals and convictions so that you may achieve true happiness.
Speaking to the significance of finding purpose, Mark Twain said The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you knew why. If you haven’t figured it out yet, what are you waiting for?
Have a look at my personal mission statement, and then get to work on your own. Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do this, as long as you are honest with yourself and use your words to guide your actions.
What am I passionate about?
My passions are both simple and complex. I am seeking to use the gifts I have been provided with to contribute or create something of value for others. I am also committed to improving myself as an individual. I am constantly seeking to challenge myself in both the physical and intellectual sense. I love to travel, explore, read, write, learn, compete, succeed and fail. In each situation, I am able to reveal something about myself, stepping closer to my true purpose and the limits of my abilities. I am internally motivated to follow these passions and will continue down this path at all costs.
- Remain simple, wise and kind
- I value my time and recognize its finality, I will not waste it or fill it with idleness or inactivity
- Wherever I am, whatever I am doing, I will remain true to myself, my last name and my convictions
- I will make deliberate choices to structure my life in pursuit of my passions
- I question assumptions, create my own expectations and challenge social norms
- I will investigate the meaning of my life, my purpose and passions
- The only expectations I am interested in fulfilling are those I have created for myself
- Add value to situations and interactions…I will not tear down, instead I only wish to build up
- I value experiences and adventure, what I do and see, more than what I possess or own
- I will do work that brings me joy while making a difference in the lives of others
Personal Mission Statement:
Each day I will align my thoughts and actions in pursuit of my passions so that I may find meaning in my existence and provide something of value to others. I will work and live according to my own expectations, beliefs and convictions. This will be achieved through initiative, action and reflection to ensure progressive growth. I will make positive contributions to the lives of others by displaying good-will, kindness and loyalty.
Like I said, this is not an exercise in determining an individual outcome; it is a big picture project. So far, I have been able to find happiness and success while navigating life’s challenges by acting in accordance to my personal mission. I have found that if you do what you love and you are true to yourself, everything else tends to work itself out.