Year Two, Skill #5: Know Your Purpose

Warning: This blog contains many personally challenging questions.

Why are we here? Why are YOU here? What do you dream about doing? Who do you imagine being? What gives your life meaning? It’s an age-old question—this meaning of life.

CristoRedento-editedThese seem like such daunting questions. Many brilliant, philosophers, spiritual leaders, and teachers have written about the meaning of life.  French philosopher, Jean Paul Sartre, eloquently stated, “You are your life, and nothing else” and continued stating that within the self, there is an “infinite reservoir of intrinsic potentialities.” Do you think of your life as a reservoir of potentiality? Or do you just get by day to day?

Do you think of your life as a reservoir of potentiality? Or do you just get by day to day?

Have you ever thought of creating a personal mission statement? Successful businesses and organizations wouldn’t operate without one.

ConcentricCirclesA standard business practice is to have a mission statement that guides corporate (or non-profit) identity, ideals and goals, possibly including ethics, culture, and norms for that business. In other words, who are we, what do we do, how do we do it, and for whom? In business, we consider that there are five dimensions, or circles of influence: customers, employees, owners, community, and world. In our personal lives, we can translate this into what we might give to our family, ourselves, our professions, our community and our world.

According to a 2013 article in Forbes magazine, Steve Hull wrote that  a mission statement would answer the following questions: What do we do? How do we do it? Whom do we do it for? What value do we bring? In a later article on creating a Personal Mission Statement, Steve Cooper suggests an exercise in which you ask yourself, “What would people find associated with your name if they googled you?” He also asks, “What is your motivation?” and “How might you accomplish these?”  and then suggests summing it up in 1-2 sentences. This is Cooper’s:  With integrity, my mission is to love, lead, and inspire.” It is succinct and captures his heart. It leaves me wishing I knew this man.

IMG_2024“What if you knew that your time was limited?”

There is a beautiful monologue by Robin Williams in the form of a graduation speech in his 1996 movie, Jack: “…as we come to the end of this phase of our life, we find ourselves trying to remember the good times and trying to forget the bad, and we find ourselves thinking about the future. We start to worry thinking, “What am I gonna do? Where am I gonna be in ten years?” But…..don’t worry so much. Because in the end, none of us have very long on this earth. Life is fleeting. Make your life spectacular. I know I did.”  Steve Jobs similarly said, “Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. …have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

So to break down this daunting task of finding meaning and knowing your purpose, here are some questions to use as you explore this challenge: Who are you? What do you do? How do you want to spend your time? What do you stand for? Whom do you serve? What do you have to give? What problems do you want to solve? In what type of environment do you want to live?

You could also take this free online test that helps you better understand your Character Strengths which can inform your personal inquiry. Based on good research and science, the Character Strengths identified by psychologists, Martin Seligman and Christopher Peterson, can offer guidance on what you do well and also objective information on the traits you want to better integrate. Give it a try as you explore.

LoversEmbrace-LouvreI’m still thinking on mine but for now I’ll start with a simply stated personal purpose: Love courageously, laugh often, give freely, and relate with compassion.

Love courageously, laugh often, give freely, and relate with compassion. --LiM2 Click To Tweet

Know Your Purpose as you navigate this Messy Life of yours and make it Marvelous.


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