What is the purpose of life? While the question may be debatable at the metaphysical level, I can offer an answer at a more basic level. The purpose of life is simply to live it, fully and completely. The question I can’t answer however, is, “What is the purpose of your life?” What does living fully and completely mean to you? When your time on this earth is nearly over, what kinds of experiences will have enabled you to feel completely satisfied with your life? Your answer defines your Personal Mission.
The discovery of your Personal Mission is important because it gives direction and meaning to your life. This makes the planning process much more meaningful because it lets you know where you’re headed before you start. When you make plans for yourself without taking into account your Personal Mission, you run the risk of going someplace you don’t really want to be. Exchanging happiness for money, for example. We’ve all had the experience of working toward something that just didn’t feel quite right. Pursuing a goal that seemed like a good idea, but never really inspired us enough to give it our all. Although we probably didn’t realize it at the time, we were working against our Personal Mission.
Conviction and Strength
When your journey through life leads you to a dead end, back up and go around. The knowledge that your goals are fulfilling your Personal Mission provides you with the conviction and perseverance necessary for getting through the rough spots that accompany any worthwhile challenge. As you journey through life, you occasionally run into roadblocks. Financial roadblocks, logistical roadblocks, people roadblocks... anything that has the potential to stop you from achieving your goals. Your Personal Mission can give you the strength you need to break through them or it can help you to find a detour. Once you know where you’re headed, you can choose from several paths to get there.
Your Personal Mission is also a valuable decision-making tool. When you need to make a difficult decision, your Personal Mission acts as a beacon to help guide you in the right direction. It provides you with grounding and clarity of thought to help make the grey areas more black and white. Your life does have purpose, and once you know what it is, everything just seems to work better.
Finding Your Personal Mission
In order to uncover your Personal Mission you'll need to see yourself for who you really are. You'll need to peel away the layers you've built up over a lifetime until you find the real you It's not something you can do in an hour. It takes time and perseverance but the results are worth the effort. The following exercises are designed to get you started.
Scenario Number One
Imagine that you are 110 years old and have lived the life of your dreams. You have accomplished all that you set out to accomplish. You have enjoyed a wonderful and loving family. You have wonderful friends. You are completely satisfied. Now imagine that the technology for time travel has been invented and that you have been given one opportunity to travel back in time to spend five minutes with yourself today. What advice would you give to yourself?
Scenario Number Two
Imagine that your rich uncle, twice removed, has passed away and left you a fortune. So vast was this fortune that money was no longer a factor in your life. You had enough money to keep any charity busy for the next 100 years, to buy yourself, your friends, and your family anything that you wished, to buy any number of homes around the world, and to travel anywhere, anytime, on your new private jet. Now imagine that you have done everything that you could possibly want to do in one year. What’s next? Once you have played, spent and donated to your heart’s content, what do you want to do with your life?
If something doesn’t come to mind fairly quickly, move on to the next question. When you are done, go back to any questions you might have left blank.
- What does success mean to me?
- What is most important to me?
- What do I want to be remembered for?
- Now review your answers and identify those that ring most true for you. Look for overlapping ideas. Write these out and refine the language until it works for you.
Your Personal Mission is your answer to the question: “What is the purpose of my life?”
To test whether you have uncovered your Personal Mission, ask yourself the question, “Could I ever imagine my life without this?” If a change in your life could cause a change in your Personal Mission, then you’re probably not quite there yet. You may be headed in the right direction, but it’s likely that you need to dig a little deeper. Keep in mind that your goals often hold important clues to your Personal Mission.”
Short-sighted Personal Mission: “To be an outstanding business owner.”
While this may be extremely important to you, it is not truly a Personal Mission. It’s a goal. Perhaps it’s your most important goal at this time, but it’s a goal nonetheless. If you ask the question, “Could I ever imagine my life without this?” you are faced with the fact that eventually you may sell your business, or retire, and your business will be left to someone else. At that point being an outstanding business owner will not be a suitable personal mission for you. Goals will come and go but your Personal Mission will remain your Personal Mission no matter what happens in your life.
Life-Personal Mission: “To care, to teach, and to guide.”
This is a much better example of a Personal Mission because it is not tied to anything or anyone other than yourself. It reflects your goal of being an outstanding business owner, but no matter what changes occur in your life, it can still be a guiding purpose.
Be careful not to mistake your Personal Mission for one of your more important goals (part of your Personal Vision which we will get to shortly). Goals can and should be placed on a time-line. They are achievements or benchmarks that take you along the road toward your Personal Mission. Your Personal Mission is something that you will spend your whole life pursuing. It cannot be placed on a timeline. It is an ideal, in a less-than-perfect world.
Based on your answers to the previous questions, try writing a first draft of your Personal Mission. Don’t worry if it’s not perfect yet, you have to start someplace. Think of it as step one of an ongoing project.
Remember: Your Personal Mission is your answer to the question, “What is the purpose of my life?”
Now re-examine your Personal Mission and ask yourself, “Could I imagine my life without this?” If the answer is yes, then give it one more try. There's a good chance that your true Personal Mission is hidden someplace in the words you just wrote above.