Most of us have a mission somewhere inside us our entire lives.
That thing you know you’re supposed to do in this life—even if you’re not making a living at it yet—that’s your mission. But you’ve changed. So why shouldn’t your mission evolve as you do?
This week, I want to help you wrap your arms around your mission and give it a clear, solid statement that fits where you are and who you are so you’ll have some direction as you aim for the fulfilling, bright life you deserve. First, let me explain what I mean when I say that your mission evolves.
When I was a kid, we moved around a lot. By the time I was in seventh grade, I’d lived in eight different houses and gone to seven different schools. But there was a period in elementary school where we lived in the same apartment for three years straight. I loved the bedroom I had there. One day my mother walked in to find that I had dragged my two bookcases from their places against the wall and angled them toward the window, creating a private little reading nook with a view. (To this day I’m not sure how an 8-year-old could have moved those things, but I guess where there’s a will, there’s a way, right?)
I loved books even as a kid. Sitting in that reading nook by my window felt like the one of the only peaceful places in my life and in my mind. So early on, my mission was clear: I wanted to write books for kids so other children like me could find the same joy and escape from the burden of life that I had found in my beloved printed worlds.
Do you remember what you wanted to do when you were a kid? Do you remember what you loved, what made you feel peaceful or happy or larger than life? What filled your dreams?
As I grew older, I studied writing and English, I wrote poems and stories, and I got close to becoming a children’s author. But my path lay elsewhere. It’s tough to write children’s books when you’re drunk all the time. Or when you’re juggling a job at the pool hall with all-night benders and speed pills.
I got lost. But that beacon inside me, that call to help others feel the same kind of joy and peace and wonder that I had felt in my little reading nook never went away. It just started to feel impossible.
Wouldn’t it be great…I’d think. And then that thought would fade away. Because my beacon had turned from an achievable goal into a pipedream that hurt to entertain.
It hurts to think about dreams you doubt you’ll ever achieve. Doesn’t it?
What I didn’t understand then was that as long as we don’t give up on life, our mission doesn’t fade. It just evolves.
It alters to fit our adult abilities, our life experiences, and our increased possibilities. Just like mine changed as I learned hard lessons, your mission has changed to fit who you are now. Your life has shaped you, your choices have defined you—for good or ill—and your possibilities have widened. Because for every hurt you’ve endured and every obstacle you’ve overcome, you’ve gotten bigger.
We can look the struggle in our lives and decide to shrink so we don’t have to feel it. Or we can grow bigger to accommodate all the wisdom we need to get through it.
If you’re still reading this far, my bet is that you’ve chosen to grow bigger. You’ve chosen wisdom. You’ve chosen to keep marching toward that beacon in your heart, that mission you’ve been protecting from the storms.
So how do you make it a reality? Can you?
Yes, you can make your mission a reality. But you need to get a good look at it first. You need to get up close to that beacon and look at the light full-on.
When I started my business in 2005, I still had a dream to be a writer, but I also wanted to be an entrepreneur. I identified with people who wanted to run their own show, be the captain of their own ship as they say. But three years later, I landed on the rocks. I just couldn’t seem to attain the kind of momentum I wanted—and by “momentum” I mean “money.” Truth is, I had no idea how to run a business. So I went to work for someone else.
That choice felt like a failure at the time. I wasn’t cut out for entrepreneurship, I thought, and I felt embarrassed—ashamed really. But the job I took at SUCCESS Partners, the parent company of SUCCESS magazine, turned out to be the answer to a prayer I hadn’t even known to pray.
Sometimes, God gives us the opportunities we didn’t even know we wanted. [Tweet this!]
I learned about entrepreneurship from some of the greatest achievers in business. I studied personal development and adopted practices used by the greatest minds in the world. I wrote and edited and got better with each article. And I got paid to work there too!
That job was a huge opportunity for me to grow, and by the time I left four years later, I had what I needed to relaunch my business successfully. My mission had expanded again to include the skills, people, and possibilities that now filled my life.
Today, my mission is to help experts, coaches, consultants, and purpose-driven entrepreneurs to find the courage to face own their stories and to share those stories to help others.
I’m not a little girl sitting in a sunny reading nook, dreaming of writing escape stories for other kids in pain. I’m a grown-up in a sunny home office, helping grown-ups tell their own stories so they can create lives they no longer need to escape. It’s a magical, mystical twist on what my heart has always longed to do.
Now it’s your turn. I want you to really think about your mission and consider whether you can articulate it for someone else. Can you explain to me—or your partner or your mom or your best friend—what it is that you really want to do in this life?
Here are three steps to get you going:
1. Who would you jump out of bed to help every day if you had the chance? A good friend who is an amazing career clarity coach (message me if you want his name) asked me this question last year, and it really helped me get even clearer on my purpose. Who is it that you love working with so much that you would work with a hundred others just like him or her if you could?
2. What do you know down in your bones that you can help that person do? I’m not asking what have you been paid to do or what’s on your resume that you’ve already done. Maybe you’ve done this professionally and maybe you haven’t. Don’t worry about that right now. Just ask yourself, honestly, what is it that you can help this person do that would change his or her life for the better?
3. Why do they need you to help? If you’re successful helping this person in this way, what will they be able to do that fulfills their own life in some way?
Answer those questions then string the answers together into a sentence. (It’ll likely be a long one. That’s okay. You can edit later if you want to.)
Here are a few examples:
1. I want to help dog owners.
2. I want to help them feel like they can communicate with their dogs and discipline them without having to punish them in a way they feel guilty about later.
3. If they could do that, they would feel like they truly have a healthy relationship with a loving companion that is a blessing to their household.
Mission statement: I help dog owners to communicate with their dogs and discipline them without having to punish them so they can have healthy relationships with loving companions who are blessings to their households.
(Told you it would be a long sentence. You could edit to this: I help dog owners to communicate punishment-free with their dogs so they have healthy relationships with these loving members of their households.)
Here’s another example using the three questions above:
1. I want to help firefighters.
2. I want to help them learn how to deal with the traumatic aftermath of grave crises and prepare for the psychological and emotional effects of trauma before they happen.
3. If they could do that, they might be able to avoid some of the post-traumatic stress symptoms I’ve seen other departments undergo and they could remain on duty to help others.
Mission statement (I’m going to shorten this one right out of the gate this time): I help firefighters to prepare for and deal with the psychological impact of grave crises so they can reduce post-traumatic stress incidents and reduce down time.
And again, here’s mine broken down with the three questions:
1. I help experts, coaches, consultants, and purpose-driven entrepreneurs.
2. I help them find the courage to face the painful aspects of their past, to acknowledge the truth of their life stories, and to gain the skill and confidence to tell those stories.
3. If they could do that, they could free themselves from the burden of shame, grow into the brilliant, bright lights they were created to be, and help others to do the same.
Are you ready to answer the questions and write your mission statement? When you do, I’d love to read it. Share it with me over on my Facebook page!
Just for today, follow your beacon. Let your light shine. You don’t have to turn your world upside down or quit your job. Just acknowledge that you’ve got a mission and write it down. Look at it full-on. You can do this.
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