I can do a lot of things but I’m not all that good in many of them.
I’ve been playing the guitar for almost 30 years now. But every time I play the guitar in our prayer meeting and I encounter a difficult chord, I pretend to cough and skip to the easy chord.
At age 37 when I was preparing for my first art exhibit, I suddenly realized that I was going through an identity crisis. I asked myself “What do I really want to be known as? Advertising creative director, literary writer, social science writer, motivational speaker, or painter?“ I felt that my many interests were pulling me in different directions that’s why I was not excelling as much as I wanted to in any of them.
That night, I doodled my thoughts on a sheet of paper to see where my various interests intersected. I realized that I had the ability to inspire people in my Church talks. My friends said they have been lifted by things I have written. Young people in the office said I was a very encouraging person. Even my paintings were affecting people with a positive feeling. I concluded that I could pursue various interests as long as they all had the same inspirational effect on people.
From then on, I have been guided by my personal mission statement which is “To use my creative talents to inspire people to become the best that they can be.“
If you know your personal mission in life, it may be easier for you to make choices and decisions. You would know what job is good for you, what activities make good use of your time, what training to have, what will give you happiness.
It is possible that people who don’t know their purpose will choose a job for the wrong reasons: Salary and benefits, convenience, peer pressure, or parents’ wishes. They may have a trophy career but find a sense of fulfillment elusive. Its rewards may increase the size of the ego but not the depth of happiness.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who counselled terminally ill patients. She learned that among the biggest regrets of the dying was not having lived the life true to themselves.
So, how do you really want to live your life if you had a choice?
In the book The Path, author Laurie Beth Jones wrote that “every mission implies that someone will be helped. “So, “to be a successful lawyer” is not a mission. A mission is “to keep good citizens free from undeserved punishment.” “To be a great painter” is not a mission. A mission is “to paint the beauty of creation so that people will be grateful for life.“
“To retire at fifty with lots of money” is not a bad thing. It's a good thing to aspire for. But it is not a good mission statement. If "to retire" is your purpose, you are probably not enjoying your journey.
To know the purpose you’d like to live for, it will be helpful to ask yourself these questions: “What is it that I’d love to do for free ? What is it I do that affects people in a good way? Who and what do I care for? Who do I want to help and how? What will make me happy?“
(For step by step help, read Laurie Beth Jones’ The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life.)
If you don’t know the answers now, you may have them later on if you just stay aware of the questions. I have a friend who was already in his mid 40s when he discovered his exceptional talent in portrait photography. He is devoted to it. Maybe he is finally discovering his mission “to help reveal the inner beauty of people.”
Another friend was approaching his 50s when the company gave him the assignment to digitally restore classic films. He is so passionate about it that I think the mission statement appropriate for him is “to ensure the artistic legacy of our country.”
Jones also said that it will be great if your personal mission matches that of your employer. If not, you may become unmotivated, or unhappy, or may even develop some illness. Many people settle for a job that isn’t their dream job because they have to earn for the family. That’s okay. But when they’ve already earned enough, I would suggest they go for what they really like to do.
Where I work now, morale is higher than the norm. Many people here love doing what the company hopes to achieve for the public it serves. One of my officemates will be moved to another department. She’s sad about leaving her friends. But she’s happy that her new role asks her to do exactly what she wants in life which is to teach public school children through the media.
I am grateful for my previous career. Much of what I know I learned from that profession. But my new job gives me more opportunities to fulfill my mission and to reap the emotional rewards. For example, I shed tears of joy when people comment on Youtube that they are truly inspired by the songs that I’ve written. They don’t even know my name. And that’s okay.
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Executips is a career advice column by Robert Labayen. He was a former Managing Partner and Executive Creative Director in an advertising company. He eventually moved to the country's largest media network where his job involves inspiring people to be their best. He's also a writer, painter, and songwriter.