Last Tuesday evening, I led my latest in a series of free monthly workshops that I hold at the local library. The topic was "Writing your Personal Mission Statement."
I had six lovely participants and I walked them through a series of activities to get them thinking about when they act and feel like the best version of themselves. What are they doing? Where are they? Who are they with? What is essential to their idea of "living on purpose"? What themes and commonalities could they identify in those important moments? What words came to mind when considering how those moments related to their overarching purpose in life?
This is a challenging activity and a deeply personal one. We had an interesting mix of people with a wide range of interests and passions, so their "on-purpose" moments ranged from showing compassion for others to driving a fast car. After the self-searching and brain-storming phase, we got to writing the rough drafts of our statements. I showed the following examples:
One of the things that I love about my job is that I am constantly learning and incorporating new ideas into my already existing framework. These questions and the ensuing discussion made me think. Does a life purpose have to have a service or altruistic component? I decided, fairly quickly, that it does not. One of my "Big A Words" is AUTHENTICITY, after all, and forcing an idealism that you don't feel would never work anyway. Furthermore, by being honest with yourself and others and pursuing a life that makes you happy, you might just inspire others to live in line with their true desires, thus indirectly giving back and making a difference.
This was the first workshop I led on this topic, but it was not the first time I'd completed the activity. In fact, I plan to make a habit of reassessing my "purpose statement" every year or two. It is never set in stone, but going through the process helps me solidify what's important and therefore live more by design than by default. My purpose statement will be a compass for my daily decision making, pointing me toward a more productive and meaningful life.
While it's a work in progress, this is what I came up with:
My purpose is...
The discussion with the group provided some clarity and freedom for me. I sometimes struggle with feelings of guilt or worry that I am being selfish. I have many (time and money-consuming) hobbies, you see. I catch myself thinking that perhaps instead of going to ride a horse I should spend those hours working on curriculum for a coaching program or volunteering at my daughters' school.
Being able to non-judgmentally conclude that someone else's desire to have fun and seek new experiences was a perfectly acceptable purpose freed me up to give permission to myself to pursue that part of my own journey. I am happiest when I am active and enjoying my many adventurous pursuits. I also thrive on the feeling of giving back and supporting others, and those two parts of my purpose are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I like to think that my personal lifestyle gives me more credibility in my professional life.
This is the take away: Spend some time on this. Be honest about what sets your soul on fire. Write a purpose statement and refer to it often. Revise as needed. Live with intention and see what happens.