In order to know where you’re going, it helps to know where you’ve been. All right, I promise, only one cliché for this piece. Keep me honest and bear with me! I start with this to say that in order to best position yourself for a life of happiness, it is extremely helpful to have a philosophy around what you hope to be, and what you intend to accomplish.
Some people call this a personal creed or mission statement. This is written documentation that establishes three things:
1) Your Purpose
2) Your Direction
3) The substance of things that matter to you
Your purpose — or your raison d’être — is the reason why you’re doing what you’re doing with your life. As I wrote about previously, I encourage you to look at this from a blank slate in order to get to the brass-tacks truth of what you really want your mission to be in life. This should be organic and developed only by you — free and unfettered from any influences or emotions of the moment.
Your direction is your plan — and the actions that you must take in order to fulfill the requirements of your plan. Too often, many people doubt themselves because they don’t think they’re ready to begin moving in the direction of what they want to accomplish. They think it’s not their time, they’re lacking in a particular area or they’re too young — they’re hindered by limiting beliefs which beget doubt and fear.
Oftentimes, it simply makes sense to begin even with very tiny steps toward completing tasks and goals that match up with your purpose. This is where writing out your goals and putting them into a plan comes in. This is your direction — the compass that will guide you when life gets in the way, you’re too busy, too tired or hungry. Planning is essential.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.” — Maya Angelou
The substance of things that matter to you are part and parcel of your purpose, and should be incorporated, as much as possible, into what you do each day. These are the core values, ideals, principles, people and also the things that bring enthusiasm and passion to your life. Beliefs or activities that get you exciting and mean something to you.
In other words — as Bono once sang, “all that you can’t leave behind.”
The Power of Planning
Successful businesses, schools, hospitals, sports teams and individuals begin by stating their goals and addressing how they intend to achieve them. These collective individuals understand the importance of accountability, and the power behind committing to a specific philosophy. They understand their purpose, what dedicating time and effort to a cause means and what taking ownership over something is all about.
Equally as important as writing a mission statement, is to define — for yourself — what your definition of success is. Never let anyone else define success for you. You should always take the time to do this for yourself. In a competitive landscape, it’s easy to be concerned with how others are doing. To stress and worry about such things is natural. It’s human.
When you have a mission statement, you’ll realize the power behind deciding for yourself how successful you can and will be. Your mission statement and definition of success serve as the foundation for all future attempts at becoming who you hope to be. Several years ago, I wrote mine. Here it is:
To live each moment to the fullest by having a positive attitude, a smile and a genuine enjoyment for life, while giving everything I have to love the people and environment around me and make it a better place.
You’ll notice that this is indeed a philosophy, a high-level view of how I’d like to conduct myself in this world, and a few of the actions I’d like to take. This is not a series of marching orders or specific goals intended for a short duration. Your philosophy is strategic, while short-term goal setting is tactical.
Setting goals helps you focus on specific things you aim to accomplish and how you plan to accomplish them. The mission statement is crucial for establishing the things that matter to you. This leads to the development of your own personal values and principles.
“Outstanding people have one thing in common: An absolute sense of mission.” — Zig Ziglar
There have likely been millions of thought impulses that have flashed through your mind during the course of your life. Even for those of you in your teen years. These thought impulses are acted upon, left in the recesses of your subconscious mind or ignored. Your thoughts lead to your life’s experiences and those experiences are often shared in the company of others.
All of these things have an enormous impact on how you make decisions. Your decisions will impact your course in life and whether you will find yourself happy, ambivalent or disappointed.
When I think back to putting together my philosophy, I reminisce about past relationships, experiences, thought impulses and emotions. I think of the times when I’ve been happiest, times I’ve been down, moments of peace and distress, and the times I’ve found my greatest inspiration. My inspiration is derived from my core philosophy.
“A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history.” — Mahatma Gandhi
My motivation comes from the “fire” inside of me, the indescribable power that fuels my dreams and inner creativity. I acknowledge this “fire” as a gift that God has given me. A beautiful, divine power that I believe all of us can tap into if we have the desire and we believe.
This power will lead us to personal freedom, greater clarity of thought, vitality and energy to bring into our everyday lives. All this requires is a willingness to believe in God and yourself, and the desire to get to the core of what fuels your inner fire. Introspection and deep, personal reflection are key to living a life of freedom.
They help us to analyze our experiences and thoughts, and determine how we can use them to our future advantage. They provide us with a greater sense of direction and purpose. Along with your mission statement, they form the backbone of your future destiny.