Personal Mission Development

Leaders who spend time in personal mission development live fuliflled lives, because of their deliberate intent

Personal mission development is crucial if you want to make a positive dent in the universe.

Men and women who have a strong sense of purpose reshape the world. 

People such as Richard Branson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Majora Carter, Tony Robbins, Gandhi, Sorrel Wilby, Anita Roddick, Christopher Reeve, Janine Shepherd, and many more are all people who have a clear sense of who they are. They use their natural skills and talents, and take regular inspired action to make a difference in the world.

The point of spending time in personal mission development isn't to end up with some lofty ideals written on a piece of paper.

The real point of the exercise is to consider how you show up in the world so that you live a flourishing life.

Personal Mission development doesn't necessarily mean you'll end up doing a different job to the one you are doing now! It means you have taken the time to ensure that you live with deliberate intent, using values and principles that give your life context and meaning.

Living Purposefully means that in each moment you are present enough to be, for example, a kind and loving parent, or to be a fair and just leader, or to give hope to another, by saying a kind word to a person in trouble.

Personal Mission Development - Some Things to Keep In Mind

Spending time answering these personal mission development questions enables you to craft a Purposeful Living Statement. But do be mindful of these points:

  • Your Purposeful Living Statement provides the direction in which you are heading - it is not the destination.
  • Many of the questions that you are answering while undertaking the personal mission development exercise can lead to the development of something grand and huge. But, your Purposeful Living Statement doesn't have to be about changing the world. It just has to be big enough to change YOUR world.
  • Be true to yourself and your desires. This is about living a life that is significant and satisfies YOU. There is no need to be influenced by what you think society, your partner, your parents, or anyone else would think is appropriate.
  • It should excite you and focus you toward consciously using your talents. Enabling you to be the person you can be. So that in your twilight years, you will feel that your life was well-lived. That you made a dent in the universe!
  • It may take some months (if not years), to capture exactly the essence of how you want to live your life. This is a living document. Life is a work in progress! (My mission has continued to evolve and change - and at times quite dramatically, as my thinking has evolved and matured)

There are Three Hungers You will Attempt to Feed Throughout Your Life

Personal Mission Development: The Three Hungers in Life

The Three Hungers in Life

  • 1
    The first is people often contemplate - Why am I here? Is there something bigger than just being born, breathing, and then passing on?
  • 2
    The second, closely linked to the first, is to know that your life matters. Everyone wants to leave behind some kind of legacy. To know that the time you spend on this planet means something ... that you made a dent.
  • 3
    The second is to identify and express your unique gifts and talents. Every person knows they have something to contribute to the greater good of humanity. The happiest people in the world are those who discover how to use their unique gifts and talents on a daily basis.

Let's explore each hunger a bit more.

Personal Mission Development Step One: Why Am I Here?

If you die tomorrow, then the purpose of your life has been realized. The reality is; your time here is limited. Few of us want to pass to the other side feeling unfulfilled! Sadly for many, life is spent in a haze with little deliberate intent and no sense of purpose: drifting from one set of life conditions and circumstances to another.

Richard Leider from the Inventure Group interviewed more than 1,000 people who'd had distinguished careers in high profile companies. He asked them to look back over their lives and talk about what they learned. He found (almost without exception):

  • 1
    If they could live their life over, they would be more reflective. They got so caught up in 'doing', that they often lost sight of the meaning. Usually, it took a crisis for them to look at their lives in perspective, and try to re-establish the context. Looking back, they wish they had stopped at regular intervals to look at the big picture. They sounded a warning: Life Picks Up Speed. Time is the most precious currency in life, and as they got older having time for reflection became even more vital.
  • 2
    If they could live their lives over, they would take more risks. In relationships, they would have been more courageous. And in expressing their creative side, they would have seized more chances. It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, "Most of us go to our graves with our music still inside us." Many of these people felt that, despite their successes, their music was still inside them. Almost all of them said that they felt most alive when they took risks. Just being busy from business made them numb. Aliveness came with learning, growing, stretching, exploring.
  • 3
    If they could live their lives over again, they would understand what gave them fulfillment. This is what Richard calls "The Power of Purpose": doing something that contributes to life. Adding value to life beyond yourself, beyond your ego, or your financial self-interest. When you make the feeling of fulfillment high on your priority list, it makes it easy to decide if the actions you are taking, daily, are the right ones or not.

So that you don't get to the end of your life and ask, "Is this all there is?". You need to pay attention to the impact of your decisions. You cannot expect to do things that don't genuinely matter to you and feel fulfilled with your life.

Use these questions to help you decide how to live deliberately so that your life feels fulfilling.

Personal Mission Development Step Two: Does my life matter?

Everyone wants to leave behind a legacy: to know that your time spent on this planet meant something.

Sure, you may do something that has a profound impact on the world. But for most of us, it is the day-to-day moments that are our legacy. Who you are and how you show up - day in, day out - is the legacy you leave. 

Are you being deliberate about your legacy? Or are you just getting through every day.

Be warned: If you are just getting through the day, when you are sitting in that rocking chair looking back at your life, you may well be filled with regrets. The hunger of "Did I make it matter" unfed.

To live deliberately and make your life matter, follow the steps shown in the purposeful living exercise.

Personal Mission Development Step Three: Do my Talents Contribute?

Let's move on to the third hunger, discovering your unique talents and gifts.

We are each born with a set of innate talents. For example, my daughter is innately good at gymnastics. Within seven weeks of starting gymnastics, she had won a state title for her level. The key to a talent is that you have it regardless of whether you ever choose to use it or not (Week 12 she decided she didn't enjoy gymnastics and refused to go anymore).

Completing this step of identifying your talents/passions/strengths will enable you to re-craft your life and your job to make the most use of your strengths. For example, when I worked at Colgate-Palmolive, I re-designed my job so it focused primarily on the development of the people. Something I loved to do and is a real strength for me. Certainly, I had to do some negotiation with my senior leadership to make this happen. But with a great business case they could see how the business would benefit as I worked more with my strengths.

Regularly making use of your innate talents and strengths means you find that your days will be filled with much more flow. Flow is that experience of when time stands still, and you suddenly realize how absorbed and happy you were during the time that you were utilizing that strength or talent.

You can read more about how to create flow experiences both for yourself and your team members. And, you can read about the latest research on identifying and using strengths in the workplace.

Ready to begin identifying your talent/passions?

Personal Mission Development Step Four: Draft your Personal Mission Statement

At this point, you may want to write your first draft Personal Mission Statement. This certainly won't be your final draft. As mentioned earlier, life is work in progress, and it continually evolves. Therefore personal mission development is an ongoing project.

A couple of simple guidelines:

  • Try to keep to a single sentence with less than 30 words, so that if your life depends upon it, you can remember it
  • A 12-year-old should understand your Purposeful Living Statement

As an example, here is my current Purposeful Living Statement:

"I inspire leaders to live, love and lead at a remarkable level so they become a 'rockstar' in their organization or industry and can make the dent in the universe that is in their heart"

It doesn't define "what I am going to do." It simply defines what is important to me and how I want to show up in the world. This enables me the freedom and flexibility to go where I am inspired (both physically, mentally and emotionally), It also enables me to feed my three hungers.

Once you understand your purpose in life, the key is to align it with all parts of your life. How you show up in your personal life, your work life, and your community.

Acting with a clear purpose means you no longer feel tired and out of whack. True success is living a life of congruence and alignment, expressing who you are as fully as possible. That makes for an experience of life worth having.

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