Thursday, December 17, 2015

What's Your Personal Mission?

Do you have a personal mission? I do. (I'll share it with you in a moment.)

A personal mission is a statement about what change I make in the world, and the work I do to achieve that change. A mission is made up of a clear vision and specific actions that I take to move the world closer to that vision. A mission is daring, more grandiose than I can hope to complete in my lifetime. It is larger than myself and my personal pleasures. It is larger than the people I love. Some people might call it a purpose. A mission is a mix of self-observation (what I am doing) and aspiration (what I hope to do / dream of doing).

A well written mission makes a clear connection between the things I do and how those things help me achieve my vision. Sometimes the work of a mission is solo work. Sometimes it is collaborative work.

A person's profession may or may not be related to their mission. Jobs and careers can function as support for a person's mission, as food and sleep do. Sometimes people are fortunate enough to see their work as a vocation rather than a job or a career. In that case, all their work is mission work.

A specific mission helps me focus my actions in the world. While there are myriad "good actions" I can take at any time, trying to perform many unrelated ones can leave my efforts diluted and ineffective. I can use my mission to gauge whether something I am about to undertake is worth doing. Does my proposed action move the world closer to my vision? Does it support my life in such a way that I have lots of energy to move the world closer to my vision? Does the proposed action drain me and leave me less able to change the world?

So here is my mission: I help create a world full of expressive, successful people through mentoring and demonstrating real openness.

The vision and actions parts are clear and measurable. There is a strong connection between the actions and the results I want. I work toward the vision in my profession as a software coach / developer and in organizations I belong to using all the actions, and out in the world, with my friends, family and people I meet, using some of the actions (obviously, mentoring is only appropriate in certain situations).


Want to create a mission of your own?

  • Consider all of the world's problems.
  • Consider your gifts, skills, passions, interests.
  • Contemplate ways in which some of the latter can begin to improve one of the former.
  • Try this format: I create a world of (or without) ________ by _______ing _________.

Example Missions:
  • I create a world without hunger by inventing innovative means of distributing surplus food.
  • I create a world full of educated children by teaching middle school social studies.
  • I create a world full of religious awareness by writing and performing spiritual songs.
Notice that none of the examples are small enough to complete in one lifetime. Notice that the visions are about the world, not about myself. Notice that the actions are measurable. Did I distribute food? How much? Did I teach again this semester? How many performances did I do this year? And notice that the actions can indeed move the world toward the visions.

Mission anti-example:
  • I create a world of happiness by improving myself.
In the counter-example, the vision is vague, it is unclear how to measure the action, and the action doesn't necessarily move the world toward the vision. 

Shadow Mission:

In addition to having a mission, I also find it useful to have a "shadow mission". Whereas a mission guides me to improve the world, a shadow mission states the kind of world I unintentionally create when I don't to the right actions.

Example Shadow Mission:
  • I single handedly create a world of isolation by berating people and being a bad example. 
It's helpful, sometimes, to check and see if I'm living out some of my shadow mission. Then I can choose to get back to the work of pursuing my vision for the world.


Do you have a personal mission? If you do, I'd like to hear about it. And let me know your thoughts on mission and shadow mission.

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