YOUR PERSONAL MISSION
You know what you want – now you need your mission. A mission is an objective that is set and must be achieved. You need to know what the objective is, it needs to be clear, and you need to know why you are going on this mission. Just like in the military, you must have a mission and you must achieve it! Setting a personal mission will allow you to take control of your life and give you direction and motivation. In the military missions are primarily handed down from more authoritative positions. The best part about a personal mission is that you get to create it and you create the instructions. This means you have to be intentional and you get to create the life you want.
Many organizations create mission statements, but very few people create their own personal mission statement. A personal mission statement is a written sentence or sentences that provides a clear picture of the person you want to become and gives a sense of purpose. It defines the kind of person you are and how you will live your life. Think about the best version of yourself – or the kind of person you want to be in life – and go on a mission to become that person!
One key to creating your personal mission statement is to write it out in the present tense. Don’t write “I want to be a great father and husband” or “I want to get in great shape.” Those are intentions or strategies. Instead, say who you want to be. Make a statement – not a wish. Put that statement in the present tense and begin to act on it immediately. For example: “I am a great father and husband” or “I am in great physical shape.” Remember, this mission is for the kind of person you want to be. Write out who that person is and then strive to be that person every day. Some days you may be right on par with your ideal self and some days you may fall short, but that doesn’t mean you are failing to reach your goals. Failures and successes are just part of the process of becoming the person you want to become. It really is all about the journey and the challenge to become more.
I feel the happiest and most fulfilled when I am chasing a dream or striving to achieve a goal. Once I achieve the goal, it’s not a feeling of happiness but more of a feeling of relief that I finally made it. Happiness and fulfillment are found while trying to reach the goal and waking up every day determined to get closer and closer to the final destination. That’s why I love coaching football! Because every year we go on a mission together. We rarely succeed in our mission of winning a championship, but we always find happiness and great experiences from growing and working together toward a common goal. Even if some of those experiences are failures or losses, we learn and grow from each of them.
Even though I work 12 hours a day, 7 days a week for 4 straight months in the fall, I am happiest during the fall because I have a unique and difficult mission to achieve. When I was a younger coach I used to dread the season because I knew how hard it would be. I found this to be pretty common even among the most dedicated football coaches. Once I realized I was much happier and fulfilled when I was on a unique and difficult mission, I started to crave that intense pressure to complete the mission. I was more productive in the fall and had more energy because my purpose was right in front of me every day. And the pressure to win each week motivated me to keep working harder and finding new ways to succeed. Today I look forward to the start of football season because I know I am a much better and happier person – in all areas of my life – during those fall months.
Every year, our football team’s grade point average (GPA) is much better in the fall semester than in the spring semester. There are many factors that contribute to this data, but every year the grades rise in the fall and dip in the spring. While I haven’t studied it in detail, I know a big reason our fall GPA is better is that our players have a mission and keep themselves disciplined. They know their teammates are relying on them to be their best. In the spring semester they have too much free time and the mission is months away. They are lazier and not as disciplined as they are in the fall.
Our players rarely realize this, and I had no idea when I was a player. I just figured it out only a few years ago! I always get a couple of players who want to quit playing football because they claim, “I need more time to focus on school.” Almost every time I get that excuse and the player quits he ends up failing out of school. Football gave them a mission and a team of people to hold them accountable. Yes, they would have more time to focus on school but they didn’t because they didn’t have the mission, the discipline, or the accountability to stay on track.
Once you create a mission that inspires you and you begin your journey, life is more fulfilling and you want to continue to work hard to reach your desired results. There is a famous quote about life used by many authors, but I first heard it in elementary school from an Aerosmith song: “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” Quit worrying about the destination and go on a journey! You’ll become a better person along the way and that’s one of the keys to life. Reaching your goal is not your prize for all the hard work and dedication you’re going to put in. Your prize is who you become in the process! You will grow and learn many things along the way that will change your life for the better and make you a more complete person. Don’t sit around chasing mediocre goals and living a mediocre life. Think of something challenging that excites you and go on a mission to achieve it.
You need to set realistic goals but don’t be afraid to aim high knowing that you’ll come up short some days. Your mission should be difficult to achieve and should challenge you to grow and be a better person. If you have an easy mission, then you’ll be stuck in mediocrity your whole life. Challenge yourself and see what you are capable of. Yes, there will be some pain along the way – but with that pain comes growth. That growth will give you the wisdom and resolve you need to achieve your mission. Once you have an idea of what your mission is, you need to put it down on paper to make it a reality.
Before you start writing your mission, here are some questions to ask yourself originally from the New York Times:
How do you want to be remembered?
How do you want people to describe you?
Who do you want to be?
Who or what matters most to you?
What are your deepest values?
How would you define success in your life?
What makes your life really worth living?
Your personal mission statement will act as the roadmap for how to live your life. You may not stay on that path every single day, but if you strive to stay on the path you will find happiness and fulfillment as a byproduct. If you focus on being happy or make happiness your goal you will have trouble achieving it. The feeling of happiness or joy comes from an event or action and you create that feeling. It’s your life, so it’s okay to set happiness as a goal, but don’t make a habit of setting feelings as your goals. Set destinations, events, or specific awards. You don’t need happiness as a goal – you can choose happiness no matter what your circumstances. If you are always looking for happiness you will rarely find it. Look for a mission and choose to enjoy the ride! Viktor Frankl explained this phenomenon vividly with these two quotes from his book Man’s Search for Meaning:
“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.”
“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person other than oneself.”
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