There are two certainties in life that you can be reasonably sure we all have in common. The first is that we were all born, and the second is that someday we will die. The big question you have to ask yourself is: what will you do with the time in between?
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
When I was 22 years old, I worked as a barback in a wildly popular Blues and BBQ joint. The role of the barback is pretty simple: make sure the bar has plenty of booze and brews. The challenge was always keeping up with demand in the particular place I worked. On a typical Friday night I would carry, on average, 120 cases of beer up a flight of stairs, through a door into a sea of people, and shuffle along the floor behind the bar refilling the 10 beer coolers. I would repeat this process from about 4pm until roughly 3am when I would lock up and leave for the night.
One freezing January night (which in Upstate New York it’s not unusual to be below zero) I walked the mile and half back to my studio apartment as I had done many nights before. I laid down completely exhausted, only to wake up about an hour later with a startling thought. I sat bolt upright in my bed and said aloud: “I’m gonna be 73 years old someday!”
I came to the realization that while I will die someday, it won’t likely be tomorrow. It wasn’t the first time I had a sense of my own mortality, but it was the first time I had considered the element of longevity to my life This idea shook me to my core, so much so that I couldn’t fall back to sleep. It became a pivotal point in my life. From that day on, I’ve been on a mission to make my life mean something.
Now note that I said that I would “MAKE” my life meaning something. I think therein lies the problem that many of us face. We don’t have a clear mission on what we will MAKE of our lives and what impact we’ll leave on this world.
So how exactly do we do that? What are the steps you can take to create a mission and have your life mean something? Let’s find out the steps for living your mission.
1. Start with the “What” and the “Why”.
We all have goals that we want to accomplish in our life. They often come in the form of a bucket list, or a list of things to do before you die. While that’s a great place to start, the mistake we tend to have is that’s also where we end, or even worse we never write them down. Instead, I recommend the following process.
Make a list of all the things that you’d want to have, do, and experience in your life. So many of us spend time thinking about the things that we want to have , but we don’t spend as much time listing the things we want to experience. Commit to being a collector of experiences, over a collector of “things.” The stuff is important, as most of us have become accustomed to sleeping in a bed and having food to eat regularly, but don’t make it the central focus of your life.
Now, think about why you want each item on your list. Really connect with both why you think it’s important to achieve, but also how you will feel when you do. What will your life be like? How excited, accomplished, happy, and fulfilled will you feel? Simply ask yourself why you want it.
Last, decide today what you will do to get it. If you want to have more, you have to do more, and in turn you have to invest in yourself to become more. What can you do today, that will take you a step closer to your end goal? How can you be better at what you do RIGHT NOW to take you to the next step? It’s in practicing excellence of where we are right now that leads to greater achievement, responsibility, and fulfilling our stated mission.
2. Think long term
I’m not really a big believer in “The Secret”, the idea that things come about in our life because we manifest them into reality. What I do believe is that if we want something, we first need to really believe it CAN happen, and then take action to MAKE it happen. Success is something that takes repetitive practice, and the desire to become better at what we do. Practice and desire help us to achieve what we set out to accomplish.
So start by think about where you want to end up, and how you’ll define success in the end. If you’re currently in an entry level position at work, with the goal of running the company someday, what’s the process of reaching that goal? Or, if you’re a stay-at-home mom with a goal of raising the best kids this planet has ever seen, how do you define what those kids will be like when they’re fully grown? Without having a clear vision and description of what the goal looks like, there’s no way to measure if you reach it or not.
But no matter where you want to end up, you’ve gotta start regardless of where you are right now. Where you end up may not have anything to do with where you are now.
As Zig Ziglar said:
“You don’t have to be great to start, you have to start to be great”
Create a vision of greatness, but define it on your own terms.
3. Create a plan
The easiest way to create a plan to reach your intended goal is to find someone who has already accomplished it and then work backwards.
Let’s be honest here. Your mission is probably not all that unique. Maybe in some ways it is, but when you really distill down to the core of what you want to do, someone’s probably already done it. And probably pretty damned well.
An example might be “I want to start a movement that creates equality for all Bronies in the world, and ends the stigma of our passion!” (If you don’t know what a Brony is, it’s an adult male fan of the My Little Ponies franchise. Trust me, it’s a thing. Google it if you don’t believe me) Ok, great. Then how about looking at any number of role models across history that have created social change? What did they do? How did they do it? What tactics did they use? Who helped them? The examples, along with the questions of how they accomplished it are really endless. Success leaves clues, even for the Brony Revolution.
So instead of maintaining this idea that what you’re going to do is special and never been done, focus your intention and energy on finding good examples. From there, decide what sort of actions, behaviors, outlooks and skills did they have, or learn along the way to reach THEIR goals? How can you reach yours by modeling the elements of their success?
An important note here is to maintain fluidity in this process. You may find an example or someone who has reached a similar goal only to find out they lied, cheated, and stole their way to get there. Don’t get bogged down in dishonest people, I’m sure that you can find a good one to follow.
Lastly, in this process try to keep in mind that in most journey’s we end up at times being off course. We know where we want to go, and somewhere in the process we end up meandering off the path. If that happens, it’s ok. Just figure out the best way to get your heading back. It may mean backtracking to where you got off the path, or it may mean making a lateral move to get to where you want to go. But in the end, don’t give up because you made a mistake.
4. Execute the plan
In my findings, this is the area where most people get lost.
It’s really easy to dream about what you want to do, how you want to spend your life, and even researching the people who’ve done it. The main difference between dreamers and doers is taking that first step.
Actually executing on the process that you’ve laid out is the part of the plan that most don’t ever do.
Pull the trigger. Get started and apply the steps. And don’t stop until you get where you want to go.
5. Make it real
This is the most motivating step you can take in the entire process . Telling the world what you’re gonna do creates instant accountability.
Most won’t. Many will tell a few close friends or family members.
I say tell em all! Draw a line in the sand and say “This is what I believe, am going to do, and will accomplish”. It may come off as crazy or absurd, but ya know what? Who cares! After all, it’s your life, that you only get one of, so why not do something awesome?
Why not boldly proclaim to the world that awesome thing you want to do? The only thing you have to lose is MAYBE a little comfort. But by not doing it, you lose the freedom to dream.
When I did this, I was a little nervous, maybe even a little scared about what people would think. I had that little critic in the back of my mind taunting me with those stories about how I’ve tried and failed things before, and warning me about all the people that would laugh at me or doubt that I’d follow through.
What happened in reality though was that I had an immediate audience of cheerleaders, people who believed in me and were encouraging me to go after the dream. Not a single critic came forward to tell me that I couldn’t do it.
Now, in the past I have encountered those naysayers, and sometimes they’re just waiting for people to boldly go after their dreams. They seem to thrive on killing ambitions in other people, probably because the ambition of their own dreams died long ago. Don’t fear, nor even pity those people. The best way to handle it is to inspire them by becoming who you were meant to be by completing your mission.
You’re Still Here, So Make it Worth it!
The clock is ticking. The world is waiting for you to accept your mission.
Luckily, now you know how.
Make your list, and own it (both what and why.)
Think about the long term.
Create your Plan of Action.
Execute the plan.
And tell the world.
Because everyday that you delay, is one less that you’ll have the chance to make your dreams a reality. Don’t let the time run out on completing your mission and fulfilling your purpose.
What’s your mission to leave an impact on the world?
Leave your comments below and draw your own line in the sand!