What do I want to do with my life???
I mean … I’m 36 years old and the daunting age of 40 feels like it’s right around the corner, complete with its mid-life crisis-inducing paranoia and all.
For all intents and purposes, I have a pretty great life! I’ve got a solid marriage and three healthy kids, a nice home, and a decent career in the works. There’s not a whole lot for me to complain about, really, and yet lately I can’t help but wonder as I take a step back from everything if 30 or 40 more years from now I’ll be happy with the life that I’ve lived and all of the things that it has encompassed over the years.
Because if I’m honest, there’s always more that I’d like to do – I have all sorts of ideas for books that I’d like to write and other creative projects that I’d like to explore, I’d love to be able to travel and learn more about other places around our country and even around the world, and no matter how much time I get to spend laughing and playing with my budding family, it goes without saying that I’d like to have more!
Recently I was reading an article written by J.D. Roth – a personal finance blogger whose perspectives and insight I’ve come to greatly admire over the years – and it talked about the importance of putting together A Personal Mission Statement to help drive the decisions in your life and make sure you remain focused on the things that are the most important to you. The exercise that he outlines is a particularly insightful way to spend an hour of your day – I did my brainstorming session over lunch – and works to identify your goals based on these eye-opening questions…
- What are my lifetime goals?
- How would I like to spend the next five years?
- How would I live if I knew I’d be dead in six months?
Steve Jobs (the co-founder of Apple) had a great quote to describe how he focused his own passions to accomplish all of the incredible things that he did in his own life:
I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself, ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
I kept that enterprising spirit in mind as I answered each of the above questions to create my own mission statement.
For example, considering some of my lifetime goals:
- Be a successful author. (the term “successful” being left purposely broad)
- Have fun raising a family.
- See the world.
- Work with Disney Imagineering.
- Share my passion for writing and help others share their own.
- Make people laugh.
- Make people think.
- Write an episode of The Simpsons.
- Make great memories with my family.
- Leave the world a little better than I found it.
The question about how I would like to spend my next five years sounds like one out of a job interview, but really makes sense to think about for life in general for the same reasons:
- Publish more words – online and in books.
- Really enjoy my kids’ youth.
- Travel a bit.
- Find our dream house.
- Become financially secure.
And lastly, the tough one meant to make you think about what’s really important – how would I like to live if I knew I’d be dead in six months???
- Spend as much time with my family as possible.
- Write my final thoughts.
- Make sure that my family will be secure after I’m gone.
I’ve got to admit that it was kind of surprising to see how just these couple of pages worth of scribbles over a bowl of teriyaki chicken really brought to light the reason why I wanted to do the exercise in the first place, and looking over the notes that I’d taken to answer each of the three questions, there was little debate that the three most important goals in my life are centered around:
From there, the last step was to pull it all together, and I really loved what J.D. wrote about what he had learned from his friend Paul who didn’t have all of the stuff that he had, but instead he had a plan to see the world, and the incredible freedom that executing on that plan gave to him…
Have a plan so amazing, so glowing, that you’re willing to walk blurry-eyed to work every day to make the money necessary to achieve it.
Reading that single sentence was pivotal for me because it was the bridge really between goals and dreams – goals being the various tasks that we aim at through our lives like getting that promotion or saving enough for retirement and dreams being the kind of things that we lay in bed at night wishing that we were really doing with our time. It was a reminder not to settle when doing something as grandiose as determining how you want to live the rest of your life, and so after some more thought connecting the dots across everything that I’d written until that point, this is what I came up with:
My Mission is…
To live a life rich with creativity, surrounded by family, and unburdened by financial pressures.
It was important to me that it be succinct, but with broad enough strokes both to highlight how each of the three pillars co-exist as well as stand on their own. And under these simple words, it was pretty easy to see how the next step in the process fell into line – planning some goals to work in the direction of each of those areas! I ended up choosing a variety of short and long-term goals that cascade underneath each bigger element, with the idea that working on my short-term goals builds towards each of the larger, long-term goals, and each of those making a sizable contribution to one of the things mentioned in my mission statement.
Some of my short-term goals are fairly straight-forward, such as re-establishing a new writing schedule that I’m comfortable with and trying to eat better, which each contribute to larger, long-term goals of expanding my writing business and losing weight so that I can be more active with my family.
Being the kind of person who tends to get lost in organization to the point of not finishing things, I made it a point to stop at only a few of each type of goal to give myself something concrete to focus on over the next 30 days, and as goals get completed, that’s when I’ll take the time to re-evaluate and add new ones.
We’ll see how that goes in the weeks and months to come, but just having those fifteen words everything centers around that represent the most important things in my life is crucial, and in a way … freeing.
Now I feel like I’m ready to get to work and start making some progress in the right direction!