Tom, on Purpose

I have a personal mission statement. It’s important to have one. I think everyone should stop and consider their core purpose in this life from time to time to make sure their journey is aligned with their principles. Without it we’re all just wandering around in the thicket peeing on the trees. My mission statement isn’t perfect. I look at it all the time and think I can do better. Sometimes I rewrite it entirely. I’m usually very satisfied by the time I finish it but, within a few weeks, it seems horribly, irrevocably wrong. I don’t think I’m very good at writing personal mission statements.

But that doesn’t stop me.

I first got the idea to write one about a year ago. I was reading Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and wasn’t really enjoying it. The habits made perfect sense but I’m not really very good at developing those, either, which is probably why I’m not among the highly effective. Reading Covey, though, somehow lead me to download and consume another of his works, How to Develop Your Personal Mission Statement. I was in the mood to find some purpose in life at the time so I gave it a try. Again, very satisfied with the result. Again, it made no sense within a few weeks.

At the same time as I was doing that I started reading Victor Frankl and Vic mentioned something very cogent that has stuck with me in the four seasons since: he said that we don’t so much invent our mission as detect it. It’s there. It’s waiting. It occurred to me that I was trying too hard and I needed to stay in the trees a little longer, look around a bit more, and let my mission come to me.

So I lived.

I’m pretty good at doing that, I practice it every day. In the process of doing so I kept this thought in the back of my mind: if you’re not living your purpose, Tom, then you’re just living someone else’s script. I love that. I’d like to say it’s mine but I know it isn’t. I’m not really sure where I heard it, to be honest. Maybe Covey said it, too, or Frankl, or maybe it’s in the Bible somewhere. I don’t know, I haven’t read a Bible in years. I hear it still sells well.

Every couple of months or so I change a word or two of my mission statement or delete a sentence or add an adverb. Life is fluid. I’ve scrapped it entirely at least twice and started the whole thing over. The one thing that stays the same in every rewrite, however, is the first sentence. All of the words and phrases that follow are malleable and seem to change to suit my current dreams, ambitions, fears, and favorite TV shows. But not the first sentence. The first sentence appears to be my core principle.

“Delight in life.”

Maybe the rest of it is fluff. Perhaps I only have one true mission and delighting in life every day is all I really need to keep me out of the trees. Maybe that’s my north star. My purpose. My mission.

There should be something more, I realize that. There should be a but. You know, something like “Delight in life but read the Bible,” or “Delight in life but support honest leaders,” or at least “Delight in life but build the first interdimensional, trans-galactic commercial flight vehicle.” None of that is likely, but that’s the rub – I’m the guy with bucket list items of “fly unaided through space,” and “live forever.” So maybe “delight in life” is all I really have. Victor Frankl would be proud; my mission found me a long time ago.

Later today I’m going to give it another try. I’m going to write out the rest of my mission and feel smug and satisfied with it. I’m really going to buy in this time. I might even develop a good habit. I realize my mission statement isn’t going to make complete sense in a few weeks and is going to get scrapped again in a few months, but it’s a start. Another start.

Of course it’s going to be irrevocably flawed and imperfect.

It has to be.

It’s a reflection of me.

11 comments on Tom, on Purpose

  1. Very nice my friend.. My mission throughout life has been many things, but the one that has lasted the longest happened seven years ago… and thats to be the best dad i can be. I learned how not to be a father from my dad, and thats about it.. so as my daughter just turned seven, I strive to do all I can to make sure her future is bright, and that she feels loved!!!

    1. I can’t imagine a better purpose for a man than to be a good father, Steve; there is no more important calling. Your daughter will grow up stronger because of your involvement. Thank you for reading and sharing that insight!

    1. Thank you for reading, Carole! Some days it is easier to remember the mission than others, but it’s nice to have that simple phrase to call back to when I need it. Keep on delighting in life. 🙂

  2. “We don’t so much invent our mission as detect it”

    So true…so true. I think it really is a matter of just understanding and embracing who we truly are. Probably the hardest thing to do…and I would know. I finally quit smoking in ’08 and that was, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done before trying to understand and embrace me.

    1. We must cut away the habits that make us static if we are to grow, eh? I am, once again, in the early stages of just such cuts, with the idea of allowing new branches to blossom on the tree of Tom.

      (too much?) 😉

      I quit smoking in 2007, by the way. Again, a connect!

      1. It is SO not easy…wow another shared…and I haven’t even touched on my “gaming” days including Champions, GURPS, and my custom world of AD&D.

      2. Yup, yup, and yup! Villains & Vigilantes was big with us, as well. There were others, but D&D and Champions dominated most of our time. I still game practically every Saturday, with the missus, and I have an on again/off again small D&D group.

        I am always the storyteller. 😉

      3. A fellow storyteller, too! I had an inkling. 😊

        The game went well last night, and we wrapped up a 5-part story arc where a long-time AI foe took over the world and her character, and a band of uncontrollables, fought to win it back. 😁

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