human doing or human being?
“People aren’t ‘made’ by themselves or by anyone else: they are released to be what they always were but had never known they were.” Archibald MacLeish
I’ve always been impressed by people who have created personal purpose or mission statements. Whenever I tried to craft a statement around my purpose in this life, the process didn’t resonate for me. I found my statements focused on my to do list without anything of the passion of life.
As I was reading Becoming a Professional Life Coach by Patrick Williams and Diane Menendez, I realized that part of the problem was that I was confusing purpose and mission. In their chapter, “The Power of Purpose”, Williams and Menendez define and describe these concepts in a way that finally made sense for me.
Life purpose, or our calling, is what gives meaning to life. It is who we are. We take our purpose wherever we go in life whether it be the work place, at home, with friends, or in the community. A purpose statement is deeply personal. We most often use it privately to create our goals.
Mission. According to Williams and Menendez, mission is the specific way (or ways) that we use to fulfill our purpose. There can be many ways, works, or missions that fulfill our purpose and these can change over the course of our life or our circumstances.
They suggest that when we lose sight of our purpose and focus on projects and goals, we become a human ‘doing’ instead of a human ‘being’. We put our efforts into what is in front of us rather than looking up to see if where we are going is where we want to go. We get by.
So, how do we find our purpose?
Williams and Menendez suggest the following process:
1. Create a list of examples (at least 10-12) when life just felt right, it was ‘in the flow’, life was ‘on purpose’.
2. Write a description of each of these examples. Include the actions, location, what happened, how it felt, why did it feel ‘on purpose’, what about it was satisfying, and what was the value in the experience.
3. Highlight key words and phrases from each example. Summarize these on another page.
4. Draft a 2-4 sentence statement using these key words and phrases. It might sound something like ‘my purpose is to encourage and inspire others to be life-long learners’ or ‘my purpose is to lead organizations that provide social justice in my community’. Don’t worry about getting it perfect, this is something to let sit and ferment.
5. Take it back out in a few days. Check it with others if you like. How does it sound, does it resonate? Refine as needed.
6. Test drive it. Is it something you want to do? Does it ring true for you where ever you are – i.e. is it you at home, you at work, you with friends? Does it help you clarify how you spend your time, energy, and resources?
If so, it should help you move from a human ‘doing’ to a human ‘being’.
Enjoy the journey!