A Writer's Road to Finding Mission
by Russell Keppner
The one TJEd concept that has most intrigued me is that of mission. I have a unique mission that I am on earth to fulfill, and that is the purpose of my life. Everything else I’ve studied falls into place under that single overarching idea. My life has meaning, and I have a work to perform. That’s both truly comforting and terribly disturbing, carrying a message of inspiration and huge responsibility. I have a work to do that is mine alone, and if it dies with me, it goes undone.
Of course, the same is true of you. Have you personally begun to uncover the meaning of your life? Perhaps more importantly:are you taking the steps necessary to accomplish that mission? I tend to think that most of us have a long way to go on this path called Mission. I certainly do! But just knowing that I have a mission and that it’s my job to discover it and accomplish it gives a great deal of focus and power to the things I choose to do.
I once attended a talk given by Dr. Shanon Brooks to our group here in Arizona, where he spent some time discussing the nature of mission. In it he paraphrased Aristotle’s definition of virtue: something is "virtuous" when it does the thing for which it was created. For example, a pair of scissors is virtuous when it can effectively cut a clean straight line.
If we apply that definition to ourselves, we are presented with the question:
“Am I accomplishing the purpose for which I was created?”
And that question leads straight to another question:
“What was I created to do?”
That is the quest--to find the answer to what is both the most personal and yet most universal of questions. Answer that question and you find your mission. Find your mission, and everything else falls into place.
So how do you find your mission? I’m not sure I can really answer that question, at least not for anyone other than myself. For me, the answer came through writing. When I first climbed out of the box (you know, the one everyone always tells you to think outside of), I discovered so many possible courses of action that I was completely overwhelmed.
Whereas before I saw only a few options, now there were too many to choose from. It was like coming to the world’s biggest buffet, but you only get one plate. There may be a lot of attractive and enticing options, but you only tet to sample just so many.
I was stuck--not wanting to continue the way I had been going, but hesitant to commit to something to later regret it. (That conveyor belt training sure does a good job of instilling a fear of failure, doesn’t it?)
Over the course of four or five years, I probably came up with fifteen or twenty different ideas of what I should be doing with my life. However, I only acted on about two of them, and even then I quit pretty quickly.
I finally got some advice from my mentor. She suggested that I go someplace where I could be alone for a few days, just to mull things over.
I wanted to find my mission, so I went camping. I don’t actually like camping, but I think more clearly out in nature; so sleeping outdoors is the price I pay. The first night I just sat and thought. About everything. About nothing in particular. I watched the stars come out, and the moon set. I listened to the birds and the bugs and the wind. It takes some time for the constant everyday worries and preoccupations to quiet down and go away, and I gave myself that time.
My mentor also gave me a technique I have used a number of times since then: write at least three pages, and by the end you’ll have your answer. Even if you have to start by writing something like “I’m sitting here on this uncomfortable camp chair writing about nothing, and I don’t even know why,” by the time you get to the end of the third page, you’ll have your answer. Oddly, it’s worked for me every time.
So, with that piece of advice in mind, on the second day I wrote. I sat in my camp chair, scribbled the title “What is my life’s mission?” at the top of the page, and just started writing--slowly and haltingly (and stupidly) at first, but I just kept writing.
About the time I got to the half-page mark, I started asking questions. On the top of page two, I started really looking for answers. I spent a page looking back over my life, examining who and what and how and why I used to be. And somewhere near the top of page three, things started to come together.
I have heard Dr. DeMille speak about mission on a number of occasions, in which he indicated that there are a few universal and truly important missions. The ones I remember are: feed the hungry, clothe the naked, heal the sick, comfort the lonely, educate the ignorant, liberate the captive, create beauty, and preach the gospel.
As I neared the end of writing my third page, two missions stuck out from that list. My primary mission is to liberate the captive, with a secondary mission to educate the ignorant. At least in general terms, I had found my mission. I knew I still had a number of things to work out, not least among them the specifics of was to determine "What ignorance?" and "Which captives?", but I finally had a really compelling place from which to start.
Since that experience, I’ve had a yardstick by which I could measure the myriad of choices before me:
“Will this help me liberate the captive?"
"How can I use this to help educate the ignorant?”
That has helped tremendously in deciding what paths to take. I still fall short (especially by my perfectionistic standards and aggressive time lines), but having such clarity of purpose also gives me a reason to keep getting back on my feet and moving again; because I have something to contribute, and I need to be giving it.
As more time has passed since I first glimpsed my own mission, I’ve managed to do a lot of refining, frequently using the same writing method. It usually only takes me a couple of pages any more--although sometimes I ask several questions in succession and wind up going on for five or six pages.
It doesn’t matter. It gives me time to get out whatever is binding up my mental processes, and work through what Intuition is trying to tell me. It often feels slow and even painful, but as I push through the roadblocks and put my thoughts to paper, my mind begins to unfold, and I can more clearly identify what I need to be doing.
If you’re still wrestling with the concept of mission, or you just can’t figure out exactly what it is you’re supposed to be doing with your life, just realize that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re in good company. I don’t personally know anyone who has completely nailed down what their purpose in life is. It seems to be more of a journey than a destination. The important part is to keep moving along the path, whatever the pace.
To help me do just that, I recently started employing an idea I just came across. I'm trying to add it as a habit in my life:
Just do one proactive thing daily.
Once you have some idea what it is that you’re supposed to be about, take one more step along the path, but do it today. I have a terrible habit of procrastination based on perfectionism. I don’t want to move down the path until I know I can get to the next great vista on my way. I want to be able make it to the next four-star hotel in a great burst of speed, without the need to camp in the wilderness.
So I sit and study and plan and worry, and I let too much time pass without progress. But if I just take a few small steps each day, or even only one, I’ll reach my destination much more quickly than if I stand still waiting for all of the traffic lights to turn green. Because down that path is my Mission, and it’s waiting for me, and although there is no hurry, I’m much happier when I’m making progress.
After all, if I know for what purpose I was put on this earth, my efforts are only worthwhile if they serve those same ends.