It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Today’s question is: “What’s one strong belief you possess that isn’t shared by your closest friends or family? What inspires this belief, and what have you done to actively live it?”
Spending my young adult life in the armed forces is not necessarily conducive to developing independent thought. In a way, I liked that. Although my career path in aerospace research and development afforded me more freedom of action than most of my peers, my life was still largely regulated by the list of rules contained in the four thick volumes of the Queen’s Regulations and Orders For The Canadian Forces. These commandments told me how I should dress, cut my hair, and generally conduct my life. The decisions which were a consequence of the QR&Os would determine what kind of jobs I would do, how much I was paid, and generally mapped my life out for me until my retirement at the ripe old age of 48 or so. Life within those comfortable boundaries was good to me.
But when I chose to leave at a crucial time in my career because of federal budget cuts, I was not equipped for the comparative absence of boundaries in the civilian world. Not that I went off the deep end in terms of becoming a party animal (quite the opposite), but without the sense of identity that the military gave me, all I could cling to was my job. Which was difficult to rely on for structure because I didn’t do what many of my colleagues who left the Forces at the same time as I did, which is shift to defence contracting jobs or positions in larger organizations. Instead, I chose to hang out my shingle as a self-employed consulting engineer.
Which was good at first, because I had a lot of freedom. But then that freedom became a burden because I had no long-term goals, only the short-term one of getting the next contract. I became my job. I was also unhappy.
The later part of the 1990s where a great opportunity and equally challenging as I experienced the roller-coaster ride of the Y2K crisis and the tech bubble. I loved the challenge, but the responsibilities were too much for me to handle. In the end, this adventure wiped me out financially as well as emotionally and physically. And, to a certain degree, morally too. Because I ended up letting myself become someone who I did not like, bending myself into what other people wanted me to be, just to keep my job.
When I took some time to reboot my life, I had the good fortune to meet Laurie Beth Jones, author of The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life. Laurie Beth developed a powerfully simple way to define a personal mission statement that is independent of what we do or where we came from. Her process allows the logical (excuse-making) mind to step aside and let the soul speak its true purpose.
As I experienced the process for the first time on a balmy Puerto Vallarta evening, I was hooked. The statement that came out of me answered so many of my questions about who I was and what I was meant to do. It was like a huge weight was lifted from my shoulders and I stood six feet taller.
I deeply believe that we are each born with a mission, not to “do”, but to “be”. To be the expression of specific values and passions.
Consciously or not, we refer to this mission whenever we make a decision, whether it is a big one or a small one. When I am aware of my mission and use it as the ultimate criteria of whether or not I should do something, then the decision most often turns out to be a good one for me.
But when one is not aware of one’s mission, it becomes harder to make life decisions. Some seem to work out and others not. In our “unconscious” state we turn to others for guidance, but since their missions are unique to them and not to us, the advice is at best hit-and-miss, and at worst can be life-shattering.
That’s what happened to me in the late 1990s. I made what seemed to be good career decisions at the time based on the advice of others, but I was doomed to fail in the path I chose because the person I had to become to succeed in that career path went against my mission.
I can easily see why so many people are unhappy. They have compromised who they really are to become someone that somebody else wants them to be. If they followed their mission instead of following their heart or the money, they would be happier, healthier and, I believe, weathier.
But that’s not what we teach. Our society believes we need to follow career paths which have everything to do with our economy but little to do with our humanity, and we’re suffering because of it.
My strong belief is that we each have a responsibility to discover our mission and to fully live it. If we helped people put words to their life mission as they started their adult journey, I am convinced that the world would be a happier place…
For more information
This post is part of a series inspired by The Domino Project’s #Trust30 Writing Challenge. Each day during the month of June 2011, we receive a thought from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay “Self-Reliance”, to use as a writing prompt. For more information about the #Trust30 Writing Challenge, see today’s prompt:
Laurie Beth Jones: http://www.lauriebethjones.com
“The Path” on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Path-Creating-Your-Mission-Statement/dp/0786882417
A free summary of the process is on the LaurieBethJones.com site: http://www.lauriebethjones.com/find/
My personal mission statement: http://en.davender.com/about/mission/
I can help you to discover your Personal Mission Statement:
Related articles on this blog
If You Were The Last Person On Earth
Soul and Ego, Mission and Vision