5 Blockers to Defining Your Mission
Note: This is also a podcast episode. Click here to listen.
What's more frustrating than failing?
Not giving it everything you've got.
And that happens when you're not clear about what you want, who you want to become, and what impact you want to make.
Trust me, I've dealt with this.
For creative types, it can be insanely difficult to simply pick one, substantive, exciting, meaningful mission because so many things excite us, and our tastes and interests change.
To make matters worse, we can get super deflated when we change direction and/or bail on things.
So the process of picking, pursuing, and persisting on an ultimate goal can grow into a never-ending life-suck, unless we get that "picking" part right (and roll with some punches as it, too, evolves).
So, here's a list of 5 things -- all mental, emotional, and/or spiritual -- that block us from deciding what our dream is. My podcast expounds upon them (with some of my own blunders), but here's the quick-list:
#1: Believing the lie that wanting things is selfish.
If you were forced to grow up too fast like my wife, you likely struggling with sitting down in front of a blank canvas and dreaming. It seems selfish.
Well, it's not. Everyone has desires -- including selfless you -- and you'll live a more full, fulfilling life by declaring and pursuing them than you will by stuffing them, helping others, and resenting them in the process.
Henry Ford wanted to make cars and MLK wanted to live in a world embracing equality, and they made huge marks with those "wants." I drive a Ford truck and quote MLK frequently; I'm grateful that they listened to their "wants."
Perhaps your dreams involve serving others. Perhaps try fusing them, but do not let yourself believe for one second that you're selfish for wanting things.
#2: Letting your vision become infected with our culture's definition of success.
If you're a Millennial, you're part of the first generation of human beings raised using technology for practically everything.
Kinda cool, right?
Well yeah -- we're also the most depressed, suicidal, and image-obsessed, so being "the first" has its downfalls, aye?
Fact is, when many of us envision in our heart of hearts what we want (no, NEED) to do with our lives, things get really clear.
For about 10 seconds.
Then, in creeps the voice of "yeah, and imagine the money, and the following, and the high-roller status, that'll come from that."
And then clarity, heart, and that deep feeling of satisfaction flies away.
Stop conflating what the world (erroneously) pushes on us with what our internal voice whispers. The internal voice is the trustworthy one, but gets drowned out too often.
Do not let modern, hollow metrics -- fortune, fame, and followers -- stifle your love for something.
#3: Treating your responsibilities as restrictors.
Going after my entrepreneurial dreams in spite of my budding family proved to be a selfish, moronic, ignorant decision, but I don't regret it.
It taught me that my wife and kids -- the pressure to provide for them -- has made me smarter, more focused, and more pragmatic than my younger, brash, overconfident self. I am grateful for everything I lost during that season because what I've gained has more salt and longevity: a deep appreciation for being entrusted with such amazing hearts, minds, and bodies.
Let me crash some Hollywood fables for a second:
- Being a committed, faithful husband is awesome. Being known by your spouse -- showing her the good and bad and ugly and still being loved -- is something that everyone should feel. There's a cost, but well worth it.
- Being a dad is amazing -- way cooler than I even thought. Whether I'm seeing the magic in their eyes when they see Christmas lights on some dumb street or teaching them how to brush their teeth in a non-monkey way, I am constantly in awe of their innocence, joy, and potential.
- Having a home is nice. Paying a mortgage is expensive and adds pressure, but having a home to invite others to (in normal times), to create memories in, and to take refuge in is a blessing. A safe haven. A place to recharge. A standard place for parking and sipping and laying and watching and cuddling and cleaning and sleeping. Home.
If anything, all of my responsibilities have gotten me clearer and closer to finding a life purpose. I hope the same for you. View them as precious cargo that carries weight, not weights that hold you back from precious (selfish) things.
#4: Convincing yourself that it'll be easy.
We're exposed to practically every overnight success story that's happened in our lifetime. How could we not begin to believe that reaching that pinnacle of success was easy when these stories dance in front of our eyes every day?
No, no. Just as in economics, there is "no such thing as a free lunch," there is no such thing as the easy path when it comes to achieving our dreams.
The beauty of the fact that anything worthwhile will be hard is this: you count its cost before beginning, but with the knowledge that it likely won't stop you.
The fact is, if it's easy, you'll either ace it and ask yourself what's next, or someone else is already doing it.
Pick something you love and get after it. Enjoy the grueling grind, as that is what actually illuminates your unique purpose (not the goal itself).
#5: Getting overwhelmed at the candy store.
If you're anything like me, candy stores are overwhelming. The second I lock my eyes onto one candy, another one catches my eye.
I wind up stuffing everything into the bag, going way overboard. In the end, the bag is full of different candies, the best ones unreachable. I often want to toss it all down and start over.
Many of us face this "candy store curse" when choosing from our life's mission also -- there are just so many options!
One excites you like crazy one week and seems silly the next.
People you respect are choosing Mission #756 and it seems like a good fit, so you channel some energy there for a bit and lose interest over time.
Perhaps you try to stuff bits and pieces of different missions into your life and it just gets messy and overwhelming, driving you to settle on something boring.
I've done all of this.
In fact, the floor of my life is covered in seemingly-random candy. Ideas that I was sold out on for hours, days, and even months, but never materialized.
Many of them didn't even receive the attention they deserved -- I was quickly onto the next thing.
I kick myself for this -- enough to take a step back, identify the common threads amongst most of those fallen candies, and pick one. Here is what I have found out would've saved me a ton of time; here is how to "just pick one;"
Pick something big. Hairy. Ugly. Confusing. Messy. Underneath its simple title, you know that its winding roads and oft-hidden dimensions will make it challenging, ever-changing, and ever-exhilarating. Who would want to scale even the tallest mountain if the trail was straight and clear?
Pick something smart. If you pursue, face hardship, and are forced to pivot, what roads could still be open to you? What other problems could you solve? What other opportunities could surface? What relational capital will you have obviously built that will propel you into another interesting space? If your three fallback roads are also cool, your ultimate summit is pretty promising.
Pick something fun. Life is too short to dislike what we do. Take the money and fame and social domination (what is that?) out of the equation. Do you love it? Are you tempted to get out of bed at 1am and write down a new idea in this domain? Is it "so you?" Listen to your heart.
Wellpt, that's it. Hope it helps you set a clear direction for your energies to flow.
When we finally calibrate our activities with our mission, great things start to happen.
Avoid these different breeds of unnecessary fog. Set your compass right, take the time to plan your attack, and go.
Question for you! Which of these mental blockers has blocked you? What has helped you overcome? Feel free to share below via comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep rolling! The world needs you to focus on what you want and deliver so that it