Just as a business cannot function without a mission statement, which defines
the objectives and goals of the business, each person must have a personal
mission statement. As we begin the new year, following the holiday season,
here is a practical guide how to discover your mission in this world.
And as a New Year’s resolution, the Meaningful Life Center commits itself to
introduce this year new and exciting programs and materials that will help
each of us find and embrace our mission in life. Stay tuned!
How to Find Your Personal Mission Statement
As we leave the rich holiday season and reenter
our daily routines, now is the time to chart a course for
the new year.
Indeed the holidays are
a spiritual oasis. They nourish and nurture our psyches and empower us with
the ability to take on our lives with a new passion and commitment. But then
we must leave the embrace of the holidays and enter into a hostile world,
charged with the mission to illuminate and warm our corner of the universe,
and transform it into a home for the Divine.
In this week’s Torah portion
Noah is commanded to leave the ark, which protected him from the raging floodwaters.
We too are commanded to leave our spiritual environment of the holiday season
to rebuild the world and
as the universe began completely submerged in water, we all begin our lives
in water – spiritually and physically. Our lives begin and our beings are
shaped in the nine months we spend in the waters of the womb. But then comes
the time of birth: We must leave the comfort and protection of the watery
womb and enter dry land. On land we may feel disconnected from our source
(unlike life in water, which is always connected to its source). And that
precisely is the challenge: To create awareness in a dry and detached world.
Life consists of two components:
Means and ends. Tools and goals. Form and function. Another way of putting
it is: body and soul. Now, form must always follow function; the means must
be directed toward the end; the tools are to be used to achieve the goal.
The body must follow the soul, not the other way around.
But if we don’t know where
our soul wants to go, how then can we use our tools effectively. That would
be like a hammer trying to knock in a nail without any sense of what is being
built. Is it possible that we are spending most of our time and energy on
the means, without really knowing the ultimate goals of all our efforts?
This brings us to the
mission of our lives. To live efficiently and find true happiness, you must
know your mission. This is turn directs all your tools, resources, forms and
means toward the goal and function.
I therefore would like
to take this opportunity, as we leave the “ark” and enter into the quotidian,
to discuss methods how to discover your personal mission statement.
This will also serve as
a response to questions many of you have posed addressing this question. Here
is one example of an e-mail letter I just received.
Dear Rabbi J.,
I have heard you speak many times about the critical need
for each of us to have a personal mission statement. How true and tragic it
is that in business we fully understand the need for a mission, but in our
personal lives most of us do not feel the need to define our mission.
As you accurately point out, a business will simply fail
if it has no mission statement. Even with a mission, businesses always struggle
to maintain their course and ensure that all their departments and employees
are aligned to fulfill the company’s mission. How then can we expect to succeed
in our personal lives without a clear, concise and defined mission statement?
My question to you is this: How do you find your mission
Business is actually a
great barometer by which we can measure the clarity of our personal missions.
The first thing that must
be stated is this. I have asked many people to define their personal mission
statements? Most people answered: “to be happy, “to make a lot of money,”
“to establish security,” “to provide for a healthy family,” or on a more personal
level: “to live a fulfilling life,” “to make a difference,” “to make this
world a better place.”
All these answers are
good, but they don’t answer the question. It would be like saying that the
mission of your business is “to make a lot of money,” or to “make a difference.”
Every business wants to make money and offer an indispensable product to customers.
A mission statement is not a generic declaration that can fit any company
or organization, but one that is unique to YOU. How do you intend on making
money? What will be the exact function of your company? On the personal level:
How to you intend on being happy? What exactly will make you happy? What will
you do with the money you make?
The accumulation of wealth
is a great distraction. It can deceive us into thinking that it in itself
is a mission. Indeed, money with a few other obsessions preoccupies almost
100% of our life goals. But for all its power, it is merely means not an end.
Yet the means are so seductive, that they can lull us into thinking that there
is no other mission in life.
Nothing is farther from
the truth, and nothing can be more destructive.
The first and foremost
thing each of us must know is that we do have a mission in life.
We were sent to earth for a purpose, and if not for that purpose we would
not be here. Period.
We must also know that
survival in this world produces an elaborate amount of tools that can distract
us to the point that we may end up being too busy with the means to pursue
our calling. We therefore need constant reminders to keep us awake and aware
of our higher purpose.
Life’s general purpose
and mission is, in the words of the Midrash, to “make a home for G-d in this
lowly world.” This is the generic mission of all human beings: To utilize
all your resources and opportunities to refine your life environment, and
transform it to channel the sublime.
In mystical terms the
Baal Shem Tov puts it this way: Each of us is allocated an exclusive number
of “divine sparks” – essentially, spiritual opportunities – that lay embedded
in all our life events and experiences. Our job is to recognize these “sparks”
(opportunities) and “release” and “free” them, thereby actualizing their true
potential and purpose.
For instance, when we
travel to a particular location, we may be going for personal or business
reasons (as we check off our customs forms). However the true reason for our
journey is to encounter places, people, experiences and/or events that carry
spiritual opportunities. Our mission is to uncover and develop these opportunities.
When we eat a meal, we
may be driven by hunger or just plain desire, but in truth the food contains
“divine sparks” that are meant to nourish our souls and in turn, to be “released”
and fulfill their true purpose. When we use the energy of our meals for productive
purposes, the food then becomes a “partner” in changing this world for the
Every one of our desires
and interests, every one of our experiences and encounters contains and is
sustained by our unique “sparks,” which we are charged to release and actualize.
Therein lies the key to
discovering your particular mission: Look closely at your life experiences
and you will see patterns emerge that will direct you toward your mission.
It would have been nice
if G-d sent us to Earth with a little “notebook” stating our mission. The
fact that we don’t have that luxury tells us that part of the mission is to
discover the mission on our own.
Yet we are given many
signs and directions how to do so. By studying our own lives, especially the
“givens,” the forces that we do not control, we can, without much difficulty,
recognize our calling.
Look at these four general
resources in your life:
All these four dynamics are driven by Divine Providence.
They are not accidents. They therefore contain a myriad
of invaluable information regarding your mission in life.
Personality: You have a unique personality,
with specific desires and interests. Artistic, scientific,
analytic, emotional are but a few descriptions that define
your unique nature. Some people are cold-blooded, others
warm-blooded. Some are more intuitive, others more rational.
Some are more organized, other more spontaneous. There are
introverts and extroverts. The list goes on.
Each of these features
is shaped by your particular “divine sparks.” Even your desires and your looks,
every part of your personality, temperament and disposition, is beneath the
surface untapped energy waiting to be released.
Your unique character – your qualities and virtues, and for that matter,
your weaknesses and vices that you discipline and channel
– are all signposts telling you about your mission; that
your mission is to utilize your distinctive nature to refine
yourself and the world. An artist, for example, must use
his skill to open up people to new ways of looking at life
and G-d. A sensitive soul must utilize her empathy to give
Self-awareness, in other
words, is the first step in recognizing your mission.
Opportunities: You were blessed with particular opportunities. Family
and friends provide various connections, which can open up all sorts of opportunities.
Education is another source of unique opportunity, as is also the resources
you have earned or inherited. Different offers will come your way throughout
your life. Your family’s business, a friend’s introduction, even a seemingly
“random” encounter may bring you new opportunities.
Your work is another major
spiritual opportunity. It can reveal much about the Divine. For example, a
physician can learn and teach about the cosmos by studying human physiology
created in the “Divine Image” (“from my flesh I behold G-d’). A scientist
can do the same by reflecting on the parallels between science and spirit.
Every line of work contains “sparks” and carries lessons about our own spirits.
In addition, your work offers you ways to fulfill your mission by making your
mark and helping other with the opportunities you have – through charity,
volunteerism and other ways.
Every opportunity is essentially
another form of “sparks” waiting to be actualized by us. These opportunities
are meant to not merely be exploited for personal gain (the means), but primarily
to be used for spiritual gain – to fulfill your mission.
People: The people you have met and will
meet in your life – family, friends, co-workers, even
so called “random” encounters with strangers
– all carry “sparks” of opportunity, that
can further direct you in discovering your mission.
These people have their strengths and weaknesses. The fact
that they are part of your life means that your mission
includes dealing with them, even if the relationship may
be a challenging one. In addition, you learn lessons from
these people, which teach you about your mission. Often,
these people can be mentors that help you discover your
Places: The places you have lived and traveled
to add another dimension to your spiritual opportunities
(“sparks”). Each place has its own character
and offers unique possibilities.
“G-d leads the footsteps
of man.” The reason you find yourself in these places is because you need
them to fulfill your mission.
These four factors – your
personality, opportunities, people and places (POPP or OPPP for short) – carry
the mission and destiny of your life. The reason you have your unique personality
and opportunities, people and places, is because their cumulative energy is
essentially your mission statement.
When you apply yourself and study these four factors your mission will not
take long to emerge. Your unique calling is a combination
of each and all of these four factors, in a twofold way:
1/ To develop all these four areas of your life and 2/ allow
them to catapult you in discovering new opportunities and
ways to fulfill your higher calling.
It may take some work to review your POPP. It's always
a good idea to consult with an objective friend who can
help you look at these four areas, and see how they define
your mission. The more you invest in this discovery, the
clearer will be your results.
Remember: Form follows function. Once you come to recognize
your calling, all your tools and resources will take on
a new and focused direction.
As we leave the “ark” to go fulfill our mission of rebuilding
the world, may you be blessed to discover/embrace your mission
and implement it in your daily routines.
It will change your life.
P.S. We are now developing a series of workshops specifically
geared to help you discover your mission in life. If you
know why you are here in this world, everything else follows.
We will keep you posted as to the details.