How to Find Your Life Mission, and Plan Life Goals

Perhaps one of the most challenging task we face in our lifetime is discovering our Life Mission, or Life Purpose.

This page offers some of the exercises and books I have found useful in maintaining clarity in my own life mission, and in working with coaching clients, although with clients I use some other approaches that cannot be 'self administered'.

I hope this page, plus the books and other resources I recommend, will help you discover your life mission, and bring more harmony into your life.

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I also recommend www.yourlifework.com , hosted by Teresa Proudlove. As Teresa says, her site is "a safe harbour for people seeking support, insight and inspiration upon their career, life and work paths". Within the site and her free Soulful E-zine she offers "valuable resources; genuine, caring support; and a spiritual, yet practical, perspective toward your work and life challenges".

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If you would like to know more about how I discovered my life mission click here.

One of the most powerful experiences I know of for clarifying life purpose is the "New Warriors Adventure Weekend".

New Warrior weekends are organized through The ManKind Project.

The ManKind Project is an organization of men working together to improve their lives and help other men. The New Warrior Training Adventure is where this starts. It is an intense, and I found, very rewarding experience.

Here is what Jed Diamond, author of The Whole Man Program , who attended a weekend with his own men's group's members, says about it:
"The weekend was transformative, for us as a group and for each of us individually. It was a true initiation, a rite of passage, a celebration of manhood, and an opportunity to fully develop our life-purpose."

Visit the website for details, and to find the calendar of trainings.

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Here are some books I highly recommend:




Finding Your Own North Star: Claiming the Life You Were Meant to Live by Martha Nibley Beck. Of the many books on goal setting, finding your life purpose, and so forth, this is one of the best. It is written in a down-to-earth style, and the exercises are powerful and do-able. This book helped me realize I am a teacher, even though for much of my life I have seen myself as an entrepreneur.





The Secret of the Shadow: The Power of Owning Your Whole Story by Debbie Ford This is another book that is practical and has guts. Debbie Ford has lived what she talks about, and the exercises are effective in helping you find the 'story' that not only holds you back, but, once you discover it, holds the secret of your gift to the world.





Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation by Parker J. Palmer Parker Palmer has written a number of excellent books, and this little tome is perhaps his best. In telling his story of struggling to find what his life wanted to express, he helps us all get more clear about what our true vocation might be.



Balancing Heaven and Earth: A Memoir by Robert Johnson This excerpt from the Amazon website describes this book well: "As much a personal guide as a memoir, Balancing Heaven and Earth teaches us to follow , as Johnson has, the subtle influences of dreams, visions, and even our deepest sufferings in order to live attuned to our spiritual selves. A pure delight for Johnson's many fans and a splendid example of his trademark blend of illustrative myth and psychological insight, this is a work of incomparable beauty and inspiration showcasing the wisdom of a lifetime." My wife and I found this book especially helpful in the past couple of years as we have struggled to find the 'slender threads' that will lead us forward in living meaningful lives.





Create A Life That Tickles Your Soul : Finding Peace, Passion, & Purpose by Suzanne Willis Zoglio is a guide to living the life you want. The description from the Amazon.com page says it well: It's about finding more peace, passion, and purpose. It's filled with real-life stories of people who decided to take back their lives and live from the inside out. Dr. Zoglio offers practical tips for figuring out what's best for you next, and then shows you how to get it. Create A Life That Tickles Your Soul is the winner of the year 2000 Independent Publisher Award as best Self-Help book, and a Top 10 Outstanding Book of the Year winner as "Most Life-Changing".






Now... here are a few exercises you might find useful.

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Three Simple Questions:

1. If you knew you were going to die in five years, how would you live until then?

2. If you knew you were going to die in six months, how would you live until then?

3. If you found out you were going to die in 24 hours, what would you regret not having done?

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LIFE TIME GOAL SETTING

Adapted from How To Get Control Of Your Time and Your Life by Alan Lakein, New American Library, 1973.

Materials required: several sheets of 8½" x 11" paper, pen or pencil and a watch with a second hand.

STEP I: At the top of a sheet of paper write: "What are my lifetime goals?"

  • Think about "If I won the $10 Million, and after I'd been to Hawaii and bought the Ferrari, what would I do with the rest of my life?" and write it down.
  • Take 2 minutes and list quickly all that comes to your mind. Let your fantasy go; include far-out wishes!
  • Then take 2 minutes to go over and adjust the list.

STEP II: At the top of 2nd sheet write: "How would I like to spend the next three years? (if over age 40 - five years?)"

  • Take 2 minutes to brainstorm
  • Take 2 minutes to tidy up or add.

STEP III At the top of 3rd sheet write: "If I knew now that I would be struck dead by lightning in six months, how would I live until then?"

Assume everything about your death and funeral has been arranged, you just have to think about what you will do, say, etc., while you are still alive.)

  • Take 2 minutes to brainstorm and list as many things as you can.
  • Take another 2 minutes to tidy up and add if you wish.

STEP IV Now go back to those 3 sheets starting with step I and decide which goal you will rate A1, A2, A3 (i.e. most important) on each sheet. Mark accordingly. Choosing may be difficult, but choose.

STEP V Now you have 9 "A" goals. Next cull from the 9 the 3 most important to you at this moment and identify them as A1, A2, A3 .

This statement helps to bring your future into the present by giving you a clearer view of what your ideal future looks like.

By the way, in order to directly help you with this Life Mission process, I’ve written “A Harley or My Wife?

I encourage you to click here and gain an understanding of how this resource I've developed can help you.

This book isn't about motorcycles. It is about the quandary a man often finds himself in at midlife, where it looks tempting to buy a Harley and hit the road

PART II

This 2nd part will help you plan your time on a weekly and daily basis. It has to do with activities which help us reach our goals. Example Your goal might be to live a healthier life. Specific activities which might contribute to this are: skipping dessert tonight; exercising 3 times per week; giving up smoking for 24 hours.

STEP I Take 3 sheets of paper: write one of the "A" goals selected earlier at the top of each page.

  • Spend 3 minutes making as long a list as possible of activities that could conceivably contribute toward achieving the first "A" goal.
  • Spend 3 minutes on each sheet.
  • Then spend an additional 3 minutes on each sheet - adding, deleting, consolidating, refining and even inventing further activities. Identify as many as you can. Be as imaginative as possible. Quickly write down as many ideas as you can: speed and quantity are important. Do not make any attempt to evaluate. Do not confuse goals with activities. The latter is something you do.

STEP II Okay, so you listed as many activities as you could. You likely have too many activities and not enough time for all of them. The time has come to set priorities.

  • Switch from being creative and imaginative to being practical and realistic. Start by eliminating low priority items.

One way to do this - for each activity on each list ask yourself,

"Am I committed to spending a minimum of 5 minutes (or less time) on this activity in the next 7 days?".

If the answer is "no" draw a line through the activity.

(You don't have to offer any particular reason for crossing an activity off your list. You may not feel like doing it; it may depend on someone else who cannot help you at this time; it may be too hard, etc.)

STEP III After you have pruned all 3 "A" Goal activity lists, then combine results into one list. You will then have a dozen or so activities that are important to you.

Next, set priorities. Classify the most important as an A1, and so on..

Each day provides a fresh opportunity to move closer to your life time goals. Select and "A" activity to work on each day. If it seems very large, break it down into segments and begin with the easiest. Once you've singled it out, you have given yourself a clear priority for that day. In the 16 hours or so that you are awake each day, you can arrange a few minutes to work toward fulfilling and important lifetime goal. How about starting now!

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GOING TO A FUNERAL

This exercise from Stephen Coveys's book The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People may be difficult. Its purpose it to look at your values from a different angle.

In your mind's eye, see yourself going to the funeral of a loved one. As you walk down to the front of the funeral parlour or chapel and look inside the casket, you suddenly come face to face with yourself. This is your funeral, three years from today. All the people present have come to honour you, to express feelings of love and appreciation for your life.

As you take a seat and wait for the services to begin, you look at the program in your hand. There are to be four speakers. The first is from your family, immediate and also extended - children, brothers, sisters, nephews, nieces, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who have come from all over to attend.

The second speaker is one of your friends, someone who can give a sense of what you were as a person. The third speaker is from your work or profession. And the forth is from your church or some community organization where you have been involved in service.

Now think deeply. What would you like each of these speakers to say about you and your life? What kind of husband, wife, father, or mother would you like their words to reflect? What kind of son or daughter or cousin? What kind of friend? What kind of working associate?

What character would you like them to have seen in you? What contributions, what achievements would you want them to remember? Look carefully at the people around you. What difference would you like to have made in their lives?

Write down your thoughts.

After writing down the things you would want people to say about you (which in many ways is your personal vision), write down the things that prevent you from being the kind of person you want to be. (i.e. what are the obstacles to attaining your personal vision).

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A PERSONAL MISSION STATEMENT

Excerpted from The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People by Stephen Covey

A personal mission statement focuses on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based.

Because each individual is unique, a personal mission statement will reflect that uniqueness, both in content and form. My friend, Rolfe Kerr, has expressed his personal creed in this way:

  • Succeed at home first.
  • Seek and merit divine help.
  • Never compromise with honesty.
  • Remember the people involved.
  • Hear both sides before judging
  • Obtain counsel of others.
  • Defend those who are absent.
  • Be sincere yet decisive.
  • Develop on new proficiency a year.
  • Plan tomorrow's work today.
  • Hustle while you wait.
  • Maintain a positive attitude.
  • Keep a sense of humour.
  • Be orderly in person and in work.
  • Do not fear mistakes - fear only the absence of creative, constructive, and corrective responses to those mistakes.
  • Facilitate the success of subordinates.
  • Listen twice as much as you speak.
  • Concentrate all abilities and efforts on the task at hand, not worrying about the next job or promotion.

A woman seeking to balance family and work values has expressed her sense of personal mission differently:

  • I will seek to balance career and family as best I can since both are important to me.
  • My home will be a place where I and my family, friends and guests find joy, comfort, peace, and happiness. Still I will seek to create a clean and orderly environment, yet livable and comfortable.
  • I will exercise wisdom in what we choose to eat, read, see, and do at home. I especially want to teach my children to love, to learn, and to laugh - and to work and develop their unique talents.
  • I value the rights, freedoms, and responsibilities of our democratic society. I will be a concerned and informed citizen, involved in the political process to ensure my voice is heard and my vote is counted.
  • I will be a self-starting individual who exercises initiative in accomplishing my life's goals. I will act on situations and opportunities, rather than to be acted upon.
  • I will always try to keep myself free from addictive and destructive habits. I will develop habits that free me from old labels and limits and expand my capabilities and choices.
  • My money will be my servant, not my master. I will seek financial independence over time. My wants will be subject to my needs and my means. Except for long-term home and car loans, I will seek to keep myself free from consumer debt. I will spend less than I earn and regularly save or invest part of my income.
  • Moreover, I will use what money and talents I have to make life more enjoyable for others through service and charitable giving.

A personal mission statement based on correct principles becomes a personal constitution, the basis for making major, life-directing decisions, the basis for making daily decisions in the midst of the circumstances and emotions that affect our lives. It empowers individuals with the same timeless strength in the midst of change that a country's constitution does.

People can't live with change if there's not a changeless core inside them. The key to the ability to change is a changeless sense of who you are, what you are about and what you value.

With a mission statement, we can flow with changes. We don't need prejudgments or prejudices. We don't need to figure out everything else in life, to stereotype and categorize everything and everybody in order to accommodate reality.

Our personal environment is also changing at an ever-increasing pace. Such rapid change burns out a large number of people who feel they can hardly handle it, can hardly cope with life. They become reactive and essentially give up, hoping that the things that happen to them will be good.

But it doesn't have to be that way. In the Nazi death camps where Victor Frankl learned the principle of proactivity, he also learned the importance of purpose, of meaning in life. The essence of "logotherapy", the philosophy he later developed and taught, is that many so-called mental and emotional illnesses are really symptoms of an underlying sense of meaninglessness or emptiness. Logotherapy eliminates that emptiness by helping the individual to detect his unique meaning, his mission in life.

Once you have that sense of mission, you have the essence of your own proactivity. You have the vision and the values which direct your life. You have the basic direction from which you set your long- and short-term goals. You have the power of a written constitution based on correct principles, against which every decision concerning the most effective use of your time, your talents, and your energies can be effectively measured.

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A FIVE-YEAR LIFE-PLANNING EXERCISE

In this exercise, answer the following questions in the present tense as though it were today (e.g. It is November 10, 2007, I am 45 years old)

Date Five years from now: ____________

1. I am _________ years old

2. My children's ages are:

3. For a living I:

4. Recreational and social activities include:

5. I live (town, kind of house, etc.)

6. The important people in my life are:

7. My financial situation is:

8. The lifetime dreams/objectives I have accomplishes are:

9. This is what I did in the previous five years to accomplish these objectives:

10. Obstacles and logjams I had to overcome in order accomplish these objectives are:

11. Attitudes and beliefs I had to change are:

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Roadblocks & Fears to Reaching Your Goals from: Rut Buster! by Wayne & Connie Burleson, 1994

You must identify the roadblocks and learn how to turn them into stepping stones. Here is a list of roadblocks. Check the ones that apply to you.

  • Lack of true commitment
  • Lack of money
  • Lack of education
  • Lack of skills
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Too macho
  • Unacceptable values
  • Can't get out of the rut
  • Bitterness
  • Lack of skills
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Fear of losing leisure time
  • Ingrained negative feelings
  • Fear of something new
  • Fear of competition
  • Fear of injury
  • Fear of failure
  • Unmotivated
  • Hard to stay focused
  • Past failures
  • No encouragement
  • Not in your personality
  • Lack of self-discipline
  • Letting situations control
  • Too busy with daily living
  • Preoccupied with problems
  • Poor self-image
  • Addictions to - you name it
  • Living in crisis management
  • The way you were raised
  • Depression
  • Poor attitude
  • Impatience
  • Unrealistic
  • Other people make fun of it
  • Uncertainty
  • Paranoia
  • Hard to focus on
  • Lack of family support
  • Spouse hates it
  • Over-committed - can't say no
  • Feeling sorry for yourself
  • Feel you don't deserve it
  • Won't commit it to paper
  • Afraid of hard work
  • Bad habits

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Stepping Stones List (also from The Rut Buster)

The following is a list of stepping stones to get you passed your fears and roadblocks. Identify a few that ring true for you.

  • Practice Practice Practice
  • Understand your weaknesses
  • Learn to ask for help
  • Know the competition
  • Know how to slow down or speed up
  • Don't look back, too much
  • Talk to a friend first
  • Learn to trust more
  • Learn to take risks
  • Do your homework
  • Know your options
  • Take a chance
  • Learn from past mistakes
  • Weigh each choice carefully
  • Try something different
  • Use a budget
  • Take action
  • Predict success
  • Invent a new tool
  • Stand back - look at the whole picture
  • Education - Knowledge
  • Do big projects in small pieces
  • Persist Persist Persist
  • Focus Focus Focus
  • Listen to yourself
  • Stick to your plan
  • Think big - start small
  • Get angry - use it wisely
  • Don't Quit
  • Develop will power
  • Learn to delegate
  • Learn to plan for the future
  • Know your limits - Push yourself
  • Set small reachable goals
  • Don't let peer pressure hold you
  • Know when the time is right
  • Develop a detailed plan
  • Stand your ground
  • Learn from others
  • Know when to stop
  • Test the water first
  • Know when to fight and not to fight
  • Predict your own errors
  • Be prepared
  • Know your strengths
  • Be open-minded

There are many ways of trying to identify your Life Purpose. I hope some of the exercises and books on this page will help you find yours.

I know finding your Life Purpose is difficult. In fact I believe it is one of the most difficult tasks we face as human beings. But when we do get a sense of mission, and then ACT on it, our lives flow more easily, and we have a much greater feeling of fulfillment.

Good luck!

Again, my continuing Purpose is to help you truly find your own Life Mission...

In order to directly help you with this process, I’ve written “A Harley or My Wife?

I encourage you to click here and gain an understanding of how this resource I've developed can help you.

This book isn't about motorcycles. It is about the quandary a man often finds himself in at midlife, where it looks tempting to buy a Harley and hit the road