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While purpose answers ‘why are we here,’ we need our life design to show us how to get to this object of our life’s path.

Life design is the bridge between purpose and presence.

Mission

Vision, mission, and purpose often get confused. I finally just have to say that by their denotation, they are synonyms, so I have to define them for myself. I use purpose, meaning, and vision interchangeably, but will stick to purpose. Mission is where I start to use the military definitions that all strategic managers revert to when wading through the ideas of mission, strategy, and tactics. Mission is your commander intent, the top-level strategy of how you are going to better the competition.

Much like purpose, mission should be short. It should be a mantra, something you can remember and commit to each time you say it. It explains action, the skills and events that will lead to the object of the purpose. It is your most succinct yet all-encompassing goal.

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For the individual, the overarching life goal does not have to be competitive in the traditional sense. There is no need to call out specific individuals or positions. However, you want to “aim high” and build on your unique strengths, targeting a personal mission statement that aims at the upper echelon of performance and results. Mission statements do not define that you will win a specific race at a specific time, but that you are a regional competitor through numerous age classes, or more aggressively, a national or international competitor. Leadership positions can involve outperforming previous precedents you have already set.

You can choose to be a beloved leader, a service provider, a hero to your family, or an award-winning artist – just not all four. Choose the “One Thing” that you are going to focus on, write down this mission statement, align it with your purpose, and do it with all of your heart.

Why can’t I do more than one thing in my mission?

There will be plenty of time in strategizing to broaden the activities used to achieve mission, but the mission mantra is not the place. If your mission is to be a wonderful mother you might decide that has a spiritual aspect, a learned aspect, a health component, and a relationship requirement. Each of these are fine strategic “buckets” but your mission mantra is something like “grow as a mother along with the needs/desires of my kids.” While not overtly competitive (although you might still vie for your kids affection!), as your children grow, your parenting requirements will have to change to meet your mission. This will involving giving them space and learning how to befriend them when they don’t need parenting, and switching back to parenting when they do.

Use the following template to create your mission mantra, your designed life, and remember, aim high!

{A leadership position}{in what}{for whom (optional)}

  • For example, become a thought leader in meaning & ways to attain it.
  • Or, be a service leader in my community empowering refugee women to self-reliance.
  • Or, be a violin virtuoso leading orchestras to adoring global fans.

Strategies

The actions in your mission, the strategies, and your intermediate goals are what leads to the designer life outlined in your mission. Strategies are long-term and directional. In military terms, strategy is contrasted to tactics, the immediate actions needed to fulfill one component of the strategic plan. In design thinking, strategies are developed by listening to the customer and clearly defining objectives and requirements. Most importantly, strategies are active, they are something you go and do!

“Turning it over in your mind won’t plow the field.” – Irish Proverb

In life design, strategies are often skill improvements, risk mitigation, relationship enhancements, or strength alignments. They will be the most important habits that you can develop to achieve your purpose. They should stretch you.

Strategies evolve. Developing mindfulness might start in meditation and lead to actively noticing and presence. A relationship might begin in passion and end
in love and comfort. Your business venture might struggle to find its footing but one key influencer will push your product into the mainstream. Each of the “species” along this evolutionary path ends in a fully salable product, some skill or habit that you can use, and shouldn’t ever be underdeveloped in order to move to the next thing.

“Do not repeat the tactics which have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances.” – Sun Tzu. “The Art of War.”

I find it beneficial to further bucket strategies under themes. For example, I have a creativity theme, a health/mindfulness theme, a business theme, and a relationship theme. These are also subject to change but rarely do, they are things that I value and continue to morph my strategies under these “big tents.”

These buckets will help you to understand which strategic bets make sense for your current conception of delivering on your mission and purpose and which are just good ideas. It is helpful to do some problem solving on potential strategies, mental modeling which seem right and which are longshots.

I write strategies in a simple template.

{Improve/Reduce/Optimize}{skill or habit or relationship}

Goals

Up to now, we haven’t measured anything.

“What gets measured, gets managed. – Andy Grove, Intel Founder

We need our mission and strategies to be measurable and that is where goals come in, they set the conditions of success.

  • What is the starting point for your mission or strategy? Where are you at today? Let us call that ‘x’
  • When do you anticipate being done with this goal? Let’s call that ‘t’
  • Finally, put yourself at time = t. Really dig into this timeframe, tell yourself a story about it. What does success look like in terms of a change in x at t? Let’s call that ‘y’

When we build our measures around the bets we believe are going to promote into strategies, we put them in the format x to y by t. Our numbers should be clear and compelling. We should have a glidepath to our goals to show if we are winning. We should course correct where our measure has slipped under our target. These course corrections can be modifications to strategies but are more likely just small tactical maneuvers needed to return performance to target.

suntzuWhile this may not seem very spiritual, it is at this level, the pragmatic tactics of improvement through practice and feedback that presence and the performance zone occurs. By having line-of-site from tactical presence up to transcendent purpose, all things have meaning in the great circle of a designed life!

Purpose is the object of your life’s quest, the mission is the combination of skills and navigation, a life design. If the path is through the mountains, mountaineering may be an essential skill and navigation by animal tracking might be necessary; but if your object is at sea, sailing and nautical orienteering will be the differentiated skill set required to grasp your purpose. You might practice tying knots in either case, moving from tying the five knots you know to ten by the end of the year. As you improve and your knots hold more weight on a scale, you begin strategizing on orienting skills or mentors you wish to approach.

How do you propose to achieve your purpose? What are your differentiated skills that will help you? What does it mean to be the best?