Countless LinkedIn, Facebook messages and questions later, I realized: Some of you are not quite there yet. Or, you don't think you are.
Many people were wary – wondering if they had a mission at all. Others didn’t know or didn’t know what to do to find their mission. Three people even sent me their resumes and/or CVs or described their backgrounds before asking me what I thought their mission should be.
While I can’t answer what your mission should be, I can tell you: You do have a mission and message to share. We all do. And it’s a mission and message the world needs. Unfortunately, we also all have a lot of excuses that prevent us from getting to the heart of that mission and message.
Here are the top five excuses I heard. So, let’s get those out of the way.
Yes you do. We all do. However, as mentioned, we all also have some seemingly really good excuses that prevent us from following our mission. But, as good as those excuses may seem, they're excuses nonetheless. Only serving to cloud your mission – which is there. Trust you on this. However, you’re not going to find your mission by taking a “What Should My Career Be?” test on Facebook, reading another “Here’s What Successful People Do” article or even by asking other people. What you need to do to find your mission is stay in the moment, pay attention to you. Be present. Note what you feel strongly about. Ask yourself what lights the fire in your eyes? And in your heart? Write this down. Keep a journal if it helps. See the similarities of where, to what and to whom, you are drawn. But don't give up or give in to an excuse.
“Keep a fire burning in your eyes, pay attention to the open sky, you never know what will be coming down.” – Jackson Browne, “For A Dancer”
Excuse #2: My mission doesn’t seem worthy.
Identifying your mission isn’t a contest. There is no judge – not even yourself. Nor did anyone say that your mission or message has to be to cure cancer or solve the societal ills that plague our world – unless, of course, it is. I’ve seen some really great speakers – speakers you may have never heard of – share their somewhat unique and very personal missions and messages. In doing, they have moved millions of people to think, and perhaps act, differently.
Some great examples:
- 13-year-old Logan LaPlante Gives a Tedx Talk about “Hackschooling”
- Brene Brown Speaks about “The Power of Vulnerability”
- Sir Ken Robinson Asks the Question: “Do Schools Kill Creativity?”
What do these three speakers – and even our most well-known, historical speakers – have in common? They all have a mission, a message, a point-of-view, a personal and genuine story to tell. All feel strongly about a particular topic, a message they believe the world needs to hear. And they’re right. The world does need to hear their story.
In the same way it needs to hear yours.
Excuse #3: There are things I’m interested in – but I wouldn’t call it a “mission.”
What you’re interested in may just seem like a "thought” right now. And that’s OK. More than OK. In fact, that's exactly what it should be. Thoughts form words. Words create messages. Messages cause action. And that’s how missions evolve.
The famed director Richard Linklater – who arguably should have won the Oscar for his movie "Boyhood" – reportedly started the 12-year project with the “vague thought that I wanted to say something about childhood,” though he didn’t know exactly what. Over the duration of the project, that initial “thought” resulted in a movie that isn't just another coming-of-age story. It made cinematic history and has been proclaimed as “revolutionary” and a “masterpiece.” Ultimately, Linklater communicated so much more than the highs and lows of a boy moving from childhood into adolescence. His thought evolved into a message – several messages actually – about parenting, growing up, growing older, mortality and life – that inspired millions.
Excuse #4: My mission (what I want to do) doesn’t match with what I am doing.
This isn’t an easy one to tackle, but it is pretty straightforward. If this is your excuse, it is my opinion that you have three choices you can make:
- Live the life you have -- however disconnected that may be from your mission, and deal with the continued consternation
- Find the connection between the life you have and what you want, and connect it
- Create the mission and life you want, and live it.
I’m not going to pretend that any of those choices are easy. They’re not. Every day, we all have choices that move us closer to – or further away from – who we want to be and what we want to say. But, it is your choice. Of course, the way I see things – given most choices are challenging anyway – why not accept the challenges that lead to the best outcome, the most happiness? Make the choices that move you closer to your mission and what you really want.
Excuse #5: I don’t think I can do this; I feel like I will fail.
How do I address this eloquently? Bologna. Anyone who has succeeded – and everyone has succeeded at some thing(s) in their life -- also has fallen, stumbled and screwed up. I would even go so far to say you can’t have one without the other.
Know that you will succeed and fail. And further, you are perfectly entitled to do both. In fact, you should. Know that, and move forward.
Or, as Jackson Browne so eloquently put it:
“Don't let the uncertainty turn you around
(The world keeps turning around and around) …
“Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own
And somewhere between the time you arrive
And the time you go
May lie a reason you were alive …”
Go ahead. You've got this.
See you next week!
Next week's topic: Audience: Who Are You?
P.S. As always, I look forward to and very much welcome your comments, questions and thoughts on these posts. Please do share them with me.
Previous topics in our series:
- Want to Give a Great Speech? First, Become a Great Speaker
- Know Your Mission: Nine Questions You Need to Ask Yourself.
- Take it Easy, Chuckles. How To -- and Not To -- Use Humor in Speeches
Patty McDonough Kennedy is CEO of Kennedy Spencer (www.kennedyspencer.net) a marketing communication agency, and Human Works (www.humanworks.guru), a communication training company. She works with companies and individuals across the world to develop effective marketing, communication and speaking programs that measurably improve communication, raise awareness and increase sales. Follow her blog at www.humanworks.guru