- Where do you want your life to go? What is your vision for your life? This isn’t about material goals. The question is about what type of person you want to be remembered as.
- What might get in the way of your living that vision?
VisionDo you have a clear vision for what drives and motivates you? In 1991, I attended a series of trainings from the Context organization. One of the exercises was to produce our Definition of Success and our Core Values. This exercise required me to take a values-based approach to defining my vision. Now, over 25 years later, these values still resonate with me. This was an effective exercise for me, but it is time for an update; so I have done a deep dive into the question of how do I clarify and define my own sense of purpose.First, though, I want to take a look at the differences between virtues and values. My research surfaced two basic strategies: values-based or virtues-based; but what is the difference between a value and a virtue? Here are some basic definitions:
ValuesValues are often quite subjective. Values are what you and I consider to be important in our lives.; however your values may be quite different from mine. One my highest values is autonomy. It is very important to me that I am the boss of my own time. I am willing to give up the apparent security of a job in order to keep my autonomy. A person’s values can be based on many elements such as ethnicity, family background, religious beliefs and even personal experience.
VirtuesVirtues are qualities that are considered to be good or desirable in a person. Virtues have a strong moral component. A highly moral person may have and demonstrate virtues like honesty, accountability, compassion, courage and patience. I suspect (without any real proof) that almost all virtues are also values, but not all values are virtues, as shown in this Venn diagram. For example, although I value autonomy highly, it is not necessarily a virtue. I am not an expert here, so you are free to disagree. Ultimately all I care about is that you cultivate an awareness of the virtues and values that are important to you. How aware are you of the values that are really important to you? Take a moment without any further thought and write down a handful of values and another short list of virtues. We will come back to this in a few moments.
PurposeSo what does all of this have to do with purpose, vision and connection? Our values (whether virtuous or not) give us our sense of purpose. When we are aligned with our values, life works better. We tend to have more energy and we feel more fulfilled because we are basing our actions on what we deeply value. Given this, it may serve us well to have a clear statement of purpose which we can use as a touchstone, our own personal North Star to guide when life gets muddy and confusing. There are two lenses through which we can view a sense of purpose:
- Internal – how do we bring a sense of purpose into our own lives?
- External – how do we empower others with a sense of purpose?
Building a Statement of PurposeStart by writing down your answers to the above questions by associating one or more values with each question. There is a list of values on the resources page. Scan through this list and write down the values that resonate with you for each question. Which values show up over and over? Which values show up only once?
Looking Back…Now let’s take a side trip into the future. Visualize yourself close to the end of your life. Assume that you have lived your life with a clear sense of purpose. Looking back over the span of your life, what do you see? What is the most meaningful impact you have had? What does this suggest about your purpose in life? Summarize what you see in a couple words like, “Loving Father” or “Wise Teacher”. These words may appear as your epitaph on your tomb stone. We can call this your “vision” or perhaps this may point to your calling in life, or something you want to co-create?
Purpose vs. MissionSome of you may be asking, “What is the difference between a statement of purpose and a mission statement?” That depends. If you take my Mission Statement apart, you will see that it is full of values like authenticity, connection, teaching, compassion, consciousness , courageousness and transformation. For me, my mission is my statement of purpose, but that may not be true for you. The Purpose is the big target. Mission can be the strategy for hitting that target.
Connecting the DotsIn my Waking Up article, we discussed spiritual awakening and some practices you can include in your life that will help you become more self-aware. In my Growing Up article, we explored the things that help us develop emotional maturity and what gets in our way. In this article, we have looked at vision, values and purpose. I want to connect all of these topics in one final discussion about perseverance which I see as the essential element of this work.
PerseveranceWithout perseverance, real growth cannot happen. Perseverance is the glue that holds this work together. Without perseverance, I have only moments of being awake, only passing experiences of connecting deeply, and little chance at all of leaving a lasting impact on the world. Spiritual awakening may have singular aha moments like Eckhart Tolle’s awakening one moment on a park bench, but most awakening processes are slow and painful, as Stephen Levine points out in his wonderful book, “A Gradual Awakening.” In the mid 1990’s, I attended a gathering of a bunch of personal growth teachers in San Francisco. There was one particular teacher I deeply admired. I had worked hard to develop my skills so I could assist him in his teaching. I asked him, “Can I join your team now?” His answer was clear and direct. “Jones, I don’t know anybody who has worked harder at this stuff than you and still doesn’t get it.” I felt like I had been gut punched, but he was right. It has taken me many more years of work and now, I don’t even have to ask the question. I know the answer. Brene Brown in one of her wonderful talks on vulnerability and shame mentions Teddy Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” speech which describes perseverance in very powerful words.
THE MAN IN THE ARENA
by Theodore Roosevelt Excerpt from the speech “Citizenship In A Republic” delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”