Imagine the most successful person you know. It could be a family member, friend or contact – or even a public figure. Or, think of someone who inspires you with their mission, ambition and vision for life. And then ask yourself: what is their purpose?
Now, turn your attention to yourself. Do you feel connected to a greater sense of purpose? Would you know how to articulate it? If someone asked you about your purpose, would you know how to respond? This question is important for everyone, but it has particular significance for authors. As writers, we’re not only personally responsible for our own sense of purpose, but we need to ensure that our words have a purpose as well. In short, we need to figure out why we’re writing, before we can create work that matters.
This blog will take you through a set of brief steps to start working on your purpose – or rediscover a sense of purpose that was with you all along.
The ‘foundational why’
In this exercise, take a blank sheet of paper and write out one of your biggest goals. Don’t worry too much about finding the perfect goal – you can always revisit and replicate this exercise with other goals at a later stage. For now, just write down (ideally in a single line) a goal you really want to go for.
Next, write down why you want that thing. Once you have this initial why, see if you can keep going deeper, asking ‘why’ to each answer you give. After a few levels, you’ll probably reach a place that feels like your deepest why – and be honest with yourself as you reach it. When you get clarity on your ‘foundational why’, you can either use it as a source of motivation (keep checking in with it as you make your way towards your goal), or you can use it to re-evaluate your goals and ambitions (do you really feel connected to the ultimate ‘why’ behind your work? Do your goals or actions need to change as a result of your findings?).
Your mission statement
Once you have a sense of your ‘foundational why’, you can use it to craft a personal mission statement. Mission statements often work best with powerful, assertive language – they should be confident, action-orientated and bold. To start, you can use the phrase: “my mission is…” – and then you can remove this part once you have your statement. Here’s a basic example:
“My mission is…
…to be an inspiration to my community, and to lead a balanced life.”
This mission statement identifies two aspects: community and self-care. One is externally-focused (inspiring others), and the other is internally-focused (making sure life is set up in a balanced way). Notice, too, the things that are not present within this mission statement – career goals, or grand ambitions about changing the world. That’s not to say they won’t have a place in your mission statement, but it does demonstrate what is important in this particular example. The things you leave out of your mission statement are just as important as the things you choose to include.
A final note
It’s worth noting that purpose-finding is not a one-time project. As we evolve throughout our lives, our sense of purpose will – and should! – change with us. Human beings are complex, and our ideas about what we want to do with our lives are flexible. Purpose-finding work should be an ongoing process, a part of personal development over a long period of time. We might even find that the process itself (navigating and exploring our ideas of purpose) can teach us more about ourselves than we’d previously imagined.
Eloise Skinner is an author, psychotherapist and teacher. She’s also the founder and creator of The Purpose Workshop, an agency helping clients to discover their purpose and redesign their lives. Eloise’s website: www.eloiseskinner.com / Eloise’s Instagram: www.instagram.com/eloiseallexia