In the song “The Impossible Dream” from Cervantes’ The Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote describes his quest, the mission that not only defines his life’s purpose but aims beyond his achievements, reaching towards something that is worthy of his best efforts and is still unattainable. That is one way to describe a mission. It may seem like a contradiction in terms to describe our mission as something too big to attain, but that is precisely the point.
How often does the athlete, the straight A student, the prodigy live the balance of their lives with their best days behind them? Clearly their vision was not big enough to be a mission. Finding our mission requires digging deep into who we are. This is a time when recognizing and identifying our core values is critically important. Pursuing our mission requires dedication, determination and perseverance in the face of all types of struggle and adversity.
Don Quixote had many people, from family to outside observers, who were critical of his mission. Even the woman who was radically transformed as a result of his mission was initially critical of him. His mission had to be big enough to carry him through the adversity and to leave him as passionate and determined at the end as he was at the beginning, even though he would never see the fulfillment of the mission in his lifetime.
“When you discover your mission, you will feel its demand. It will fill you with enthusiasm and a burning desire to get to work on it” -W. Clement Stone. It takes time to find your mission, and it is certainly possible to make some false starts. Ask a young child what they want to be when they grow up, and you will likely, but not always, find something different than the path they travel as adults. It takes good information and a good self-understanding to find a mission that will last a lifetime–and beyond.
“Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you are alive, it isn’t” – Richard Bach. Our mission is not something we discover in a vacuum. “We are not in a position in which we have nothing to work with. We already have capacities, talents, direction, missions, callings” – Abraham Maslow. It is interesting how many times our hobbies and interests form the basis for our mission. When we look at the things we can become totally absorbed in pursuing, this gives some indication of what our mission is.
“The young sailor at sea was ordered to climb a mast to adjust a sail during a violent storm. He got halfway up, looked down, got dizzy and sick. An old sailor on deck shouted up to him Look up, son, look up. Young sailor looked up, regained his composure, and completed his mission. Moral: Look ahead, not back” Wherever you are right now in your life, discovering your mission starts with a realistic look at who you are at this moment, who you want to become, and if you have the skills, the abilities and the desire to get there–no matter what.
Your mission does not have to be big by anyone’s standards but yours, but it must be big enough to claim everything you are and carry you forward beyond yourself. That is worthy of being a mission.
I invite you to start finding that within yourself. What is my mission? What is my life’s calling? What would I like to be remembered for? What is worth my best effort for the rest of my life, even if no one but me sees the value?
–David C. Bloom,
CEO of IHS Services, Inc.
If you would like to receive new As We Move Forward posts, please subscribe to the As We Move Forward mailing list by clicking here. I release entries on a bi-weekly basis