As you know from reading my blog, I spend a lot of time thinking (and writing) about growth, development and being “deliberate.” Not surprising, I read a lot of books and articles to help build my knowledge and expertise.
What continues to amaze me is how many articles there are that emphasize having a Life Purpose, Personal Mission Statement or Vision. They are everywhere!
I’ll be honest – even though I’m passionate about living deliberately, I’m not sure I could rattle off my personal mission statement at the drop of a hat. Am I hypocritical? Hopefully not – I’m just being honest.
Life is complex and dynamic – it is very difficult to create and follow a single, compelling vision throughout a typical, chaotic week. Things change. Life happens. There are days when my most compelling “Mission” is to find and open a decent bottle of wine!
Don’t get me wrong – I think the concept of a mission/vision/purpose is great. I give these lots of thought and effort in my own life and my work with clients. However, I know many people immersed in 16 hour days who don’t stop to think about (let alone draft) a purpose statement.
The problem, as you well know, life can become an endless treadmill – you run fast, but get no where. That shouldn’t be a permanent excuse, but it does feel like reality.
What I’m offering is a middle ground. In lieu of a full-blown personal Mission or Vision, I want you to practice being more deliberate using four powerful words.
Used consistently, these four words can not only help get (and keep) you off the treadmill, they act as a ‘Functional Purpose.” This helps you lead a deliberate life even without a full-blown Mission Statement.
The first two words are: So What?
“So What?” – is a backward looking tool. It is intended to focus you on the immediate past and determine value, benefit and focus. Here is how and when to use them.
You are busy – I get it. You work all the time; many days feel like you can’t even stop to pee! At the end of a day you’re exhausted – you sigh, fall asleep then wake up to start it all again.
I encourage you to use these two words just three times a day – 11:00 a.m, 3:30 p.m and 8:00 p.m.
Set an alarm on your phone and when it “rings” -stop and reflect. What have I done in the last 4 hours? Why did I just do what I did? What was the goal of what I did? To what did it contribute? So What is intended to link your most recent activities to a practical purpose.
If you can’t answer the “So What?” – chances are you were on the treadmill reacting to immediate circumstances OR drifting along on the river of default!
The second two words are: So That….
So that… is a forward looking tool. It is intended to focus you on the likely impact, contribution or consequence of what you are about to do. Here is where and how you can use them.
There is a finite amount of time (and energy) in your life. Time doesn’t care if it is spent on tasks of value or wasted on frivolity. It just is. You, however, should care very much – you only have so much time/energy and when deployed, it never comes back.
Therefore, use “so that…” to quickly glance into the future and determine if what you are about to do is going to add value or contribute to a greater goal BEFORE you do it!
Try to connect what you are about to do to a bigger goal/objective. See if the time/effort about to be spent is worth it. If not, consider a different path or approach. If so – enjoy the confidence that you are behaving deliberately and contributing to a practical purpose (not just running on the treadmill).
Getting into the habit of using these 4 words appropriately is a great way to build your awareness. By slowing down and asking the questions, you prevent days from flying by and weeks becoming blurs.
I do think we should all keep working on our personal mission statement. In the meantime – follow these 4 words to keep a practical purpose as a guide.