"A goal is a dream with a deadline." -Napoleon Hill
We know the old adage, if you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there. This is true whether you’re talking about driving your car or navigating the road of life. So then why do so many of us live with no end in mind? Stephen Covey, in his bestselling book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People famously stated, “Begin with the end in mind.” Yet, most of us don’t even begin with next year in mind.
Granted, you don’t know today exactly where you’ll be at the end of your life. Furthermore, you may not want to know, because maybe you’d like to believe that your ultimate life will be something that less-experienced current you doesn't even have the capacity to dream up today. That’s completely understandable, it's definitely how I think.
So, what I instead recommend is creating a life-mission statement for where you want to be, and sticking to it, but giving yourself the leeway to edit it along the way. As Tony Robbins said, “Stay committed to your vision, but be flexible in your approach.” You don’t want to wake up on your last day on Earth and regret never having climbed Mount Everest, or more likely, not having relationships with your children, so you need to have a general idea of what you want to accomplish, achieve, and create during your time here as a human.
Write your own obituary
One of the best ways I've discovered what truly matters to me is by writing my own obituary. I know it sounds a little morbid, but trust me, it’s incredibly effective. When you think about what you want others to say about you once you’re dead and gone, you’re able to get to the root of what really matters to you. If you want people to say, “He was a loving father and husband who gave all he had to his church and community. He was a true philanthropist and family man,” yet you only go to church on Christmas and Easter, and only see your children’s silhouettes in bed when you sneak in the house after working a 14 hour day, then you’re not living the life of the person that you actually want to become. And trust me, it’s better to find this out now, when you can actually do something about it, then when you’re almost 90 and can barely walk.
Create your Mission Statement
After discovering that you will never become a famous talk show host by working as an accountant for your entire life, it’s time to turn your obituary into a mission statement, because fortunately for you, you’re not dead yet. Instead of saying “She was the most famous talk show host that ever lived,” your mission statement will say, “I will become the most famous talk show host that ever lived.” If it worked for Oprah, it can work for you too! Make your mission statement concise, but ensure it includes all of the important aspects of your life that you’d like to accomplish. I recommend it be about four or five sentences. Also—and this is extremely important—include a date when your mission statement will become a reality. For me, mine specifically mentions my 40th birthday with specific expectations centered on that time-frame.
Constantly remind yourself of your mission
After you've gotten your statement written, edited, and perfected, write it down on a pretty note card and hang it in your bedroom. Or turn it into a fancy e-card and make it your laptop’s screen saver. Put it somewhere you’ll see it every single day, preferably multiple times a day, to remind you what your life is all about. If you go into any large (and a lot of small) company, on the wall, on their website, maybe even printed on their business cards, is their company mission statement. They encourage their employees to live and breathe that mission statement, and likewise, you should live and breathe your life mission statement as well.
Recite your mission aloud every day
Before you call me crazy, let me tell you that this is not my idea; I didn't make this up. Napoleon Hill, in his world famous bestselling book Think and Grow Rich, says that reciting your goals every morning when you wake up and every night when you go to sleep is the most effective way to achieve them. Hill is the oldest and perhaps wisest authority on success that ever lived. He dedicated his life to studying successful people and then wrote a book teaching the world how to duplicate it. So if that doesn't convince you to look yourself in the mirror every morning and recite your mission statement aloud, with all the vigor and belief that your can muster, nothing will.
Live your mission
Obviously, after you've determined your life’s mission, and discovered the differences between what’s important to you, adjustments and refocusing will be necessary. As you remind yourself every day of your mission statement, it is important to gradually make changes to steer your life in the direction of that mission. Some of us will have more work to do than others, but the object is the same. Baby steps in the direction of your mission are better than miles driven in the opposite direction. Make a small effort every day to choose your mission over the things that are not important to you in the big scheme of life.
Live with purpose.