I love dogs! Not just in a usual dog-lover way; I’m pretty much obsessed. I realize this line of thought might seem random based on the post’s title, but stick with me.
I’ve had dogs all my life, and I can’t imagine life without them. I love taking care of them, living with them, and setting them up for success as they interact in the world (yep, I work to set them up for success the way some women ensure their kids get into the right school!). However, my mission and purpose have nothing to do with dogs, nor do I want them to.
Dogs make my life happy, and if I were to make them my mission or purpose, it would change the dynamic. I don’t want to change the dynamic. That, along with strong intuition, tells me to look elsewhere. Being able to make an honest assessment of your likes, loves, and dislikes is key to ensuring you don’t waste your time going down the wrong path.
How I Almost Mistook Passion for Purpose
When I hit the midlife wall, I immediately started thinking about all the things I love to do in the hopes that I would land on one that made the most sense to pursue as my new mission in life. I was burned out in my career, and although leveraging my professional experience would have been safe, it also would have slowly smothered the life out of me; my soul was screaming for something new, something completely different, but what?
A Business About Dogs?
One of my first thoughts was that I wanted to do something with dogs, because, well, as I mentioned, I love them! I knew from the start that becoming a dog-trainer wasn’t for me; I believe in setting dogs up for success and allowing their personalities to shine through, and, in my experience, too many dog-trainers “train” that right out of them (don’t get me started!).
I’d always entertained the idea of becoming a veterinarian, but that ship had sailed.
I had some experience volunteering for a Boxer dog rescue as a transporter and a social media marketer. Starting a dog rescue company was an option, but that idea filled me with dread. It would be great to say that I was on a mission to rescue all the dogs, but I didn’t have the drive inside me to do that; it just isn’t for me. I’m happy to support rescues through volunteering and donations, but I’ll leave the operations to them.
Nope, dogs, for me, are my angels here on Earth. They fill my life with love, silliness, cuddles, and lots of slobber, and that’s how it’s supposed to be.
I Love to Cook Too!
Another dream I’d always had was to own a food truck. I love to cook, and I’ve always dreamed of owning a restaurant in some capacity - a food truck would be perfect, right?
As I researched everything involved with that type of business, it quickly became apparent that I would never be home. I may be passionate about cooking, but my reason for starting my own business was two-fold: I wanted to find a new purpose in life, and I wanted my new endeavor to allow me to spend more time with my family, not less.
Spending time with my family is my number one value. My top five values are the guiding lights of my decision-making process, and your values should be for you as well.
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Your Mission, Should you Choose to Accept it
Understandably, the natural tendency to figure out what we want to do with our lives is to choose something we love. After all, we've all heard the saying:
"Love what you do, and you'll never work a day in your life."
Who can argue with that? It's true! However, there's more to creating a VIABLE life than merely loving what you do.
Think of your mission as something you can wholeheartedly commit to - for life. Asking yourself the following questions is a great start:
What kind of change do you want to see in the world?
Who do you most want to help?
The answer to these questions will eliminate irrelevant options and get you started on the path toward your truth. Be forewarned that the journey to a final decision is a process. There may be many things you can think of that you believe you can commit to, but as you dig deeper into each idea, aspects that don’t align with your values may reveal themselves and help narrow your options.
Values + Desired Impact = Your Mission in Life
In the Purpose Finder Lab, I teach that identifying the desired impact you want to make in the world will allow non-essential ideas to fall away. Whether you’ve thought about it or not, you impact the world every single day - we all do. Your energy contributes to the collective, but you can take it up a notch and decide to be intentional about the impact you make.
Maybe you want to leave a legacy for your family or a charitable organization. If your funeral was this week, what would you want to be remembered for? It’s a sobering thought, but tomorrow’s reality isn’t promised to any of us; that’s why it’s essential to live life to the fullest.
I want to mention that “mission in life” is subjective. You don’t have to be the next Gandhi or Mother Theresa; your mission at midlife might be to learn how to stop and smell the roses after decades in a fast-track, high-pressure career.
The best way to figure out what’s right for you is to listen to you!
You won’t find your purpose somewhere “out there.” You are on a personal journey; your values, as always, will become the guiding principles for creating your life when you take the time to identify them.