Tag Archives: objective evaluation

On a Mission . . .

Do you have a defining purpose to your life? Does it motivate you to enthusiastically get out of bed each morning looking forward to the day’s activities? When your time on earth is just about done will you feel your life was worthwhile because you pursued this mission?

On a Mission . . .

One of the great aspects of the military is that no matter what our rate or rank we begin our service by dedicating ourselves to a mission: To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . . This statement gives purpose to everything we do. When we experience the searing heat on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea during combat ops or have to de-ice that same flight deck to conduct humanitarian assistance operations in the northern reaches of Japan, we have a reason to endure the harsh weather and the punishingly long hours.

Why Will You Do What You Do?

So too in your life and business, you need to have a mission. Non-profit organizations learned this long ago because they have to motivate their workers, especially volunteers, to commit to a purpose and devote time and money to its fulfillment. The United Way provides a good example.

For-profit businesses can reap tremendous benefits from the same clarity of purpose. The mission statement for my company is: to help veterans secure a share of the American dream they fought to preserve.

Notice that this is not a goal per se. While it is written down, there is no objective to reach or time limit by which it is to be reached. Once you have a mission for your life and/or business, it becomes the litmus test by which you decide whether a particular activity or goal is relevant and purposeful.

A mission statement should be an expression of your most important values because if the two are in conflict you will be working at cross-purposes. Yet, if you are unclear about your morals it may be difficult to create a compelling mission statement.

5 Steps to a Personal, Business, or Family Mission Statement

Here are the steps for writing a mission statement:

1. Make a list of your five most deeply held values

Be careful not to mistake political positions for values. Look at why you have a particular political belief to determine the values the underlie it. If you need some help getting started check out this list.

2. Write down your elevator pitch

This is a brief explanation of what you want to do with your life or what your business is and does.  So called because you can deliver it in the length of an elevator ride. Harvard Business School has a website to help you build one.

3. Use your values to describe WHY your business does what it does

Write a paragraph with each sentence addressing how one of your values relates to your life or business. For example, if you are starting a plumbing company and one of your values is being thrifty, one sentence of your paragraph might be about providing the highest level of service at the lowest price.

4. Edit your paragraph to one or two sentences

Work on combining the essential idea of one sentence with that of another. Sometimes a single word can replace an entire sentence. For example, in my mission statement the value of “taking care of G-d’s children, especially my fellow service members” is expressed with one word: help.

5. Let it sit overnight then edit it

Once you have written your mission statement put it away until the next day then review it. Edit ruthlessly. Say it out loud. If it does not flow well keep working on it. Try using a thesaurus to find variations of words that express your thoughts more accurately. If you get stuck, set it aside overnight again. You may have to do this several times before you develop a compelling mission statement.

When you have completed your mission statement read it periodically, every morning before you begin work, or each evening when you plan your next day’s schedule. Even when you have it memorized, refer to it in written form. Its impact is greater.

Where are you stuck figuring out your personal and business mission?

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Syncing Your Worldview and Life Direction

Are people wired for goodness or is the human condition a struggle between good and evil? Should people be free to make decisions about their owns lives even if that means they may hurt themselves and be uncomfortable or should their options be limited so that the chances they will experience pain are reduced? Is someone who cut you off in traffic rude and stupid or did he make a mistake?

Your worldview is informed by how you answer these and similar "big issue" questions. And your worldview in large part determines the progress you will make in your life.

Syncing Your Worldview and Life Direction

I have a friend who looks at almost everything in life as being black or white. A thing is good or bad, no middle ground or neutrality. Not long ago he remarked to me that despite numerous attempts he has been unable to sustain an exercise program. I suggested that instead of immediately embarking on a three or four day a week schedule that he start one day a week for just 15 or 20 minutes. He replied he did not think that was worthwhile since something that trivial would not really impact his life.

So because such a small amount of exercise would not really change the state of his fitness he saw no point in starting the journey. Aside from the habit creation that comes from easing into a practice, it is healthier for the body to take it slowly when beginning a regimen of exercise. But his world-view prevented him from changing no matter how sensible a course of action.

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When I first started in business my world-view impaired my progress. I thought all wealthy people had cheated or stolen to get their money. But they were the ones I needed as clients. Like me, when you are faced with such a dilemma, you have two choices:

Chart a new course consistent with your worldview 

or

Change your worldview

If you find yourself perpetually hitting a roadblock, it is time to examine how you view life. Find a quiet place where you will not be interrupted and do the following:

1. Here are seven questions for understanding your worldview:

1.1.    Do you believe there is something beyond this life, a supernatural world or something of that nature?

1.2.    How did the material world come to exist?

1.3.    What is a human being?

1.4.    What is the purpose of life?

1.5.    What happens to you after you die?

1.6.    Is there such a thing as the truth?

1.7.    How do you know the difference between right and wrong?

2. Without any analysis or time for internal arguing write down your answers. You want your candid thoughts not what you might tell a pollster so you would not be embarrassed.

3. Analyze your answers. What do they say about how you view life? Look at the questions at the beginning of this post. Frame your assessment like you would answers to those questions, for example, "I think most issues in life are in the grey areas not black or white."

Here is the hard part. Consider how your worldview is impacting where you want to go in life. For example, if you are in sales but you think life is essentially black or white you are probably missing out on opportunities and interpreting every missed sale as a failure rather than a lesson in how to be more effective next time.

Because it works under the radar of your consciousness,

Your worldview determines your life 

even though most of the time you do not know it is having any impact at all.

When you become aware of your worldview and consistently see yourself through its lens you will be living intentionally, make more progress toward your goals, and feel happier and more satisfied with life.

Do you know someone whose worldview is preventing him from making needed change? How have you helped?

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The Indispensable Ingredient for Life: Clarity

Life in the fast lane, surely makes you lose your mind. – Joe Walsh, Glenn Frey, and Don Henley

Of all the things that can help you live intentionally, clarity is the most important. Without it, you cannot know where you are in your life or where you want to be. Nothing can take its place.

The Indispensable Ingredient for Life: Clarity

Back in the 1980s, a friend of mine was involved in the punk movement. While if you saw him at work you probably would not have known it, by the time he dressed for a night out on the town there was no mistaking his affiliation. Years later he told me about one night when he was late for meeting some friends at the Cathay and did not have time to change into his regalia. So he showed up in his work clothes. His punk friends would not speak to him. It was a moment if clarity for him.

Being sophisticated or erudite might seem to fulfill the need for direction in life. But these are merely adult versions of peer pressure. The trendsetter feels elevated by his followers. The follower fancies himself better than those who cannot or will not live his way. But eschewing genuine friendship to maintain a veneer of the materialistic and dissipating life so poignantly portrayed by the Eagles is a trap. After a time a person loses any sense of true identity.

But what if you are not living at the extreme? Everyone creates barriers to clarity. It is easy to see the blockages described above. But the ones that mask your self-awareness are subtler. They come through unfiltered influences that permeate your day. Friends, colleagues, and media, among others sources influence you without your being aware of it. That is if you do not have clarity about your values and direction in life.

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A tree spends decades, even centuries, setting down it roots with an unshakable clarity of purpose. Often even a roaring forest fire only provides the opportunity for it to spread its canopy and grow to greater heights. A leaf is constantly buffeted by a light breeze. A mere spark will quickly consume it, leaving ash that forever disperses its essence.

At the end of my day, usually around sunset, when I plan for the next day that begins when I sit down to dinner with my family, I journal these things:

  1. A summary of what I accomplished the day just ended
  2. Something I learned during that day
  3. What characteristic I need to work on the following day
  4. One thing for which I am grateful
  5. A positive thought about my wife
  6. A brief assessment of my emotional and spiritual state
  7. What I would do if I could live the day over again
  8. What I will enjoy during the day about to begin

Each one takes a minute or two. My days end and begin with this exercise in clarity. I invite you to do the same.

Please take just a minute to share what do you do to attain clarity.

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Why You Are Attracted to Opposites

Common belief is that when a couple hates each other divorce is around the corner. But think a second time. When you loath someone how easy is it to get the person out of your mind? Try as you might your thoughts keep coming back to the object of hate. If only you could just divorce the person, at least from inside your head.

Why You Are Attracted to Opposites

While speaking with a sailor about his marital problems he stated he hated his wife. When I replied that was a good thing he was surprised. But then I pointed out that love and hate are not opposites. He was intrigued. Both entail intense emotions. They are closely related, two sides of the same coin. At their root both evidence a powerful connection between two people. Think about how much energy it takes to truly love and hate. Rather,

Once a couple has gotten to the point where one of them is unmoved by the other the marriage is in trouble. Dispassion destroys any incentive to work issues through. Like physical fatigue, it saps the strength needed to confront difficulties.  They fester to the point where the aggravation of their presence is greater than the turmoil of divorce.

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Similar to the love-indifference dichotomy, attraction and revulsion are not opposites. Again, both are strong responses to another person.

This is why people rubberneck at automobile accidents and other gruesome sights and delight at horror movies. Irresistibility and repulsion evoke often uncontrollable emotional and physical responses.

When developing self-discipline, mental acuity, and relationships an important key is being able to respond rather than react. Respond means your words and actions are in harmony with your values and the image of yourself you are creating. React communicates a lack of self-control and generally does more damage than good.

Knowing that the opposite of a strong emotional response is not a different strong emotional response means you can defuse a situation.  You'll stay on the love side of the love-hate coin. If your child or spouse screams hateful words you can view them as a temporary inability to express powerful, loving emotions since both grow from the same root. Admittedly this is easier with your child.

Ironically, the key to preventing love and attraction from becoming indifference and coolness is using the latter two to gently bring the other person back to the same, strong emotion you feel. Mastering this technique will help you live harmoniously, which in all likelihood is part of your plan for living intentionally.

Question – What is your view of the connection between love, hate, and indifference?

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The Truth About Military Versus Civilian Life

Have you ever sought to communicate with someone who did not speak your language? If you sensed that there was little common ground did it make relating even harder? Something similar is impeding the effectiveness of people helping veterans transition to private life.

The Truth About Military vs. Civilian Life

A couple of weeks ago I spent the day with a friend who runs a program providing financial assistance to veterans. She admitted having trouble relating to her clients’ transition challenges. Never having served, her knowledge of the military came from movies and television, inaccurate at best. Likewise, when I speak with veterans I find some of their impressions of civilian life mistaken.

To create mutual understanding here are some key points to ponder:

  1. During World War II, approximately 9% of Americans served in the military and perhaps a similar percentage of civilians worked in support roles. Currently, active duty and reserve personnel make up about 1% of our population. Though about 8% of Americans are veterans, almost half are at least 65 years old. These statistics mean that seventy years ago around 75% of Americans had direct military experience or were closely related to someone who did. Today, The New York Times estimates only a third do.
  2. While being in the military requires discipline, life is very structured. Someone with moderate self-discipline will be successful. In general, civilians are less disciplined yet succeeding as a civilian requires greater self-discipline since it lacks the structure of military life.
  3. The military ritualizes paying respect. Typically, as long as customs are observed, a service member is acting courteously. In civilian life few if any such traditions exist any longer. With co-workers coming from such diverse backgrounds, it can be easy to inadvertently offend someone.
  4. The military does an excellent job of training civilians to be warriors. But it has neither the time nor the resources to train warriors to be civilians again. Though some skills learned in the military have value in civilian life, e.g. using computers and teamwork, much of warfare requires specialized expertise that does not easily translate. Whereas having been a flyer in World War II and Korea virtually guaranteed the option of being a commercial pilot, such is not the case today.

With the basis for mutual understanding decreasing as fewer Americans are or personally know veterans, their desire to help is hampered. Though stories of bold operations, such as the one in which Osama Bin Laden was killed, capture the public’s imagination, they shed no light on the experiences of rank and file service members.

If you are seeking to assist veterans, you need to speak to as many service members and veterans as possible to gain insight into our lives. We who have served need to help you by objectively relating our experiences of military life. Is this a Mars and Venice divide? Perhaps not, but maybe it is an Earth and Moon one.

Question – What areas of misunderstanding between service members and civilians have you found?

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