This is different from: "What's your dream?" Your mission is usually one of your dreams, but it' not the entirety of them. One of our dreams is to spend three months out of every year in Taiwan, and nine months in the States. During our three months in Taiwan every year, we want to work with Yen Ling's church and with the ministry I previously worked with to minister to the Taiwanese & Chinese people -- we are 2-3 years away from living that dream. Another dream is owning a home in Highlands, NC -- large enough so that family and friends can stay with us often. One more of our many dreams is to travel to every continent with our children.
What's our mission? It's evolving. Missions (as with dreams) are alive. They grow. They require food and water, shelter and relationships, exercise and fun. But at the core of it, our mission is: "To change how the next generation thinks about food." That might not be your mission, but it's very closely related to my personal passion which can be summed up in my life verse from John 10:10 when Jesus said: "I have come that you might have life, and have it abundantly." The next generation will be the sickest generation ever. According to Jamie Oliver and Dr. David Katz (Yale University), the next generation will have a lifespan 10 years shorter than their parents. Abundant lives cannot be lived without abundant health, and we have to do something before chronic diseases like cancer completely overtake our children.
So what's your mission? What drives you every day to do what you do? In whatever you do, it is important to have embedded in it a mission that resonates with you. In order to be able to get out of bed in the morning and do what you do at a level beyond "excellent", there must be a core mission that compels you. And one key is that it also compels others. We accomplish so much more when we work together with similarly mission-minded people.
If you can't state your mission succinctly, then I encourage you to take some time to think about it. It needs to be specific enough that it guides you -- it should act as a compass or a filter that helps you evaluate how to spend your time. And when you share your mission with others, they should immediately understand how they can help you accomplish it -- maybe by introducing you to someone who has a similar passion. Without a life compass, you can't know if you are headed in the right direction. At some point in our lives, almost all of us have felt like we are just hamsters on the wheel of life. A clear mission gives us purpose, and living every day with a specific purpose makes life considerably more fulfilling.
Do you know that feeling inside of you that sometimes makes you hope, and sometimes makes you uncomfortable? It's the feeling that swims around inside your chest, and at times sits heavy on your mind. It's something alive inside of you; it's powerful, a thousand steps ahead of you, one hundred times the size of you, and beyond the capability of your imagination. It's animalistic in the sense that it's wild and you are not confident that you can tame it. In fact, you aren't sure you want it to be tamed, but at the same time you are scared to death to let it out. The fact is that it is trapped inside of you. You are the prison that holds it in. And you hold the key that will let it out.
Many of us will spend our entire lives doing everything we can to keep our greatest dreams locked inside. If we could measure the amount of effort a single person spends over the course of his life working to keep his dream locked away, then we would shed tears. We would become angry, passionate, loud, and feel outrage like we've never felt it before. As we strive to avoid climbing mountains that we'd love to stand on top of, are we unknowingly climbing mountains that we absolutely have no desire to stand on top of? What if avoiding our greatest fears means we are also avoiding our greatest dreams?
Close your eyes. Just for a moment. Picture yourself living the life that you label "Impossible". For many of us, we're too scared to even allow ourselves to picture it. Why? Because we know that it is dangerous to dream! There are only two possible outcomes:
- We fail. We quit. There are too many challenges. Our hearts lie broken on the floor. Our energy sucked dry. Our spirits have retreated behind multiple locked doors into the back corner of the room that sits tucked away in the basement of our souls.
- We face our greatest fears.
Do you know when it stops being dangerous to dream? When you pick up the key, unlock the prison, and allow your dream to be bigger than your fears. There is absolutely nothing stopping you from living your greatest dreams. Write your "reasons" on a piece of paper and then toss the paper in the fire. The reasons don't exist. Only the fears exist.
What is so wonderful about this life is that we hold the key. Every day we can choose whether or not we'll pick it up and use it. No one can stop us from using it. Nothing gets in our way. The key is always available; it's always sitting on the table directly in front of us. No matter how far we run, how many times we quit, or how big we fail, it's always there. And it all begins with that key. Many people who dig deep holes want to jump out of them in one big leap, but it doesn't work that way. We climb out one step at a time. And once we get out of the hole, then we still have the mountain of our greatest dreams to climb. It's not easy, but it begins with that first step and then another and another.
Here's the other thing that's always available to us: the prison. Once we unlock the door and let our dreams out it becomes much harder to put them back in the prison, but it's doable. My advice? Destroy the prison. Burn the ships. Don't look back. Your dreams might be wild stallions; enjoy the adventure.
The most important step that you will ever take is the next one. Be dangerous. Dream.
What do you do? Why do we concern ourselves so much with what we DO? Sure, we spend a majority of our waking hours doing what we do, but does that mean it's THE question? What if what we do is a hollow vehicle? What if it is a car without an engine? What if what you do and I do is the same, but we live completely different lives? What would that say about the importance of what we do?
I'm not saying that what you do is not important. I'm saying that it's far from the most important thing in your life. What is important? Two key elements combine to form the "engine" of your life: relationships and abundance. Take whatever you DO out of the equation, and focus on these two elements. Tell me about your relationships -- the depth, the honesty, and the love. Tell me about the abundance inside of you -- your daily joy, peace, and energy. Do these questions stir up an overwhelming joy in you?
What is unique about these two elements -- relationships and abundance? Neither can be controlled, orchestrated, manipulated, manufactured or coerced. Genuine, deep, real relationships are dynamic; they contain their own life that is a combination of the individual lives that constitute them. Abundance can't be faked either. It's being and having more than what is needed -- more than enough. By definition, it has to come from a source that never runs dry.
In whatever we are DOING in our lives, amazing lives are lived when we bring abundance into real, deep, genuine relationships. Energy and joy are the water and fertilizer that feed the growth of abundant lives.
Have you ever met someone who is magnetic and electric? Was your first question to him: "What do you do?" I doubt it. It was probably one of the few times that you didn't ask that question within the first few minutes of meeting someone. Instead, you probably just stepped into whatever wave he was on and enjoyed the ride! You loved his energy! And you wanted to build relationship with him; you wanted to listen, and you wanted to enjoy his joy!
So maybe "What do you do?" isn't the #1 question we should concern ourselves with. It's not what we do that determines our abundance! But what we do can align with our abundance and our relationships! We can choose professions that serve us, our families, and our friends. We can choose professions that aren't at odds with the abundant lives we choose to live! "What do you do?" is an important question...in the context your relationships and your abundance.
How different would our conversations be if the most asked questions were:
- What gives you your greatest joy?
- Why do you have so much energy for life?
- Who are the important people in your life?
- What are the most amazing things about the people you love?
- What makes you excited? What are you passionate about?
What if these questions, in addition to a deep longing to answer them, were the substance that drove your decisions? How different would your life be?
A good friend shared with me that a good question is often the key to finding the answer. This includes not only the questions we ask others, but also the questions we ask ourselves.
I don't know about you, but for me the challenge can often be that I talk so much that there is no room to ask any questions. If our minds were buckets of water and the water represents all that we know and the bucket is filled to the top with water, what room is there to learn?
The less we learn (especially about others) the longer it will take us to achieve our dreams. It's key to note that learning facts about other peoples' lives is just the tip of the iceberg. Just asking questions doesn't guarantee that we will find the answer. We have to learn how to ask questions that reveal what is below the surface. And we have to learn how to ask those high-quality questions in a way that makes other people comfortable enough to share. Have you ever thought that the types of questions you ask set the level of trust in a relationship?
The direction of your life, your level of impact, and your personal confidence and joy can all be in some way tied to the frequency with which you ask high-quality questions of others and yourself.
Would you want to hang out with you?
Do you need someone's help? Do you wish people would support you more? Do you wonder why it's hard to get people to do things with you or for you? Most people don't live out their dreams alone on an island. Dreams, at their core, are wrapped around people. On the journey to achieving our dreams, we can't move forward without others. You are either a relationship builder or you shouldn't be a dreamer.
Plenty of people accomplish extraordinary things without being relational. There are lots of transaction-oriented people who earn promotions, earn a lot of money, drive fancy cars, and "keep up with the Joneses". But I don't believe any of these people live their dreams. In fact, it's these people who lament that no one can really have it "all". They talk about sacrificing family for career or career for family. They regret what they didn't get to do, instead of JOYing in who they became and who they built relationships with during their lives.
Dream achievers have to be lovers of people. Dream achievers have to be people who other people want to be around. You have to be magnetic. The energy, joy, and love for life every day has to be so incredible that people become almost desperate to drink from your fountain of life. Jesus said: "I have come that they may have life, and have it abundantly." You know why people wanted to be around Jesus? Because they wanted to smoke whatever He was smoking.
Look back on your day. Would you want to be around you? Would you feel compelled to get to know you? Would you feel encouraged and more energetic because you encountered you? It doesn't feel good to have a conversation with someone who is negative, complains, moans, whines, worries, wonders what could go wrong, blames, objects, puts down others, or looks depressed. That's simply not fun for anyone. If you want to be a dream achiever, then start with you. Become someone that you would want to be around and then you'll find yourself achieving your dreams while also helping others achieve theirs!