No Purpose, No Mission; Know Your Purpose, Know Your Mission!

What is your Purpose in life? What is your Mission? They are not the same. It is quite common for people (and teams and even entire organizations) to get a little confused about what a Purpose is and how it differs from a Mission. This confusion does not exist for accountable leaders and the team members who report to them.

Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown on Unsplash

Truly accountable leaders know that their Purpose is the reason they are here, phrased in the form of service that they render to others. Their purpose is their big WHY.

Their Mission, by contrast, is their Purpose IN ACTION. It is what turns the Purpose into a tangible reality for someone else. The Mission is WHAT you do to take action on your Purpose.

For the sake of example, in distinguishing these two ideas, let me share my own Purpose with you. It is:

To help people be better, discover their potential, and be the best they can possibly be.

This Declaration of Purpose is the north point on my personal compass. Notice that it is concise. That one sentence is what I use to determine whether any direction, any idea, any proposed course of action, any attitude, supports who I really am. But my Declaration of Purpose is not, technically speaking, a destination. In order for me to have a destination, I need a Mission that aligns with my Purpose. I must identify that Mission by asking myself, What actions support and fulfill my Purpose?

As a general but reliable rule, the personal statement of Mission you create and pursue needs to have more depth and be more detailed than your Declaration of Purpose. I believe the words you use to craft the Mission can and should be built around three action words of your choice. These words give a deeper understanding of your Mission. They are unique to you. It is important to notice, though, that your mission is never about just having a list of three words that you can tack up on a wall. Your words must connect to a longer Mission Narrative.

Dig deep with those three words so you clarify everything of consequence that connects to the actions you are taking in support of your Purpose. That way you–and others–can see and buy into the story of your purpose in action. Your Mission Narrative, in other words, must clarify the ACTIONS of your Mission in a compelling way for you and for other people. The narrative tells you, and anyone else the mission attracts, exactly what it means to step out and go about achieving the Mission.

The Mission Narrative is all about action, all about doing. It is not abstract or theoretical. It is dynamic and totally in sync with your deepest personal reason for being.

If you do not have clarity about the Actions you are taking in support of your purpose, how can you possibly expect to share your Mission with others?

You will know you have found the right Mission when you find that writing or talking about it gives you instant calmness. This calmness is addictive, and it is capable of existing side-by-side with profound excitement about you Mission. It comes from the very center of your being, and it only appears when there is total certainty about both your Purpose and the action steps you are taking–the Mission you have committed yourself to–in order to fulfill that Purpose.

By way of example, here is my personal Mission Narrative. Notice that it supports and fulfills my Purpose. Notice, too, that I use three powerful action words to create a Mission Narrative about WHAT I DO that supports my Declaration of Purpose — and that the Mission Narrative defines exactly what those three words mean to me.

My mission is to build a more accountable world. I serve my mission through three specific activities:

Teach

I am a teacher. I educate people on ways to improve and be their best. I share new

insights and ways of looking at issues, challenges, and opportunities. I share different  ways of believing and thinking.

Inspire

Through the use of events, experience, and evidence I support the beliefs that I teach. This breathes life into the beliefs and helps people take action. I come alongside and help people take the “first step” in their new adventure.

Support

I provide ongoing encouragement and resources to help people stay on course. Change is difficult. We all face challenges throughout our journey. I stay ready to help others overcome those challenges and achieve the goals they aspire to.

This Mission Narrative has resulted in people all over the world buying into my Mission–very often, people I do not even know and have never before spoken to!

I’ve shared my Purpose and my Mission with you so you can easily see the difference between the two. But these things are unique to each of us. My Purpose is not yours, and my Mission isn’t yours.

What is the north point on your personal compass? What is the reason you are here, phrased concisely in the form of service you deliver to others? Once you find it, you will have your own Purpose.

What is your Mission? What is your Purpose IN ACTION? What turns your Purpose into a tangible reality for someone else? What three action words describe WHAT you do to take action on your Purpose? How do you unpack those words, so that it is obvious what they mean to you?

Accountable Leaders invest the time and effort necessary to fully understand their Purpose and Mission. You can, too. Once you know the answers to these questions, you will be in a position to move forward on your Purpose, and inspire others to join your Mission.

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