As a career success coach, I’m here to help other people succeed in realizing their purpose. I think this is a pretty mighty purpose. I may help someone who someday may become President, or a Supreme Court Justice, or find a cure for cancer, or just be a loving and caring parent. This purpose anchors me. It keeps me going when I get frustrated, or when I feel like quitting, or when I start to feel that it’s OK to be “good enough,” not great.
The other day, I was having a conversation with one of my career success coach clients. We were discussing clarity of purpose and direction. She said that she read a blog post on clarity of purpose and direction that I wrote and got confused by all of the different words that came up when she thought about clarity – words like purpose, direction, mission and vision.
This got me thinking. If she gets confused about the semantics of clarity of purpose and direction, I bet others do too. Below, I have defined these terms for you in a manner that will help you create your personal clarity of purpose and direction.
As I begin, please note that these are the working definitions that I use with my career success clients. You may have seen other definitions for these terms. I am presenting these definitions here to help you better understand how I use them in my model – not as the “correct” definition of these terms.
For our purposes here, I define the word “mission” as follows…
- Your reason for existing.
- Your passion.
- Why you are on this earth.
This isn’t always easy to discover.
If you’re young and still trying to figure out your mission, don’t worry. It takes time. That’s why I always tell people to be open to new ideas and thoughts, as you never know what you might pick up.
If you’d told me when I was in high school that my mission would be to help others succeed, I would have laughed. It took several courses in college and a year of service as a VISTA Volunteer for me to figure it out. That’s when I began my career in the human development field.
Your mission needs to come from deep inside you. It is unlikely to change over the long run. I’ve had lots of different jobs in lots of companies and have been self-employed for over 20 years. Through all the changes, one thing has remained constant – my desire and passion for helping others succeed. In my heart of hearts, I know that I am on this earth to help others navigate the ambiguities of life in order to reach their goals.
Here is my mission…
To help others achieve the career and life success that they want and deserve by applying their common sense.
It hasn’t changed since I was 23 years old. This mission reflects who I am and why I get up every morning. It’s what’s right for me.
What’s right for you? What is your passion? What is your reason for living? Why are you on this earth?
Think of your vision as…
- Where you are going.
- What you will achieve in the next 1, 5, 10, 20 years.
Unlike your mission, your vision will change over the course of your life and career. Early in my career I was working for the government training other people to be VISTA Volunteers; my three-year vision was to get a Master’s Degree at night and to parlay that into a training and development job in business. Notice that this vision fit into my mission of helping others succeed in their lives and careers, but it had a specific short-term time frame.
When I was in my 30’s my vision shifted. It became “to create a successful career success coaching, consulting and speaking business.” Your vision needs to be consistent with your mission. However, unlike your mission, your vision should change as you grow and develop in your career.
Finally, your vision should always be a BHAG – a big hairy audacious goal. I first saw this term in Jim Collins and Jerry Porras’ great book, Built to Last. You need to create a vision that will challenge you and motivate you – it should be big and hairy and audacious. What’s a big hairy audacious goal for your next year? Five years? Ten years?
My current vision comes in a one-year and a five-year time frame.
Create a profitable Internet business that will allow me to share my optimistic message on career and life success and help as many people as I can.
Make 100% of my income from the Internet five years from now.
Notice how my one-year vision is consistent with my mission of helping others succeed in their lives and careers. It’s also a BHAG – for me at least. While I have amassed knowledge about career and life success over a lifetime of work and study, turning that knowledge into information products that I can sell over the Internet is something completely new for me. I’m learning about Internet marketing as I go. With a little luck and a lot of persistence, I am confident that this will be a breakout year for me as an Internet marketer.
I’m also confident that in five years; I’ll be doing almost all of my business on the Internet. I’ll be traveling for business only when I choose to do so. This will be a radical departure from the 45 to 50 weeks of business travel that I’ve done for so many years.
So where does all this leave us when it comes to thinking about clarity of purpose and direction? Here’s how I suggest you think about it.
Your purpose is your mission – your reason for living, your passion, what you are on this earth to do; something that is unlikely to change over the long run.
Your direction is your vision – short- and medium-term goals that define the direction you will take your life and career.
There is a common sense career success point to this tweet. Successful people define a clarity of purpose and direction for their lives and careers. Your clarity of purpose and direction should include both a personal mission (your purpose) and a personal vision (your direction). Your mission is your reason for living, why you are on this earth. It is unlikely to change over the long run. Your vision is a short- or medium-term goal that defines the direction you will take over the next three to five years. It will change as you grow and develop in your life and career. Your vision must be consistent with your mission.