I occasionally get messages from previous coworkers seeking counsel for their careers.  One such message came last week and the individual was struggling to discover their life mission.  I know “life mission” sounds a little corny to the uninitiated.  I write about the importance of a life mission extensively in my book, and want to spend some time discussing it here.  The reason is simple.  If you don’t know your life mission, you will not be able to make decisions that allow you to fulfill that mission.  If you don’t make decisions that allow you to fulfill your mission, your life will be a stressful, discontent mess.  Here is what I wrote to the individual…

Bottom line – Think about your gifts… not just your skills.  Many people share the same skills, but gifts are those things that put you in the top percentile and make you unique.  Now think about how you can put those gifts to use to meet the needs of others.  Sounds simple, but this is challenging.  Finally, figure out what you can do to apply your gifts to meet those needs.


Here’s the catch… if you can do this and find something that offers you a career, great!  Go for it!  If not, you can find ways of pursuing your mission outside your career.  Remember, you don’t have to let your career define you.  Your career may simply be one of the tools you use to pursue your mission. 


I have a toolbox in the basement.  It has various tools in it.  Whenever I need to work on something, I find the appropriate tool.  If I reached for a screwdriver every time I needed to cut a board, hammer a nail, tighten a screw, or sharpen a blade, I would be frustrated 75% of the time.  We sometimes think that a career should be the tool that we can go to 100% of the time to pursue our mission, but this just isn’t the case and we end up frustrated most of the time.


Discover your mission, use your career to facilitate the achievement of that mission when appropriate, but don’t be afraid to explore other avenues of achieving your mission.  Some of the most fulfilling things I’ve done in my life have had nothing to do with my career.

I just wanted to share this with the rest of you because I feel it is an important lesson.  One of which I have to constantly remind myself.  I have felt an incredible sense of accomplishment while teaching English in Belarus (not career related), by offering free tutoring to struggling students (kind of career related, but not something I got paid to do), and resolving conflicts in non-career related activities.  If I had ignored these opportunities and instead sought to fulfill my mission solely with my career, I would have missed out on a great deal of fulfillment.