The first and foundational pillar for excellence in life is the discovery of the WHY of your life. Someone rightly said that, “the man who knows why will always be the leader… ” Why you want to excel in life is essentially more important than how you can excel in life.
Everything made and created by God is for a purpose. The light to provide light by day, and the moon light by night. The river, ocean, seas are for the fish and the things that dwell there in. Air is for breathing, the eyes are for seeing, the rain is to water the earth, and the butterfly is for pollination. The bee is to produce honey. Man to tend the garden and dominate all creatures. Woman to help the man. Even Pharaoh was made for a purpose.
In the same vein, everything made by man was designed and produced with a purpose in mind. The airplane is to fly man from one place to another in a faster and more convenient manner. The goal post is the only way you can determine which team has won a soccer game. The cloth is to cover your nakedness, etc.
Do you realize that these things were not designed and produced before their purpose was determined? It was the purpose that motivated the creation and the production. And the only way of measuring their excellence is by assessing them against their purpose.
The second point is that no matter how good the airplane is, it will be useless if it’s put in the river to operate. Irrespective of how sophisticated the ship is, it will not excel in the air.
To excel in life therefore, you must ask and answer the question, “What purpose do I serve? What gap should I fill in? What is my mission on earth?” Until and unless you identify and fulfill your mission, you are like fish out of water. No matter how hard you work, if your hard work is outside of your purpose, you would only be working hard, but hardly working. It doesn’t matter how hard the Captain tries, the ship will never fly!
Your purpose or mission statement is the articulation of the gap you intend to fill in in the society – the value you commit to add to the society; the reason you wake up and move everyday; the vacuum you fill in; the contributions you make; the reason you should be rewarded; why individuals or institutions should look for and come to you; the worth of what you receive exchange for; the criteria for assessing and evaluating you.
How To Discover Or Decide Your Purpose
You can’t talk about excellence in life, business or career without discovering or deciding your purpose in life. So, how can you discover or decide your purpose in life? What are the pointers to why you are here?
1. The things you passionately love and want to do: The first pointer to your mission in life is in things that you naturally desire to do. It might be the things you currently do as a hobby or the things which you find inner pleasure and peace doing. The fish loves to swim. As a matter of fact, fish would prefer dirty water to the cleanest land. The best footballers would always tell you how they loved to kick any round object before they became professional players. They would kick oranges, apples and even coconut. They would rather be under the sun or rain playing football than in the cozy theatre watching the most interesting movies. Check the lives of those who later became swimming champions and you would discover that they loved to be in and around water. The lion would prefer to walk and run thousands of kilometers everyday to catch a prey than to be in a cage and fed with choicest variety of animals everyday. Do you naturally love to take care of children – whether they are yours or not? Would you abandon the party you were going to and jump into the dirty gutter with your expensive white gown to rescue an abandoned baby? Perhaps, your purpose is to take care of kids.
2. The second way of identifying your mission in life is to ask yourself, “If money was not a factor, if I had all the money I will ever need up to the fourth generation, what would I find the most satisfaction and pleasure doing?” Your excellence and indeed your wealth are hidden in the things you would gladly do for free. There is a story of a young man who would go round schools to speak to students for free on how to excel in life. He would use part of his very modest salary to print handouts, hire projectors and go to schools practically begging the owners of schools to speak to the final year students on how to excel in their academics and life. Today, he is one the most popular and best paid speakers in Nigeria. There is also another story of a woman who owned a very small roadside restaurant in front of a university. She hated to see students who could not afford to buy meat. She would give such students meat for free and went home telling the husband and friends how she would love to offer balanced diet to students at highly subsidized price. Today she owns a chain of restaurants. Her mission statement? “To stop money from being a barrier to eating good food”
3. The things that people ask you for help or advice in. The third pointer to your purpose in life is the thing that lots of people always come to you for counsel or help. There is a story of a man who noticed that whenever he was with a group of people and a beggar or someone who needed financial assistance approached them, he was always the one the beggar would specifically ask for money. It didn’t matter if he was the most shabbily dressed, the smallest or the one with the meanest look. To compound his situation, he also discovered that he never slept or felt well every time he failed to give to the beggars. Today, this man has a very reputable foundation for the support of financially challenged people. Every year he receives aid from various charitable organizations across the world. The foundation has also enabled him to travel round the whole world meeting men and women of substance. He is living an excellent and fulfilled life. Another friend noticed that almost all his friends sort his advice whenever they wanted to buy clothes or dress for special occasions. He didn’t train as a fashion designer. As a matter of fact, he was a practicing lawyer, but he had the natural knack for mixing and matching colours and fabrics to fit people. He always offered his advice and help for free. Today, he owns a chain of boutiques. He has found his purpose and he is excelling in it.
4. The things you hate and complain about. Another way of discovering your purpose is to identify the things you passionately dislike, hate or complain about – the things you can’t stand. If for instance the stories of women abused by their husbands upset you so much, almost to the point of locating the offending husbands and “dealing with them “; perhaps you should consider setting up a platform for helping abused women or preventing domestic violence. If you passionately hate to see people wearing dirty or not well ironed clothes, how about a laundry business? The most successful pastors today are the ones who genuinely feel deep pains at the thought of people going to hell. Rather than complain, do something about it. If it hurts you so deeply, perhaps you have been called to remedy it… whatever the “it” is. Moses hated to see the Egyptians intimidate the Israelites. He actually killed an Egyptian who oppressed an Israelite. On another occasion he rebuked two Israelites who were fighting themselves. And these were long before God anointed him to deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Pharaoh.
5. Articulate your value proposition. To decide your mission in life, ask yourself, “How can I add value to my neighbourhood, community and society”. My suggestion for articulating your value proposition is to ask these questions: (a) what issue(s) are facing people in my network, neighbourhood, community or society? (b) What is the impact of the issue(s) on the individual or groups? (c) How can I help? (d) Do I have the competencies and passion to deliver a solution? (e) Would my solution really deal with the challenges they face? (f) How do I communicate my solution and make the people believe me? The key thing in using value to discover your purpose is that you must look out for challenges individuals or groups are facing and be creative in coming up with solutions. But remember that the over riding impetus for the solutions you present is the desire to solve problems, not to make money; even though money would eventually be made from helping people solve their problems.
6. Identify what you are very good at. What do you always receive high ratings and compliments about? Your writing skills, verbal communication, drawing, handling figures, organizational skills, your dress sense, cooking, care giving, dancing, sports, etc.? The things you do effortlessly and yet excellently signpost your purpose in life. We all have talents and natural gifts. Those talents and gifts were not deposited in you for nothing. Some of them can be developed into solutions to help mankind. The world is waiting for you to manifest!
7. Do a self-assessment. Identify your competencies and rank them on a scale of 1 – 10: 10 being your biggest competence. Ask people to also identify and rate your competencies. Is their score consistent with yours? What have you done with that competence? Is it possible that your purpose in life is hidden in that competence? Have you sharpened that knowledge, skill or attitude?
8. Write your funeral oration to be read in the next twenty-four months. The mission you accomplish in life will form part of your memorial in life. How would you want it to read? What legacy do you want to live behind? List the contributions you genuinely want captured in that oration. Which of the legacies would give you the biggest goose pimples as you think about it?
9. What are you willing to sacrifice food, comfort and leisure for? What are you willing to sacrifice family and friends for? Stories abound of footballers who despite the love they had for their family had to leave home at very tender age to join an academy. What can so engross you that you loose time consciousness? What can you be found doing and if asked, “have you eaten”, you would excitedly respond, “My food is to… ” Remember when the disciples of Jesus asked Him if he had eaten? His response was, “My food is to do the work of my Father”.
10. What were you so good at as a child or teenager that you abandoned as you grew older, but today you wish you had developed? Some of us had passion and natural talent, which we started using as kids, but later killed. Some had started writing books, building toy cars, sculpting, acting, singing, etc. Perhaps, you should go back to your first love. Maybe you should begin to develop others in that area if you consider yourself too old to use the skill. Stories abound of people who were very talented in music but had to abandon it because of pressure from parents. Some of them have gone back to music, but not as artists anymore but as producers and artist managers. Same thing with some great sports coaches who abandoned sports for one reason or another, but have returned to sports as coaches. Quite a number are excelling above those who went into coaching after their careers.
So the first and perhaps most important pillar for excellence in life is to decide, discover or identify your purpose in life and articulate your mission statement. Here is my assignment for you:
a. Take a piece of plain paper or open a plain word document in your computer.
b. Create two columns.
c. On the left column, ask the question, “What is my purpose in life?”
d. Then go through the ten pointers to your purpose, which we have just examined and check how many of the considerations to discovering your purpose point to the same direction.
e. Craft the first draft of your purpose statement.
f. Keep editing and re-writing the statement until you have one sentence mission statement that makes you scream, jump and maybe cry.
g. Memorize and meditate on it for a week.
h. Type and print your final draft.
i. Pray about it.
Finally, remember that “You are the salt of the earth… you are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house”