What are You Here For?

by Linda Abbott Trapp, PhD -

Crank up the intensity–live life at full tilt!

The most basic requirement of all for living a fulfilling life is to have a sense of purpose – to know what you’re here for. It’s your personal sense of mission and I believe our fundamental task on earth is to understand, identify and act on that mission.

Simply put, answer the question, “Why are you here?” I don’t mean here in whatever room you’re in right now, reading these lines but here on this planet.

If you haven’t thought much about your mission in life, then think about those people you admire, and why you admire them. There’s probably a clue there. Think, too, about the needs you are especially aware of – there’s a clue there as well.

Consider the talents you have developed so far in life and those you would like to develop – where do they lead you? Who has asked for your help, and were you glad for the request? Those are additional hints to follow.

Once your mission is clearer and of course it may change over time as you grow in understanding, then the next step is to set priorities for action. 

I use annual, monthly and daily lists, arranging them in groups of similar importance. But sometimes I put the lists aside and read, from the Bible, or another inspirational text, and follow the voice in my head that tells me what portion of those readings I need to be applying to my life.

Both the making of lists and the listening to the message of an inspirational text are ways to be certain you’re not overlooking something really important in the daily press of the urgent.

There are several questions useful for prioritizing or confirming the importance of the items on your lists. 
  • Are they consistent with your values? 
  • Do they stretch you and draw you toward opportunity and the future? 
  • Do they matter to you and to others? 
If the answers are positive, that item or those items are truly priorities and deserve your committed action. 

One of the secrets of behavior that leads to powerful, effective consequences is to really commit yourself to some action daily that moves your top priorities forward. 

It might just be a phone call for information or it might be in-depth research or it might be something more glamorous and visible, like giving a speech in favor of something you believe in deeply. The size of the behavior is not as important as that it happens and regularly.

You know the old saying about how a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Failure is neglecting to take that single step. Success is being on the path, not how far along you are on that path. If it’s truly a priority, and if it meets your sense of purpose, then there is nothing more important for you to do today than to take that step.

Maybe you’ll just take one, maybe more than one. The subtitle of Stephen Covey’s First Things First Every Day says it well.
“Because where you’re headed is more important than how fast you’re going”.

A few tips for keeping the momentum going and for getting the most impact for the least effort:
  • One: Ask for help. That behavior doesn’t make you look weak; it makes you look like you care about the quality of your results. We can’t know everything, but we can learn a lot, if we’re willing to listen. Respect the person who helps you, give them credit and take notes so you don’t have to keep asking.
  • Two: Use your peak time for your most important activities. If you don’t know at what time of day you’re most creative and efficient, cut out a crossword puzzle or Sudoko from the paper and try some of it at two hour intervals until you surprise yourself with your quick, correct answers. That’s you peak time, and if you are lucky, you may have more than one peak in your daily bodily rhythm.
  • Three: For the low-priority items on your list, delegate, ignore or lower your standards. You’ve already agreed that these are not where your best effort should go; just get it out of the way as quickly as possible at an acceptable standard.
  • Four: Stay in balance, planning time for yourself as well as time on task. Five, be flexible – a new high priority item may pop up, and you may need to move things around a bit to respond to it. Six, and last, stay focused. Whatever you are doing right now, be there for it. Concentration and singleness of purpose pay huge dividends.
Most of us find that occasionally there are barriers to our actions on behalf of our purpose. 

For example, interruptions can be a problem created by others and procrastination can be a problem we create ourselves. Both interfere with the behaviors we know would best meet our priorities and create the kinds of consequences we want.

There are some predictable kinds of interruptions that you can prevent or avoid, creating a space in which to move toward your purpose with more speed and quality of effort. Interruptions, both personal and by telephone, voicemail or text messaging are very costly to your concentration.

Isolate yourself, especially during your most productive peak time. And don’t unnecessarily interrupt others.

Procrastination is an internal barrier to accomplishment. If you face this problem in minor matters, some self-discipline,​ like doing the unpleasant thing first in the day, usually solves the problem.

However, if you find yourself procrastinating​ on the steps you need to take to fulfill your mission, something’s wrong. The mission that defines your purpose in life is too exciting for you to want to put if off. Perhaps you’ll need to redefine it to meet that standard.