W. Clement Stone
“There is nothing as powerful as an idea whose time has finally come.”
“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.”
Your life is a statement.
I was at 10,000 feet hiking up to the summit of Vail Mountain. It was a cool fall day but I was sweating like a pig and gasping for air. Earlier that morning, I decided to rent a mountain bike and ride it up the mountain and then back down. This quickly turned into a decision to walk the bike up the mountain and try to stay alive long enough to ride it down. As I was approaching the summit, my blood was pumping hard and my thoughts were moving a mile a minute. I was thinking about how amazing it felt to be outside and how much I loved pushing myself physically. I was also thinking that I better not die climbing this mountain because I still have a lot to do. Then suddenly, a question popped into my head: “If you died right now, what would you stand for?” The question didn’t make sense at first, but after thinking about it some more, I realized that I was really asking myself, “What is your life philosophy?” Inspired, I unzipped the trunk bag on the bike, pulled out my iPhone, and typed the following note:
My philosophy is to seek out the best things in life and then learn, seize, experience, and enjoy those things with enthusiasm, confidence, and vitality. Once you’ve had your fill, take a break and teach others how to do the same, and when you get sick of teaching, set out on a new adventure and start the process all over again.
Your personal philosophy is the unabridged version of your personal slogan. It is the song you live your life by. Over the next several weeks, I kept thinking about the words that I wrote down that day on Vail Mountain. I wish I would have written them down a long time ago. Having a philosophy on life, a credo, dramatically clarified my purpose of living. But I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted more clarity. I wanted to reduce my song down to a single lyric. Here’s what I came up with:
To contribute massively, build strong relationships, and live like a lion.
Be A Player, Not A Pawn
No one can opt out of having a mission. Whether or not you’re aware of it, you’ve chosen a mission for your life and you are carrying it out right now. Even those who choose to eat, sleep, and live in front of a TV are on a mission. Their mission is sloth. Their mission statement is to be slothful. Either passively or actively, as a pawn or player, you are living out a mission. The key is to dynamically choose your mission. By doing so, you will command your life rather than being commanded by life. This perspective will help you increase happiness and generate confidence in your purpose.
Life can destroy you, but not defeat you. There may be times when your mission is influenced by circumstances you cannot control, but you can always control your attention and your attitude. You can have your health, wealth, and relationships taken from you, but not your awareness, ambition, and hope. This is why creating a crystal clear vision for your future is so important. By carefully mapping out things like your values, stories, and questions, you can stay focused on your purpose of living even when your circumstances change.
Stand for something, or be distracted by everything. Achieving your goal requires solidarity and fortitude. You must know who you are and what you stand for. Understand: you cannot fulfill your purpose in life without connecting your identity to it. This is why writing out a new life story is so important to achieving your goal. But stories are not enough. You need a life philosophy. You need a mission statement, or slogan, to live your life by. A personal slogan will help you fully develop the bond between your purpose of living and your identity.
Make A Statement
Your slogan is like a personal constitution for your life. It will help you make major, lifedirecting decisions, and it will help you make daily decisions in the midst of distractions. Steven Covey, author of The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People, gives the following advice for writing a mission statement, or slogan:
1. Write down your roles as you now see them. Are you satisfied with the mirror image of your life.
2. Start a collection of notes, quotes, and ideas you may want to use as resource material in writing your personal mission statement.
3. Identify a project you will be facing in the near future and apply the principle of mental creation. Write down the results you desire.
I’ve shown you how to do steps 1, 2, and 3 in previous posts. If you’ve taken the time to write out your purpose, values, story, and question, then you have everything you need to write a powerful mission statement, or slogan, for your life. Carefully review these items over and over until you pick up on the central theme for who you want to be and what you want your life to look like. Trim the fat from your new purpose and your new identity until you arrive at their essence. This should be something you can describe in a sentence.
A slogan is a lyric, not a lecture. Do not make the mistake of turning your mission statement into a paragraph of uninspiring jargon and dinosaurspeak that no one can or will remember. Here are some examples of what NOT to do:
“We are committed to being the world’s premier petroleum and petrochemical company. To that end, we must continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to the highest standards of business conduct. These unwavering expectations provide the foundation for our commitments to those with whom we interact.”
“Harvard strives to create knowledge, to open the minds of students to that knowledge, and to enable students to take best advantage of their educational opportunities. To these ends, the College encourages students to respect ideas and their free expression, and to rejoice in discovery and in critical thought; to pursue excellence in a spirit of productive cooperation; and to assume responsibility for the consequences of personal actions. Harvard seeks to identify and to remove restraints on students’ full participation, so that individuals may explore their capabilities and interests and may develop their full intellectual and human potential. Education at Harvard should liberate students to explore, to create, to challenge, and to lead. The support the College provides to students is a foundation upon which self-reliance and habits of lifelong learning are built: Harvard expects that the scholarship and collegiality it fosters in its students will lead them in their later lives to advance knowledge, to promote understanding, and to serve society.”
Let It All Hang Out
Your slogan is not a rant, lecture, or lesson plan, and it’s not a way of getting respect, attention, or admiration. Your slogan is a catchy song lyric that only you can hear. It’s a beating drum that keeps your life in cadence with your purpose of living. It’s a giant thumping mallet crashing down on your head when you get distracted. Don’t write a slogan for other people and don’t write a slogan that’s safe and reasonable. Most importantly, don’t write some long statement you can’t remember. Write something that makes you leap on the inside; something that helps you increase happiness and improve self-confidence. In the end, your slogan should be brief and bold, totally exposing who you are and what you want.
When writing your slogan, use strong words that trigger action and emotion. Also, use descriptive words that convey many meanings at once. I ended my slogan with “live like a lion”. To me, these four words represented a way of living that included being present and engaged, eating a primal diet and working out intensely, and taking time to rest and sleep well. Keep trimming your slogan down to its central core. Once you have a slogan that feels like its a part of you, let it play it in your head over and over again. In my next post, I will show you how to create a tangible vision for your slogan and overall purpose in life.