By Professor Jeff Willie
Mark Twain once said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Life isn’t a sprint–life is a marathon of ups, downs, and turnarounds. Life is a marathon of stops, rethinks, reflections, self-assessments, readjustments, and restarts. Where are you in your marathon–are you standing on the sideline watching it all take place? Are you running with the crowd, or are you focused on your lane? The marathon is not over until the end of your life. When you make your end-of-life final assessment, will you be able to say you fulfilled your life’s purpose? Was every day guided by your passion? How well did you lead yourself? Did you inspire someone every day?
Are you being true to your passion and your purpose? I believe we all have a unique mission in this life designed specifically for each of us. Your purpose is as unique as your fingerprint, different from any other person on the face of the Earth.
‘Why’ is the question we must continue to ask ourselves. How do we discover our why, our passion, and our purpose? During most of my 26 years in the United States Air Force, the law of attraction and the desires of my heart placed me in speaking and teaching opportunities. Therefore, to this day, I find myself attracted to speaking, teaching, training, facilitating, serving, and adding value to people–people are my business. The million-dollar question is how did I discover my passion and purpose?
How many people do you know who are stuck in dead end jobs or professions they despise? When you ask them why they are still working for company X or doing a particular job, many answers are (1) the pay is great, (2) I have limited skills, (3) I’m not qualified for other jobs, (4) my entire family has always been educators, lawyers, doctors, mechanics, (5) I don’t know what I want to do, etc. I had the opportunity to mentor a Staff Judge Advocate (Army Lawyer). After a few minutes into our mentoring session, she admitted that she did not prefer to be an attorney. I asked her why she attended law school, took the state bar exam, and received a commission in the United States Army? Her answer did not surprise me. She stated her parents wanted her to become a lawyer. Her brother was an engineer and because of the high expectations imposed on them by their family, they felt obligated to work in professions that did not align with their passions.
In order to avoid toiling away in a job you don’t care for, you must discover your passion. One of the first steps in discovering your purpose is self-awareness. You must know yourself to grow yourself. There are many personality assessments (DISC, StrengthsFinder, Myers-Briggs, Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory, etc.). Personality assessments can reveal blind spots, your strengths, weaknesses, interests, opportunities, your value to a team, and areas of growth. This new level of awareness will help you develop a growth action plan. Of course, each time you learn something, you build upon what you learned yesterday to keep growing. In order to grow, you must be deliberate, consistent, and willing to learn.
To grow and reach our full potential, we must be deliberate. We get only one shot at life, and whatever we fail to do will be left undone. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to finish life with a bunch of regrets. I’d like to live in such a way that I create a list of hundreds of failed attempts rather than a list of regrets for things I’d failed to attempt. I am determined to make a difference in the time I have left on Earth. How can you make sure you don’t end up with a long list of regrets? Be deliberate. Too many people think that good intentions are enough to make a difference. Good intentions are overrated. The smallest action always surpasses the greatest intention. You need to act to accomplish anything. What about the someday trap? Someday I’m going to go back to school, Someday I’m going to start my own business. The last time I checked, I didn’t see Someday on the calendar. To get things done, we must be deliberate.
The second hallmark of reaching our full potential is consistency. Whatever we continually do in life compounds. If the things we do are negative, life gets worse for us. If we continually avoid work, it compounds. If we continually speak badly of others, it compounds. If we spend more than we earn, it compounds. However, if what we do continually is positive, life gets better. And the longer we are consistent, the more the interest or benefits compound. The results are exciting. The older I get, the better I become because of consistency.
When reaching our full potential, we must be willing to take on the challenge. It’s something you have to be determined to do daily. Most people don’t lead their lives; they accept their lives. I’m challenging you to lead your own life.
How much do you want to make a difference in your life and the lives of others? What type of legacy do you want to leave? Are you willing to sacrifice for it? Do you see value in yourself? Denis Waitley, a motivational speaker, said we must consider personal development as the belief that you are worth the effort, time, and energy needed to develop yourself. Self-awareness is the starting point. Take an assessment and ask those in your inner circle to help you discover your blind spots. Be deliberate, be consistent, and be willing. As you become aware of the steps you must take to grow toward your passion, you will begin to produce behaviors you desire, and you will start attracting like-minded people. The Law of Magnetism in The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership says, “Who you are is who you attract.” If you’re growing, you attract others who are growing. This puts you in a position to begin building a community of like-minded people who will support you in reaching your full potential.
Professor Jeff Willie
Jeff Willie Leadership