The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why. —Mark Twain
One of the most significant leadership mentors I’ve ever had was Dr. Mark Warner. I was fortunate to connect with Dr. Warner when I was 18 and have shared many conversations with him over the years that have molded me into the person I aspire to be today. Dr. Warner is the embodiment of the concepts of challenge and support that stand as the foundation of how great leaders positively transform communities.
During my senior year at JMU, I was enrolled in Dr. Warner’s “Health & Leadership” course. One of the assignments of this course was to develop our Personal Mission Statement. I toiled over the assignment for several weeks and ended up with a submission that included both a picture and a narrative which I felt told the story of both where I was and of where I was striving to go.
For several years, I left a framed copy of the picture and my statement in my closet. It was meant to serve as a daily reminder of my goals. I continue to reflect on the sentiments in that statement often, as I look to make more progress on my personal journey.
Several months ago, I read the book Leading from Purpose by Nick Craig. Craig’s thesis statement can be summarized as “If you can’t succinctly state your purpose, then your chances of achieving it are nearly non-existent.” He challenges readers, aggressively, to have a crisp answer to the question, “What is your purpose?” His assertion is that the purpose statement for an individual should be less than 2 or 3 sentences.
Around this time, I was also engaged in an extended study with a group of leaders I admire. So, I added a purpose statement assignment to our research. The purpose statements they shared left me awe-struck and inspired as they renewed my sense of purpose and a true desire to look to leave my areas of influence better than I found them. The sincerity of these leaders’ submissions also led me to reconsider my own purpose, and I edited the picture and narrative from so long ago to a simple statement that I feel reflects my purpose for being.
Understanding purpose matters – it helps shape decision-making and influences the choices we make as we recruit others to join our team, fight for our cause, and serve as our mentors. Settling on a purpose statement that stands the test of time isn’t always easy, but the effort is always worth it.
My purpose is to build bridges. What’s yours?