I always admire people who are certain about who they are, the things they want. Whenever I look around, I’m always surrounded by them: those who have a sense of mission and purpose. Those with clarity enough to act purposefully and in sync with their beliefs.
I never know about me. I made myself a skeptical so I’m almost never certain about the things I want because an analytical, cynical me would rise and question everything. But one thing I’m sure: I’m moved not by what I want, but by the things I don’t want. Yes, thinking in negatives is a form of thinking. I suppose it’s a residual habit from childhood. Most people want to live a purposeful life. Me? I don’t wanna die purpose-less.
Five years ago, I was on the verge of a mental breakdown. The cause? who cares. The only certain thing was that I was on a rollercoaster down the rabbit hole and it made me wonder what was the purpose of all of it. It made me wonder where was I going. It made me wonder if this train of wild thoughts were the result of boredom and inertia.
Procrastinating on the internet, I stumbled upon this Mark Twain’s “20 years from now…” quote. Cliché I know, but it made me wonder even harder. It helped me “see” my future me. Would I be Alice, always searching for paths but not knowing where to go? Would I be brave enough to take calculated chances? Would I make sense out of confusion and chaos?
Yeah, I know. I’m always haunted by silly rhetorical questions. It’s what the skeptical is used to do. It’s her value. But five years ago I felt defeated. I felt she wasn’t helping anymore because she would only encourage procrastination and paralysis by analysis. I was turning 26 years old and my 20-years-from-now me was not willing to wait. My 20-years-from-now me would be truly disappointed by not moving her sorry little ass from the chair and be brave enough to do the things she wanted to do.
It occurred to me I had to add a sense of mission, purpose, and direction into everything I was about to do, but it felt daunting. The executive side of me was dormant and keeping track of a structured personal plan seemed not only difficult but impossible.
How to build a sense of purpose and meaning without sacrificing spontaneity? –was the key question to answer.
As a strategist, I remembered that strategy is supposed to be something simple and easy to remember. A happy story about the future. So I invented what I call “a yearly guiding principle”
What is it? A phrase —a mantra if you will, that encapsulates what I wish to accomplish. A simple phrase that reminds me, not prescribes me, what I need to do.
So, whenever I forget what I’m doing, I simply remember the mantra. Whenever I lose focus, I remember the mantra. Whenever fear, uncertainty, and misery knocks on my door, I remember the mantra.
It’s very useful because it truly adds direction and focuses my energy whenever I feel like falling down.
Here, my guiding principles, year by year:
goal: to die without regrets.
guiding principle: “twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” —mark twain.
goal: to act ethically
guding principle: “how far would you go to get what you want?”
goal: to ditch noise away
guiding principle: “how many people will you include in your journey?”
goal: to avoid manipulation.
guiding principle: “crystal clear intentions”
goal: move from dreamer to doer
guiding principle: “make it happen”
goal: to be the best possible me.
guiding principle: “move forward”
I wanted to share with you my personal tactics because it helps me remember what I want and avoid losing time. After all, 20 years is a very short time.
So, what guides you in this life?