Crafting Your Identity Part V: creating a directional vision for your life
As with any major brand, your personal brand needs a clear sense of direction. If not for the world, for you. I've found that many people - myself included - struggle to understand what it is that their life is dedicated to. Sure, we are put on this earth to enjoy and glorify our Creator, we know that's the foundation. But in what way? And to what end? And where? And with who? These questions have a nasty habit of being a constant thorn in the side. Some will be blessed enough to know that they should devote their lives to computer programming as they write their first piece of million-dollar software at age 9. Others will only hope to be so lucky. If you're anything like me, your understanding of what your life should look like will change almost daily.
So where do we derive our direction from? How do we determine what we were "meant to do" (forgive the cliché)?
In my last post, I made an off-hand comment in the final paragraph about the hidden magic of writing things down. It's one of those scientifically-unproven things that continues to baffle the minds of this age - how writing something down can almost call into being the event's happening. Anyway, whether it's one of those little Easter eggs that God coded into the universe or simply a good habit, what accompanies writing down your thoughts is a beautiful thing called clarity.
This, I think, is the secret sauce.
When I find myself overrun with a tornado of thoughts in my head, my favorite thing to do is map them all out on paper. It might take the form of Venn diagrams, lists, doodles or stream-of-consciousness journaling. Once it's all out on paper, I find it tremendously easier to ingest, organize and clarify my thoughts. As an example, today I was conflicted with trying to squeeze the large amount of projects that I wanted to tackle in my off-work hours into the finite amount of time that I actually had to work with. Weekends are reserved for rest, travel and yard work with my dad. Monday nights are blocked off for writing. Tuesday nights are spent at LifeGroup. Friday nights are unpredictable since I sometimes leave for weekend trips after work. I need at least one other night out of the week to write which leaves Thursday OR Wednesday night to hammer out these projects that I want to get around to.
I decided to draw out an Eisenhower Box. It's a grid of four squares divided up by various combinations of "Urgent" and "Important."
Square 1: Both Important and Urgent
Square 2: Important but Not Urgent
Square 3: Not Important but Urgent
Square 4: Neither Important or Urgent
By plugging each of the various projects into one of these four squares I was able to prioritize what needed to be done and what could be left for later. Anything in Square 4 was dismissed immediately while anything in Square 1 was of utmost importance. Anything in Square 2 was placed on the "Get Done If Time Allows" list and anything in Square 3 was either eliminated, automated or delegated to get it off of my mental radar. One simple diagram allowed me to have a perfectly reasoned vision of what needed to be done where as before, every project was competing for my attention and time.
In crafting your identity, the key is to write down anything that might be relevant and then intentionally deal with each snippet of information. In the last section, we ended with a list of values and virtues. Now we're going to work on compressing those down into a digestible sentence or two that defines us. Daunting, I know.
Crafting the Vision
Michael Hyatt has a wonderful exercise for helping you clarify in your own mind, who you are, what you do and why you do it. It's a simple formula that looks like this:
- I am [your identity].
- I help [your target audience]...
- ...do or understand [your delivered value]...
- ...so [their benefit or payoff].
I am an artist, author and blogger. I help direction-less, overwhelmed young-adults take control, simplify and orient their lives so that they can enjoy their life and leave an impactful legacy.
Now it's your turn. A few DO's and DON'Ts:
DO: create a personal statement for each major direction of your life. I realize that some people have different projects with different "destinations" which might bring with it a different identity, audience, deliverable and benefit. I work as a marketer at a firm here in Baton Rouge but I also run this blog. Those are two different directions of my life that require two different personal statements.
DO: feel free to change it up. When you're crafting this personal statement, you may find that you don't like what your mission is currently. Awesome! Now you know that it's time to look for a change. Write down what you WANT your life to be moving toward. 1) What is it that fulfills you? 2) Now how can you help others through it?
DON'T: rush through this - it may take some time and a lot of revisions but the end result will give you so much confidence in your mission.
DON'T: get freaked out by it sounding business-y. Adapt it to you and your lifestyle. If you're a stay-at-home mom, it might look something like this: I am a stay-at-home mom. I help my husband and my children live day-to-day by serving them in the home and encouraging them outside of the home so that through their lives, God might be glorified.
DON'T: be afraid to ask for help! Sometimes our family and friends know us better than we know ourselves.
Once you've finished this, you should have a good idea of what you are doing or are aiming to do. Having clear direction is important when developing goals which we'll tackle pretty soon.