Aiming Without a Target: The Need for Mission
There’s power in knowing who you are, who you want to be, or what mission you’re on.
As detailed in his book, Work the System, Sam Carpenter wrote out his “general operating principles” after finding clarity with how to navigate his life and work,
A decent while back, Taylor Pearson, author of the End of Jobs, wrote his own set of general operating principles. I stole his for a while, as I felt a good sense of like-mindedness. Although helpful, his set didn’t have the same impact on me as a set of my own might.
I envied that sense of clarity. I had never felt that clear to where affirmations I drummed up could also be my guiding principles.
I put the brakes on about 9 out of 10 of the plates I was spinning in my life. I dove into deeper emotional work with the direction of a coach. As product of this, I found much more clarity.
I (think I) know who I am, where I (think I) am in my own development, and where I (think I) want to go. Rather confident, yes?
It all sparked for me on a recent flight to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Revisiting the audiobook of Work the System, hitting the section where Sam discusses his own principles, I paused the audio, turned on some jams, and began brainstorming my own.
I wrote until I felt I had my most important bases covered. All my hot button concepts and feelings found the paper.
These won’t need to be wildly changed (although they might). They aren’t a goals that I’ll complete over 90 days. I may go to my grave reflecting on how I didn’t align well enough with one principle or another.
The Process of Defining Your Mission (As if It’s So Easy)
Note: I don’t want to claim greatness by distilling a complex intertwined task into a “Simple 5 Step Process!”
But, I hope you see these 5 steps as a means to get you started—not some phony late night infomercial.
Step 0: Make sure you are in a super introspective mood.
Also, don’t plan on doing this at all. It may just come about when you didn’t plan on it. In fact, the material will be better if you didn’t plan it.
As I mentioned earlier, my introspective moment came with my journal open on a plane ride to Mexico.
Flying ignites creativity with in me. I jam out to favorite songs, look out into the vastness, and thoughts start firing.
I’m being a bit tongue in cheek on this step here, but not really.
If you are doing this exercise as a professional, this requires less of an introspective buzz.
If it’s a personal exercise, the principles will feel forced. It’s not about logic here. It’s about what you believe, and what concepts impact you the most. That comes from a spot of true feeling.
Step 1: Create a Mission Statement (What is your purpose? What are you meant to do?)
*See mine below if you want some inspiration. It’s not perfect, but I feel good about it.
*Identify some trigger words or feelings for you. Looking at mine, I touch on heart, fulfillment, development, value, etc.
*What sticks for you? Are you a giver? Do you wish to experience as much of the world as possible? Do people say you are an amazing listener? Do you wear your heart on your sleeve?
Step 2: Break Down the Mission Statement into Its Parts
*Boom! You may have already done this to write the dang thing. But if you didn’t, break your statement into its parts. These will then be the larger principles you expound upon.
*As I mentioned, these are the trigger words or feelings that make up the whole mission.
Step 3: Take the Parts and Begin Drafting Statements Out of Them
*From wholeheartedness, I began to think: What does this mean to me? Where did I get this term from? How does this concept make me feel?
Step 4: Consider it All a Draft! Run through it, Let it Sit, and Return to Make Edits
*Don’t worry about the number of principles or the content. The first draft is always for you.
Step 5: Begin Reviewing them: Weekly, Bi-Weekly, Monthly, Annually, etc. and Tweak as it Feels Right
*Feel comfortable making tweaks and disrupting what you knew before.
Concessions to My Operating Principles:
Do I follow these principles and my objective at every moment?
Not a chance, I’m human—not a robot!
Yet, each time I review them I reflect on the importance of them.
The principles themselves and a routine review push me to embody the described traits, virtues, and character.
Continuing on with that sentiment…
In reading this, please don’t think that I’m coming from a place of eternal enlightenment. Did I mention I’m human?
In fact, the development of these statements has come from the list of my personal fuck ups.
I’m sure there are friends, ex-girlfriends, and family members reading this thinking: “Oh yeah? Well I remember when you…”
And you know what? They are probably right.
This is a manifesto for me to say to all you: “Hey, I’m working on it.”
These are statements that I have come to know empower me. And, they’re how I approach my everyday. They have come from the root of how I feel and how I’m impacted from reading them.
Yet, you’ll also notice some that are vague or ambiguous (i.e. I know this, but sometimes…). Really, I am just creating space for my profound flawedness. I make mistakes.
In other words, I need to squeeze in some room for error. Or else, I think I’d feel too much pressure.
These are my principles, not yours.
That’s not to say I wouldn’t enjoy something striking for you, connecting with you, etc.
(In fact, feel free to make a copy of the Google document I’ve attached at the bottom.)
I don’t want to stand here high and mighty and say these are truths you should live as well.
I’ve come across these from personal exploration, reading, writing, and seeing the world.
I’ll also be willing to help you with your own. Just reach out to me.
These are things that I know. You may know something different.
Strategic Objective / Mission Statement
My purpose is to live a wholehearted, fulfilled life. I push myself emotionally, spiritually and intellectually. I do this to integrate more fully with the world around me, and with the people around me. I show up in my every day with vibrance, vitality, and value for the world and those I encounter.
General Operating Principles
*(in no specific order to date)
*Presence is the root of everything wholehearted and fulfilling in my life. That is: settling into my body, breathing, and connecting to what is allows me to integrate with my world and people fully.
*Beyond presence, my health (physical and mental) is what will keep me on this Earth longer. A healthy body and mind allow me to show up more vibrant and and full of energy for each day’s opportunities and challenges.
*Curiosity, engagement, appreciation, and playful skepticism are the root of all my creativity. Since I value creation, I first need to be curious. Through curiosity I co-create beautiful experiences with others, as well as value in variable shapes and forms to share.
*I know that embodied activities are wonderful ways to experience whole-heartedness, flow, and connection. If I’m feeling “heady” or anxious, I most likely need to get into my body more.
*I know that truly finding other humans beings endlessly interesting is the quickest and most authentic way to connect and engage.
*Learning in some way, shape or form, is what makes me feel most alive. This can take shape in simple ways as well as complex. If I’m doing something long enough where I’m not learning, I will quit and run the other way, and I won’t feel bad about it.
*I must love myself first. I must be the best friend that I want to have. Coming from a place of true personal love and admiration, I more seamlessly integrate with the world around me.
*I’m made of diamonds and I’m ten feet tall. Others’ criticism does not phase me. I do accept it and take what’s valuable. However, I brush away what holds no sustenance, or validity, from what I believe to be my personal truth.
*I have limitations. I have fears (heights, open water etc.). Just kidding—I mean real fears. Like, talking to this adorable waitress at this café in Puerto Vallarta. Or telling a loved one that your relationship needs to change. I must admit my fears and lean into them where appropriate. While I am made of diamonds, fear is also a real thing for me.
*Family, friends, and the connections I make are what will add the most to the richness of my life. Therefore, I do everything I can in my power to show up, give, share, and listen to those who gift me their presence in my life.
*I know that eccentric language is fun, and therefore, I feel no resolve for expressing my vocabulary fully and profanely. My intentions are never to hurt or harm—it’s rather just to play.
*Discipline, self-control, and goal-setting are important, but sometimes you have to say “fuck it” and toss rigidities to the wind to enjoy what’s in front of you. Be it a night of indulgence with good friends, a day or afternoon off for shooting baskets and walking the dog, or sitting on the couch and binge-watching NFL football with your pops. Those are things that I love, and I don’t need to feel bad for doing them.
*I do not need any material things to feel confident, comfortable, and wholehearted. A shirt can always be bought again, and a laptop replaced without much effort at all.
*My life is a beautiful, privileged thing. Therefore, I must remind myself frequently to express gratitude for the people, comforts, and wonderful tools I have access to.
*Life is better spent in my body than in my head. I don’t need to spend more time preparing to live and processing my circumstance, but spend more time just living. Through engaged, embodied living, my mind gets a rest. And this clears space for introspections, revelations, and creations that can change the world. I don’t wait to live, I just do.
*I am obligated to impact the world in a positive way. I know that it doesn’t have to be one grand earth-shaking endeavor—although it could be. It can be giving a stranger a smile on the street, spending time with my younger sister, or taking the time to listen to someone who needs to be heard.
*Dark days are inevitable. Sometimes I feel sad. Sometimes I feel dull and unmotivated. And that’s OK. I must welcome these feelings, ensure they are felt, and perhaps take them as warning signs to give myself a break, take a walk, or call a friend or my dad. I know that I don’t always have to be “on” everyday.
*To live wholeheartedly, I must consider the belief that all parts of me are in some way trying to do good (although they may be misinformed on how to do so).
*I must dare greatly and act for what I believe in. I must rise strong when I make mistakes, fall down or screw up, and say “Hey, I know I messed up, but you better believe I’m going to fix this, or at least try again.”
*Freedom gives me power and control over my day-to-day circumstances. This is freedom of time (controlling my schedule), freedom of pursuit (what projects I’m working on), freedom of association (who I spend my time with), and freedom of money (financial freedom). In approaching a decision, invitation, or request, I must ask myself what it does to my freedoms—not only in the present moment, but also in the future.
*I always have freedom. There is no person, establishment, or system that has control over me and my life. I am always completely empowered to choose. I always have the power to decide and make a choice.
*My path is my own. I know that others’ paths are their own. I must discount no one, but be wary to let others infringe upon my own.
*Making decisions, be them big or small, as product of the influence of other people will whisper me into their shadow. I do not resist others’ advice and direction for the sake of resistance. Yet I act intentionally for Cory Hamer Ames, first and foremost.
*Expectations, excessive romanticisms, and self-indulging mental screenplays are a fool’s game. I know to not be afraid to ask, to engage, and to take well-deliberated action (and sometimes not well-deliberated). I don’t wait to live.
*Intentional study can open doors, and shine a light on a path that I didn’t know existed. I know that through the books I’ve read and the things I’ve learned, I have the tools to create something beautiful on the canvas that is my life.
*Humility and an open-mind are gateways that deepen my understanding of truths describing the human experience. Nothing that I know is permanent. All ideas and beliefs are malleable, and I should expect to have my truths shaken on a routine basis.
*Through leaning into my edge, I find greater fulfillment,and integration into my everyday life. The most wonderful experiences and connectedness I have created have been through the lenses of border control at my comfort zone. I “move towards the gun.”
*Defining principles like these make for a wonderful exercise, and revising them the same. Yet, being human, I know that I am bound to flounder on each and every one of these at some point in my life. I know that the importance of these principles is not only in their implementation into my life, but also my reflection upon them.
I’ve found these principles to hold a lot of what I believe to be the truth.
As you can maybe identify, I used a few words more than others: wholeheartedness, engaged, curiosity, freedom, and a few others.
I’m curious to know what you think, what you liked, and what you disliked too.
Feedback is always welcome here (as long as it’s friendly).
MY GENERAL OPERATING PRINCIPLES: DOCUMENT