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The Personal Mission - Driver of Purpose

Michael J. Montegut, Ph.D.

Bottom of the Box, LLC

Success, like happiness, is the unexpected side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself. — Viktor Frankl

If there is one thing that super resilient people have, it is purpose, because purpose is a significant component of resilience [Wong & Wong, 2012]. And with a personal mission, it is like having purpose on tap. People with personal missions, overarching goals in their lives, can weather the fiercest of life's storms [Wong, P. T. P., 1998]. Many of the most potent personal missions have remarkable features like no guarantee of success or completion. Think MLK, Gandhi, Jobs, but also the person who picks up trash any time they see it, the teacher who stays after school to help struggling students, ...

I have a dear friend who is 80 years old and, just this past December, lost her third husband to (as with her second spouse one year earlier) a debilitating illness. Her first husband was killed in an auto accident while she was pregnant with her first and only child. When my friend first spoke to me of all that she has been through, I expressed amazement that she is still going strong late in life and has no bitterness or debilitating sadness. When I ask her what in her life gave her the strength to go on, she responded quickly and with enthusiasm, "My life mission keeps me going."

My friend's personal mission is just that, personal. During her career, she worked as a Japanese-English translator for various Silicon Valley Companies and as a teacher. But she also loves Japanese poetry from different eras and wants to bring that art form to English speakers. For the past 40 years, she has used her spare time to translate as much Japanese poetry into English as she can. She has published several anthologies of translated Japanese poetry and some of her verses.

A personal mission does not have to be popular with the masses. It only has to be something you love doing and which you see as a path to contribution and fulfillment. A personal mission is more than a hobby because it usually involves leaving the world a slightly better place. A personal mission is larger than one's self

and many times beyond the scope of a lifetime. There is always more one can do, and the most potent missions are bigger than the people who have taken them on.

And that mission and the resultant contribution, no matter how small, drives resilience and helps the owner of the mission to see beyond themselves [Ginsburg & Jablow, 2006]. With purpose comes the acceptance that our lives are fleeting and that what matters most is not material, but rather, the impact we have in changing the world [Warren, 2006].

At Bottom of the Box, one of the lessons we teach in our Bounce workshop is the benefit of having a personal mission in life. We go through exercises with our students that help them to zero in on and refine their personal missions. We do this because it has a profound effect on life long resilience and society. We believe that the more people who are outward focused and see the world as a place they can change and contribute to, the better off we all are.

Bonanno, G. A. (2004). Loss, trauma, and human resilience: Have we underestimated the human capacity to thrive

aft er extremely aversive events? American Psychologist, 59(1), 20–28. Frankl, V. E. 1. (2006). Man's search for meaning. Boston: Beacon Press. Feldman, D. B., & Kravetz, L. D. (2014). Supersurvivors: The surprising link between suffering and success. New

York, N.Y.: HarperWave/HarperCollins. Ginsburg, K. R., & Jablow, M. M. (2006). A parents guide to building resilience in children and teens: giving your

child roots and wings. Elk Grove Village, Ill.?: American Academy of Pediatrics. Warren, R. (2006). The Purpose Driven Life. Chagrin Falls, OH: Zondervan. Wong, P. T. P. (1998). Implicit theories of meaningful life and the development of the Personal Meaning Profi le (PMP). In P. T. P. Wong & P. S. Fry (Eds.), The human quest for meaning: A handbook of psychological research and clinical applications (pp. 111–140). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum. Wong, P. T. P., & Wong, L. C. J. (2012). A meaning-centered approach to building youth resilience. In P. T. P. Wong

(Ed.), Personality and clinical psychology series. The human quest for meaning: Theories, research, and applications (p. 585–617). Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group.

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