Thursday, February 3, 2011

If you don't know where you're going, how will you know when you get there?

Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life to carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment. Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone’s task is as unique as his specific opportunity to implement it.” Dr. Viktor Frankl
Two people on the same plane, traveling to the same location, most likely don't have the same plans once they touch down. One may be staying with relatives, the other at a luxury hotel. One might be there for business, another for touring or visiting family. One might take a taxi to the city center, another, the airport flyer.

Likewise, every person on earth has his own "travel package." Each of us has our own circumstances: a particular set of parents; a country, city or neighborhood; our housing situation, our economic condition. Every person finds himself with particular gifts and talents: intelligence, health, wealth, artistic ability, leadership; and we all grapple with different challenges. How does your travel package impact on your life's mission?

A mission is about more than what we do. It recognizes that our actions are part of some greater values, and that when we are engaged in our mission, we are taking part in something larger than ourselves. Every person must ask him or herself, "Where am I? What is my mission and how much have I done to fulfill it?” And the answer should be something specific and action-oriented, not nebulous and wishful. Author, Daniel Pink, provocatively asks, "What's your sentence?"

Wouldn't it be nice if along with our travel package we were given not only an itinerary, but also a checklist of "must-dos" to accomplish along the way? Why is it so hard to figure out why we're here and what we're supposed to be doing with our lives?

Why did G‑d create the universe in such a way that our lives can veil our soul’s purpose and it can be difficult to discover our mission? Because finding our mission is part of our service, which by definition is something that cannot be handed over on a silver platter but needs to come about through hard work and free-will. Thus, the child is made to forget the Torah that it learned while in its mother’s womb so that the learning should come through toil.

Lekutei Torah, Shelach 44a

In class you discussed ways to apply your personal mission statement to life. Among the suggestions were:
  • to try to find a common spiritual thread that unifies the fragments of your day and life
  • to learn to distinguish between the ends and the means; between who you are and what you do
  • to do the actions that connect us with the Divine and infuse our life with meaning
  • to use your mission statement as a guide for selecting from the manifold opportunities and experiences that life presents
Ultimately, crafting a mission statement is not a one-time activity, done and dropped for the next big thing. It's an ongoing exercise in self-evaluation, measuring where we are, with where we hope to be, of asking ourselves, "Ayeka," Where are you?"

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi taught:
“‘G‑d leads the footsteps of man’: When a Jew comes to a particular place it is for a reason—to perform a mitzvah, whether between man and G‑d or between man and his fellow man. A Jew is on a mission from on high. Wherever a messenger may be, he represents the power of the One who sent him.”
  • What's your sentence?
  • Has this lesson changed your view on Judaism and self-esteem? How so?
  • Do you have an "action item" to implement this week?

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