Grow or Die!

Grow or DieGrow or die! I like that. The growing part, not the dying part. I guess a nicer way to put it is: If you aren’t improving then you’re standing still. That’s what I’d like to talk about today.

Have you ever met someone who is merely coasting along in life? They have it pretty good. They have a car, a job, a place to live, food to eat and cable TV. What more is there to life?

Okay, I think we all know people like that. They are not moving anywhere in their life. Nothing has changed in their life for the last ten years. They haven’t done a thing to improve themselves or make this world a better place. Most of their time is spent in front of the TV watching sports or the news or, heaven forbid, reality shows! They spend two or three hours a day reading the newspaper from cover to cover only to throw it away the very next day because just about everything in it is worthless. Each day they go through the same process. Life is just a big circle going round and round headed for nowhere. Each day finds them not one bit better than the day before. Each day they contribute nothing to better the world they live in. They are content and satisfied with the status quo.

I think that’s very sad. Life is for LIVING!

There is a woman that I know who is in her eighties. Right now she’s enrolled in college and working on a degree. She’s continuing to improve herself to make herself better. I think what a contrast between her and most retired people. How would it be if all the retired people in the world continued until the day they died to improve themselves, to learn new skills and worked every day to make this world a better place? Many do and I admire those people and I want to be like them. I hope I die when I’m 105 working on my pilot’s license and not lying in bed at an old-folks home.

If a plant stops growing, what is it? It’s DEAD! What happens when you stop growing? I think you get the idea. There seems to be a lot of people in this world who have stopped living. They have just delayed the funeral. Don’t be one of them. My challenge to you today is to continue to improve yourself, to continue to move forward, to move higher, to keep growing.

Staying Up Late – Is It Worth It?

Sleep Depravation

Is it worth it? I heard that question this morning. If was from my wife Lisa. She knows me too well. Let me back up a bit. I was in the bathroom shaving this morning when my wife walked in. Her greeting wasn’t, “Good morning dear, how did you sleep?” It was, “Soooo…you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning. You know what that does to you. Is it worth it?” I didn’t give her an answer. I didn’t have a good one to give.

I have a character flaw. It is not knowing when to quit a project and go to bed. I was working on some articles last night and before I knew it, it was nearly 2:00 a.m. Lisa had long since gone to bed and was sound asleep. When I crawled into bed she didn’t wake up or roll over or even move a muscle. I thought I was safe and she would never know how late I went to bed. How she knew what time I went to bed is a mystery to me. It’s one of those mysteries of women that men can’t figure out.

So she had me. She asked me if it was worth it because she knows from past experience the price I usually pay for staying up late.

Is it worth it?

Before I can determine if it’s worth it I need to find out why I stay up late, what the benefits are, and what price I end up paying for those benefits. Then I can determine if the benefits are worth the price I pay.

Why do I stay up late?

For different people there are different reasons why they stay up late. If you have this problem then you know what your reasons are. Perhaps you stay up late watching television. Or maybe you love to read. Maybe its endless video games or surfing the internet or chatting with babes online. You know what your reasons are.

For me it usually involves a project I want to get done. Because my days are so full I feel that the only time I have is late at night. I see I have an hour before my normal time to go to bed and I’ll think, “Great, I’ve got a whole hour. I can get an article written in that amount of time. So I’ll begin working on my project. Invariably whatever I’m working on takes much longer than I expected. I grossly underestimate the time it will take.

The next thing that happens is I’ll look at the clock and think, “Well, I’ll just work until eleven.” Before I know it it’s midnight and I still haven’t got my project done. But by now my ideas are flowing. I’m making progress. I’ve got my momentum going. So I think, “I can’t quit now! I can’t stop my flow of ideas and thoughts just as they are getting going!”

It’s so hard for me to stop a project right in the middle. I feel compelled to get it done. I hate loose ends. So I keep going.

By now I’m thinking, “Gee, it’s already so late. I’ve already blown it. I may as well just keep going.” So I keep working until the project is done.

And that, my friend, is how I ended up working until two in the morning!

What are the benefits of staying up late?

So I have to ask myself: What benefits do I gain by staying up late?

  1. Of course the main benefit is actually getting something done.
  2. Probably the next biggest benefit in my mind is TIME. Time for me seems to be in short supply, so whenever I can find a block of time I grab it.
  3. The next benefit would be that the time is uninterrupted time. Not too many people bother you at that time of night. Nobody schedules meetings. No one calls you. You are free from distractions. So having a block of uninterrupted time is a great benefit.
  4. Another benefit is going to bed with the feeling of accomplishment, of having finished a project.

What is the price I pay for staying up late?

Let’s now take a moment and examine what I am paying for those benefits. What are the real costs to me? As I have thought about what it costs me I have come to realize that there is a huge domino effect that comes into play. One thing seems to lead to another. Let me explain.

  • The first domino to fall is that I feel extremely tired in the morning and it lasts throughout the day.
  • The next domino is that I feel lousy. In addition to being exhausted and tired, I usually have a headache because of lack of sleep. Many times that headache will develop into a full-blown migraine and then for sure my day is wasted.
  • The next domino to fall is my inability to get up on time. Because I feel so tired I can’t get up at my regular time.
  • The next price I pay is getting that “look” from my wife when she says, “So, you stayed up until 2:00 in the morning.” I could see the look of disappointment on her face because she knows what it costs me when I stay up too late. So the real cost is the erosion of my relationship with my wife.
  • The next cost is being behind schedule. Because I didn’t get up on time it messes up my schedule for the whole day.
  • Because I’m behind schedule the next price I pay is not being able to exercise in the morning.
  • Next is the cost of not being able to do my daily personal study session. Every morning I try to study and ponder good books. I can’t do that when I have no time.
  • Another big cost is not having time to plan my day.
  • Because my day isn’t planned then I fail to accomplish important tasks that I should have gotten done.
  • The next big price I pay is more stress in my life. Because I’m behind schedule I find myself in a big rush and my stress level rises.
  • Because I’m stressed then I’m in a bad mood.
  • What puts me into a worse mood is having no time to eat breakfast, one of the most important meals of the day. So in addition to feeling lousy and tired and having a headache, I’m also hungry.
  • Then I get to work late. Here I come strolling into work 45 minutes or an hour late. How does that look to my boss, my subordinates and the employees I manage in my department? Not good. Big price.
  • When I eventually do get to work my productivity and my ability to think clearly is affected because I’m so drained.
  • The overall affect continues throughout the day. Because I got to work late in the morning that means I have to stay late to be fair to my employer.
  • Because I had to work late then I get home late. The price I pay is getting, for second time of the day, that “look” from my wife when I walk in the door. She doesn’t have to say anything – I can see the disappointment in her eyes.
  • Because I’m late getting home I miss having dinner with my family.
  • If I have meetings or commitments in the evening then I either have to gobble down my dinner or miss dinner altogether because I don’t have time.
  • The tendency to fail in other areas of my life. When I’m tired and hungry and angry and discouraged and stressed and depressed then I’m more susceptible to failing in other areas where I have made commitments. Failure loves company.
  • Finally, the last domino to fall is the cost of having an overall feeling of frustration and disappointment with myself. My self-esteem takes a big hit.

As you can see the dominos keep falling, one after the other. Its amazing how one little decision the night before affects the entire next day.

Is it worth it?

After weighing the benefits with the costs, it becomes clear that it’s a huge price you pay for that 2 or 3 hours that you think you are gaining by staying up late.

What is the solution?

Well, duh! The solution is to stop staying up late – right? Easier said than done. Here are some ideas to help in mastering this part of your life.

First: You have to make a serious commitment with yourself that you are not going to stay up late any more for any reason.

Second: You have to have a deadline for going to bed. This means you need to decide what time you will be in bed with your head on the pillow and your lights out.

Third: You have to determine how long it takes you to get ready for bed so you know what time you need to begin going to bed. It takes time to brush your teeth, change into your pajamas and whatever else you do before going to bed. If your goal is to be in bed by 11:00 p.m. and it takes you a half-hour to get ready for bed then you need to begin by 10:30 p.m.

Fourth: You need to think ahead and make sure you don’t start anything you can’t finish or end by 10:30 p.m. You can’t be going to a movie at 9:30 at night because you know a movie is roughly two hours and it takes time to get there and time to get home and you’ll never make it.

Okay, so I’ve laid out a very convincing argument against staying up late. I’ve shown that the costs far outweigh any benefits that might be gained. I’ve also laid out a simple plan to change this habit. And I’ve done it all for your benefit. But really, that would be a lie. You see, this really is a challenge to myself to master this area of my life. It’s something I’ve known for a long time that I needed to change.

So, beginning today, I am going to follow this plan and report back to you how I’m doing. Thanks for listening in as I have attempted to convince myself of all the reasons to change. Wish me luck on this challenge.

Decide to Decide

Fork in the Road

Fork in the road

What if there was a key behavior that if you could master, would save you untold pain, worry, effort and time? What if this behavior could make your efforts to achieve total self-mastery ten times easier? Today I’m going to teach you a simple concept that seems to elude most people, yet is so simple.

One thing you share in common with nearly every one else is that your day is full of decisions. Dozens of times a day you are faced with a fork in the road and must decide which way to go. Humans are naturally lazy creatures so when you are faced with two choices you tend to gravitate toward the easiest path. Why choose the long, hard road when you can take the short, easy one? Or why do something when you just don’t feel like it? As you stand there at the fork in the road and evaluate the situation, the pull to the easy road becomes powerfully strong. More often than not, if you are like the average person, you are sucked into the easy road.

The problem here is that the easy road is not always the best road to follow in the long run. In our minds we know which road is the best road but somehow we end up going the wrong way. What I am explaining here is the answer to a long held question. It is:

“Why do we do what we do when we know what we know?”

In other words, why do people do things they know aren’t good for them? The answer is because we are making our decisions at the wrong time. We are making our decisions when we are standing at the fork in the road.

Let me give you an example. If every morning you make the decision of whether to get up or not at the time your alarm clock goes off, you are making that decision at the fork in the road. In your mind you are deliberating, “Should I get up? Should I sleep for ten more minutes? I’m so tired! Just a few more minutes of sleep.” And back to bed you go.

Do you see the problem here? The time to make the decision of when to get up in the morning is not at 6:00 in the morning!

“Right decisions are easiest to make when we make them well in advance, having ultimate objectives in mind; this saves a lot of anguish at the fork, when we’re tired and sorely tempted.” – Spencer W. Kimball

There are dozens of decisions we face every day that should already have been decided long ago. We shouldn’t have to agonize and re-decide the same decisions a hundred times! Many of these decisions only need to be made once. This statement by William James describes it so well:

“There is no more miserable person than one in whom nothing is habitual but indecision, and for whom the lighting of every cigar, the drinking of every cup, the time of rising and going to bed every day, and the beginning of every bit of work are subjects of deliberation. Half the time of such a man goes to deciding or regretting matters which ought to be so ingrained in him as practically not to exist for his consciousness at all.” — William James

The whole point we are trying to make is to determine early on what things you will and will not do and be done with it. Look at your long-term objectives and make the decisions now that will lead you in that direction. You only need to make those decisions once.

For example, my wife made the decision long ago that she will go out running every morning, no matter what. There is no deciding each morning as to whether she is going running or not. That decision has already been made. There is no painful deliberation and analyzing that takes place. It is as automatic for her as the rising of the sun each day.

Now I want you to think about the decisions you make on a daily basis. Aren’t there a number of them you could make once and for all and be done with them? Aren’t there decisions about what you will eat or not eat, decisions about exercising, decisions about daily habits, decisions about all kinds of things that you can make once and forever be done with them?

I challenge you to consciously examine your life and make this one key behavior change. Examine each fork in the road you come across on a daily basis and see which ones you can decide once and for all. You will be so much further along the road to self-mastery.

“We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run over.” — Aneurin Bevan

What are your thoughts about making decisions once and for all? What are the ones you have the biggest challenges with? Have you found ways to make this process easier? Please share with us in the comments below.

Thank you.

Copyright © 2014 Gary N. Larson

13 Life Lessons from Running My First Marathon

The Finish LineI have run thirteen marathons so far in my life and each was an amazing experience in itself. However, none of the marathons I have run compares with the experience of running my first one. It was one of those events in life you never forget. I would like to share with you that experience and the life lessons I learned from it.

Many years ago I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish sometime in my life. On my list were things like traveling around the world, getting a pilot’s license, running a marathon, and visiting the pyramids of Egypt. I put the list away and promptly forgot about it.

A few years ago my wife found my list and was surprised to know that I had a desire to run a marathon. She stole my goal, trained for it and ran a marathon. I was totally amazed that she actually did it. In fact, I was so impressed I said to myself, if she can do it, so can I. And I did.

Running a marathon is no small thing. A marathon is 26.2 miles long or about 44,500 steps. To get a grasp of how far that distance really is, I suggest the next time you take a drive in your car to set your trip meter. Watch the miles tick off and when you get to 26.2 miles think about running that distance. Again, it is no small task.

Running a marathon is a unique experience. It is the only sports competition that I am aware of where the greenest beginner can rub shoulders with and compete with the elite athletes of the world. You don’t find that in football, or basketball, or golf or any other sport. But in a marathon, I was running with the Kenyans!

To train properly for a marathon you must begin nearly a year in advance. When I began my training I couldn’t run two miles. But week after week, month after month, with the training and guidance from my sweet wife, we gradually built up our miles. This means running 2 or 3 miles a day for four days a week, resting on Fridays and then running a longer run on Saturday mornings.

The Saturday morning training runs get longer and longer. Our final Saturday training run before the marathon was 24 miles long. On that training run we started at 5:00 a.m. It was pitch dark. On just that run we encountered many deer, a fox, a skunk, a mother raccoon and her babies, 2 owls, a rabbit and a snake. So after many such training runs totaling over 800 miles and wearing out a $75 pair of running shoes, we were ready for the St. George, Utah marathon.

We are different, in essence, from other men. If you want to win something, run 100 meters. If you want to experience something, run a marathon. –Emil Zatopek

I love that quote because it is so true. Running a marathon is truly a remarkable experience. I would like to give you a small taste of what that experience was like for me. This is taken from my personal journal.

My First Marathon Experience – from my journal dated October 1, 1999

What an awesome day! Lisa and I just ran the St. George Marathon. It went great. We got up this morning at 4:00 a.m., ate breakfast and then I shaved and took a shower. We got our running gear on and went out the door at 5:00 a.m. We walked to the busses at the park. It was still very dark. We boarded our bus and rode up to the beginning of the race.

The bus ride up was long and bumpy and by the time we got to the top I really needed to use the restroom. Luckily they had tons of porta-potties and I was able to go. That was a huge relief!

When they dropped us off it was pretty cold and we were wearing our sweats. There were huge lights lighting the whole area. Thousands of people were there to run the race. They had loud motivating music playing. It was an exciting atmosphere with everyone visiting and talking about the race. It was awesome!

To keep people warm they had lit a large number of campfires and for a while Lisa and I kept warm that way. But Mother Nature was not to leave me alone and before long I needed to go again. Now the lines at the porta-potties were very long. Since this time was not “big business,” I just went off into the bushes to go. I found myself surrounded (in the dark) by many other men and women runners doing the same thing. It was pretty weird. This was something I would never in my life imagine me doing and yet there I was sharing a moment of relief with a bunch of other fellow runners.

Well, before long it was near the time for the race to start. We took off our sweats bottoms and put them in a collection bag provided to us so we could get them back later. We met up with some friends who wanted to run with us. There was so much noise that we could hardly hear the starting gun go off, but it did. Soon we were off and running. It was still dark.

The others who were going to run with us were soon lost in the sea of runners except for Marilyn. I have to admit that I was a little bugged at first that she was running with us because I felt she was horning in on Lisa’s and my run. But her constant talking and conversation turned out to be a blessing as the miles ticked by much quicker than I had anticipated they would. She was a real blessing in disguise. She was also very spunky and pushed us enough to get us to do better than we had ever done before.

It was awe-inspiring as it got lighter to see the thousands of runners along the road like a big long snake in front of us and behind us for as far as we could see.

The Run

The water stops were every two miles and at each one I usually took one cup of Gatorade and one cup of water and mixed the two and drank it. At some water stops I took bananas to eat. They were cut up into small pieces. At two of the stops I took some of that goo stuff to eat. I think it all helped.

What an incredible experience – the whole thing from start to finish. The miles ticked off one by one. Veyo hill came and went. Then the long, gradual hill. At the top of it I wasn’t doing so well. I was getting tired and queasy in the stomach. I had a strong urge to walk. Finally after what seemed like an eternity of uphill we came to long downhills. We needed that. It was great to see down into the valley where St. George was.

Along the way there were small groups of people cheering us on. There was a helicopter flying low filming us along with a ground camera crew on four-wheelers. We tried to look good for the cameras.

Marilyn told us about her previous marriage and her family and her new marriage and her job. My, could she talk! It was interesting and kept our attention off our misery and pain and helped us pass the time.

At mile marker 16 we came to the road that goes to Snow Canyon. There were many people there cheering us on and giving us high-fives. Boy did that give me a boost.

On we went mile after mile. One of my biggest worries was my lower left leg. I had had so many problems on my training runs with my calf, my knee and my foot. Luckily my prayers were answered and I had no serious problems.

Finally we rounded the bend where you could see the city. Now there were more people cheering us on. It was great! At mile 23 Marilyn took off ahead of us. Lisa and I were slowing down. We did a lot of walking those two miles. Finally we rounded the corner to the final stretch. By this time both of my knees were starting to really hurt. We really had to push ourselves now even with the finish line in sight.

We were now at the final stretch. We were in what they call the chute where the street is lined with crowds of people on both sides. They were cheering us on. It gave us both such a boost of energy and we stepped up our pace. Then we came to the bleachers and saw our four little children cheering us on. With a burst of energy we sprinted for the finish, holding hands as we crossed it. Then we kissed each other. Wow! What a great feeling to cross that finish line! How can you possibly describe it?

The Medals

As we walked on through they put the finisher medal around each of our necks. We really earned them. And our time? Well, we told ourselves long ago we would be happy with anything between 4 ½ to 5 hours. Based on our training runs I was expecting closer to 5 hours. Well, we came in at 4 hours 29 minutes and 20 seconds. Wow, even better than we had expected. Everything went so well.

13 Life Lessons from Running My First Marathon

I hope that gives you some idea of what it was like. For the full effect you’re going to have to run a marathon yourself. Now, let me share with you 13 lessons I learned from that remarkable experience.

1. Anyone can run a marathon. I used to have a picture in my mind of what a marathon runner looked like – a wafer thin gazelle-type person from Kenya. After running my first marathon that image changed dramatically. I was amazed at the variety of people running the race. I realized that size doesn’t matter. A friend I trained with was nearly twice my weight and would consume what seemed like a gallon of Gatorade at each water stop and yet he was a much faster runner than I was. Age doesn’t matter. I can’t tell you how many old ladies passed me during that first marathon. Young, old, large, small, thin, wide, you name it, they were all running a marathon. It was amazing.

2. Coming in first doesn’t matter. Finishing does. In a marathon, everyone that crosses the finish line is a winner and receives a medal. That’s good because I certainly am not a fast runner. Just making it to the end is a major accomplishment. I think life is like that. To be successful you don’t have to have the most or be the best or the fastest – just make it gracefully to the end.

3. Make it through the trial mile. My wife and I have come to learn that the first mile of each training run was always the trial mile. It was the mile you had to get through before your heart and body warmed up and got into its rhythm. Basically you feel lousy during that first mile. But if you can make it through it you always felt better during the following miles. Some people never make it through the “trial mile” of whatever endeavor they are pursuing. So hang in there, it gets better.

4. Don’t skip the training. I have run marathons where I trained well and I have run marathons where I skimped on the training. You are so much better off when you properly train. The pain and misery and injuries that occur when you attempt something you haven’t trained well for are not worth it. Do the proper training.

5. Cheering really works. We’ve all been to sporting events and yelled and cheered for our team. I never thought it helped much until I was on the receiving end during my first marathon. It was amazing how much it increased my energy and drive when people were cheering me on. We all need cheering from time to time in our lives.

6. We need friends. Good company makes any journey more pleasant.

7. Don’t stop. Sometimes we have a tremendous urge to quit, to give up, to throw in the towel. Having the ability to overcome those urges and keep going makes all the difference in life.

8. Life is a marathon, not a sprint. When I first began training for a marathon I would start off running at a quick pace. I would do well for a mile or so and then run completely out of gas. My wife had to tell me I needed to slow down and take it easy. I had to pace myself. It wasn’t easy at first but I soon learned I couldn’t spend all I had during the first mile or I would never make it through the other 25.2 miles. In many other areas of life the same rule applies. Pace yourself.

9. You need a coach. I consider myself a fairly smart person and can figure out a lot of things on my own. But in looking back at my training for my first marathon, I can’t imagine doing it without the help of my wife who had the experience of training for and running a marathon herself. It was so great to have her lead me and guide me literally every step of the way. Don’t be too proud to let others show you the way.

10. The mind game matters. As much as we like to think that success in sports simply requires having a perfectly tuned and trained body, its much more than that. It is as much a mind game as a physical game. After all the physical preparation, much of your success has to do with what goes on in your head. And let me tell you, after 25 miles of running, some weird things can go on in there. It’s a constant mental battle that must be fought to succeed.

11. We need mile markers. In life, as well as during a marathon, we need mile markers. During the St. George marathon every mile was marked by a large silver mylar balloon. You could see it coming up from quite a distance away. If you thought about the finish line, it was so far away and seemed impossible to reach. But if you thought about just making it to the next mile marker, that seemed doable. So the immediate goal was always to just make it to the next mile marker. When you passed each one you felt a sense of progress and accomplishment. Then you would set your sights on the next one. In life, we need short-term goals to help us reach our long-term goals.

12. The more you do something, the better you get at doing it. Sounds simple enough and it is. Think about the first time you did any hard thing such as playing the piano, typing at the computer, or driving a car. They were all difficult at first and yet, as time went on and you worked at it every day, it became easier, almost second nature. Just because something is hard at first doesn’t mean you can’t do it. It just means you haven’t done it enough yet.

13. Be inspired by others. I had set a goal years ago to run a marathon. Nothing ever happened with it until I watched my wife Lisa do it. When I watched her come across that finish line I was completely amazed and inspired and decided right then that I would do it. And I did. Having a goal was nothing. Being inspired by a great woman was everything.

To conclude let me share with you one final lesson, the biggest lesson of all:

Life is like a marathon. You get out of it what you put into it.

Thank you.

Master Yourself, Master Your Life

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson

An Overpowering Mission in Life

One of the greatest tragedies in this world are those who fail to find and achieve their purpose or mission in life. This article will help you discover what your mission in life is. 

A number of years ago I took my family to ride an old-time train powered by a massive steam engine. Before that train could move, the water temperature in the boiler had to reach two hundred and twelve degrees. Water will not generate steam at two hundred degrees. Even two hundred and ten degrees will not create the steam to move a train. For water to boil and steam to be generated it must reach the temperature of two hundred and twelve degrees. Lukewarm water will not move anything.

I believe the vast majority of people in life are like the train trying to move with lukewarm water – almost boiling but never quite there. They wonder why their life is stalled, why they never seem to be able to move forward. They work hard but success seems to elude them.

The temperature difference between water that is boiling and water that is not is only a degree or two but the difference in results can be dramatic. In the same sense the difference between a person with an overpowering mission in life and someone who is merely living life can seem small but the results are without comparison.

Achievers have an overpowering mission

One of the greatest tragedies in this world are those who fail to find and achieve their purpose or mission in life. The world is full of those whose daily existence is simply working for the weekend, plugging along until retirement or simply wondering whether they are in the right place doing the right thing. They know deep down inside that something is missing, that they are not doing what they do best. We each have only one life to live. How terrible it would be to come to the end of your life and realize you did not live to your fullest God-given potential.

The greatest achievements in this world have all been made by people with an overpowering mission. Like the steam that drives a locomotive, an overpowering mission drives every life of achievement. Think about every person of great accomplishment that you know of. Is it not true that each one had an overpowering mission?

Can you imagine Michael Jordan, Steven Spielberg, Mother Teresa, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, Orville and Wilbur Wright, Mozart, or Henry Ford simply working for retirement, checking off the days on their calendars for when they can sit back and relax and watch TV? Ludicrous to even think about! No, these people were driven like a screaming locomotive. They each had an overpowering mission and there was no stopping them.

“The world always steps aside for people who know where they’re going.”
– Miriam Viola Larsen

What is an overpowering mission in life?

Call it a quest, a calling, a passion, a grand purpose, or a reason for being. A mission in life isn’t something you force on yourself. It is something you discover within. You are born with it. It is coded in your DNA. It flows in your blood and is written in your heart. It is not something that is separate from you. It is as much a part of you as stripes are a part of a zebra. You cannot get away from it. It eats with you, sleeps with you, and goes wherever you are because it is a part of you.

“Many persons have a wrong idea of what constitutes true happiness. It is not attained through self-gratification but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.”
– Helen Keller

Once you find your mission your imagination is engaged and you have purpose. You have a reason for getting up in the morning. It fuses your values, beliefs, thoughts and actions into one unified force. It gives you a definition of who you are. Your mission is something that excites you, that drives you. When you are living your mission you look forward to every day. You live life with passion!

“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”
– Albert Einstein

Where does an overpowering mission come from?

I believe the creation of this world was not a mistake or some grand fluke of nature. It was created for a divine purpose. It was created as a place for God to send His children to learn and to grow and to develop their gifts and talents to their fullest. Each of us were sent here with certain things to learn and certain missions to perform. I believe in a Grand Design for everything.

“I cannot believe that God would choose to play dice with the universe.”
– Albert Einstein

It is my belief that each of us has been sent to this earth with a divine mission from God and it is one of the main purposes of life to discover it and pursue it.

Do you have an overpowering mission?

When I was in my late teens I had a good friend named Paul. In fact we roomed together for a while. I liked Paul a lot but there was one thing that really bugged me about him – he knew and had always known that when he grew up he would be a doctor. It never was a question in his mind. The reason it bugged me was the fact that I had no idea at that time what I wanted to do with my life and he did. It just didn’t seem fair.

Looking back I can see I had many clues and signs back then. But I didn’t see them!

Some of us come forth from our mother’s womb knowing our mission and purpose in life. Others of us, like myself, have a long struggle before the light finally turns on and we see clearly what our overpowering mission in life is.

One of the problems many of us face is that we have suppressed and denied for so long the feelings and yearnings inside us that they no longer come with the power and force they once did.

It’s like the puppy that follows the little boy home. The boy wants the puppy in a terrible way but knows his mother will never let him have it. So he tells the puppy to go away but of course it doesn’t. He yells at it but the puppy just keeps happily following him, wagging its little tail. It’s a persistent little puppy that won’t go away no matter what the boy tries. Finally, out of frustration the little boy picks up a rock and throws it at the puppy and with a yelp it runs off. It will be a long time before that puppy tries to follow the boy home again.

Too many of us have chased off our dreams and desires for so long that they rarely come back and if they do, they are timid and weak. That doesn’t mean they aren’t real and they aren’t important. They are still there. It just may take some coaxing to get them to come out again.

How do you discover your overpowering mission?

“Know thyself, and to thine own self be true, then thou canst not be false with any man.”
Shakespeare

There are many books and articles written on this subject. One particular book I own devotes over 150 pages with endless exercises and quizzes to help you discover your mission in life. I believe this type of introspection can be helpful but if it takes 150 pages to get you to find your mission in life, is it really an overpowering mission? I think it is much less complicated than that. There should be some rather large clues in your life and that is where you should look.

My own personal experience may be of some help to you. After I got married I began a career in the computer field. How was that chosen? My wife and my mother-in-law sat me down one day and succeeded in persuading me to go in that direction because there was good money to be made in computers. So for nineteen years of my life and over a million lines of computer code later I realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing that. But what then did I really want to do?

I began an earnest undertaking of finding out what I really should be doing with my life. A huge advantage I had was that I have kept a personal journal and have written in it nearly every day for the last 26 years of my life. So I began the rather large task of reviewing my journals from the first to the last. Frankly, I was amazed at what I found. I found over forty-three journal entries where I had expressed a deep desire to teach personal achievement, personal improvement, or personal change. My, how many times did that little dog come after me and I shooed him away or ignored him? Let me share one example from my journal, dated many years ago:

I wish I had the time each night to write down all the feelings that I have, but I never seem to have the time. I’ve been wanting to write about some ideas and aspirations I’ve been having lately, so here I go.

I like my job and it pays me very well. But sometimes I get the feeling that I have more to contribute in life besides computer programs. I sit at work each day and look at a little saying in front of my desk. It says, ‘Find out what you do best, then do it.’ I feel like I’m a good programmer and I do a good job at it. But I don’t feel that that is the thing I do best. I truly feel that I have an inborn ability to speak to people, to teach, to motivate, to give presentations to other people. The times when I have had opportunities to do this I have done very well, and most important, I have enjoyed it very much.

But how does one change from being a programmer to someone who teaches, speaks to, and motivates people? And also isn’t there a little vanity involved here? I mean, who am I to come out and say I can do these things and why do I want to do them? For the glory or recognition? I don’t want to be like that but how do you avoid it?

Plus what about my poor wife and her feelings and concerns – especially about family security? Here she thought I was all set and content in a nice career and now I’m thinking about changing. Is she going to think now that I’ll never be content at doing anything?

So, I shooed the puppy away then and every other time he came romping back into my thoughts. But he always came back. Finally I couldn’t deny it any longer. I had to pursue this powerful, overmastering desire; this mission in life.

“While goals are chosen, a purpose is discovered. Our purpose is something we have been doing all along, and will continue to do, regardless of circumstances, until the day we die.”
– Peter McWilliams

I don’t have a magic formula to give you in finding your life’s mission. I will say that it may take some deep thought, some making of lists and some review of your life thus far. For some this will be easy. For others it may take some coaxing to get the puppy to come back. Just be patient. You have the rest of your life ahead of you. You want to get it right!

“The secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living.”
-The Grand Inquisitor in Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov

It’s never too late

I have run a number of marathons. Each time I do I am amazed at the number of people who are older than me who not only run marathons but beat me to the finish! I will be running along, thinking I’m doing well and then a short, stubby, seventy-year old woman passes me up! It’s incredible! Life does not end when you turn forty, or sixty or even eighty. The history books are filled with people who have accomplished great things in the latter years of their lives.

I have always liked the saying that goes:

“Did you stop doing the things you did when you were young because you are old or are you old because you stopped doing the things you did when you were young?”

Read that again if you have to. I feel there is much to be learned from that statement. I once listened to a tape by the author Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. On the tape he asked a series questions to get you to think about yourself. One of my favorite questions he asked was this, “If you didn’t know how old you were, if there was no record of your birth, how old would you be?” His point was that the idea of how old you are has more to do with your thinking than with your birth certificate.

Many adults have the impression that once they pass a certain age they can never achieve or accomplish much. They feel their opportunities are lost. I say baloney! Every day that you wake up above ground is a day of opportunity!

The person who discovers or resurrects their overpowering mission late in life should not let age or time or circumstances get in their way. No matter how long they may have been delayed from it by mistakes or missteps, they should make a solemn resolve that they will not leave this life without pursuing and accomplishing their dream.

Clues from God

Our passions, longings and desires that arise from our heart are not just vain imaginations or hopeless dreams. They are the pointers, the clues, the guides to our possibilities. They are the prophecies, predictions, and blueprints of what we may become.

The honeybee doesn’t have an instinct to gather nectar without a real flower to match it; nor has the Creator planted within us yearnings and desires and dreams for a better, fuller, life without the possibility of achieving it. There is a divine reason and purpose behind our genuine desires.

I don’t believe there is anybody anywhere in this world that can be truly happy until they have found their true passion, their true heart’s desire, their overpowering mission in life and then followed and pursued it to the ends of the earth.

Copyright © 2013 Gary N. Larson