This article is from Issue 61: Jan/Feb 2013

Who Are You, and Why Are You Here?

The new year is the perfect time to examine who you’re meant to be.

There’s an old story about Akiva, the rabbi, who had been in the village to gather some supplies. Walking back to his cottage, he absentmindedly took the wrong path. Suddenly, a voice came through the darkness: “Who are you, and why are you here?”

Shocked to awareness, Akiva realized he had wandered into the Roman garrison, and the voice had come from the young sentry keeping guard. But being a rabbi, he answered the question with another question: “How much do they pay you to stand guard and ask that question of all who approach?”

The sentry, now seeing that this was not an intruder but a rabbi, answered meekly, “Five drachmas a week, sir.”

At that point the rabbi offered, “Young man, I will double your pay if you come with me, stand in front of my cottage, and ask me that question each morning as I begin my day: ‘Who are you, and why are you here?’”

What’s Your Mission?

If there’s one reason I hear more than any other for failed New Year’s resolutions, it’s “I just didn’t have the time.” But success often comes from knowing what you ought to be doing and saying no to time-wasters.

Without clarity on who you are and why you’re here, anything becomes a possibility. If you approach each day with no vision, anything that pops will redirect your attention.

Having a clear mission statement for your life allows you to decide in advance the life you want to live.

Having a clear mission statement for your life allows you to decide in advance the life you want to live. It creates a focus for every activity in your life. And it needs to be specific enough that you can weigh any activity.

Sometimes I see people create mission statements that sound great but mean little. It’s so generic it would fit anyone who breathes. Here’s one: “I want to love God and serve Him forever.” I know that sounds all warm and fuzzy, but I have no idea what that person is going to do tomorrow morning when he gets up, and I’m pretty confident he doesn’t either.

I don’t know any high achievers who get up in the morning and just kind of see what happens—just do whatever seems important at the time. No, people who accomplish things decide in advance how they will invest their time. They have a plan.

Who Do You Want to Be?

It’s easier to quantify doing than being, because we can quantify what we do: how many sales we made, how many miles we drove, how many chairs we built, how many pages we wrote.

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