In the first post in a series about finding your mission, Dr. Adam Sheck explains the ways in which the twists and turns of his life have led him to his own personal mission.
It took me 54 years to really get the concept of mission. Not the mission or my mission or a mission—simply mission.
In my dictionary, “mission” is a verb. It has power and strength. It is self-contained with subject, object and action verb. It doesn’t need an article or pronoun to precede it. It’s got mojo!
What is mission? To me, it is an amalgamation of your gifts and talents, your values, your passion and your path of contribution to the planet. Talents expressed in a way that conflict with your values will lead to misery and failure. Self-expression purely for your own internal needs will ultimately prove unfulfilling. All four components are necessary to truly own your mission.
I am fortunate to have discovered—or more accurately, uncovered—mission in my life. My path hasn’t been linear and it certainly has had many unplanned, unexpected and surprising aspects as it has clarified itself over time. It has been an unusual, sometimes excruciating and sometimes ecstatic journey.
Everything I’ve experienced, learned and lived in my life has gotten me to this point, to this stage of evolution in mission. Every loss, every gain, every birth, every death has been integral. I have no doubt that the same is true for you and every other being.
Sharing my personal journey to mission seems like a good way to launch this column for Good Men Project and is most definitely in alignment with my mission. In case you’re in suspense, my mission is to use my gifts and talents to empower and mentor others in owning their mission, while having fun on the journey.
I place specific emphasis on the fun—for me and for you. If it’s not fun, I don’t do it. I’m too old to settle for anything less than that. Fun doesn’t necessarily equate frivolousness or meaninglessness, it is more a state of being that has an element of lightness. Mission work can often be serious and heavy and my gift has always been to lighten the load to make it easier to tolerate as well as enjoy the work.
So, how did an introverted, geeky, brilliant, yet modest young man who started off as an engineer become a psychologist and now a “Mission Specialist,” albeit not the kind that hangs out with astronauts?
As a child, I was painfully shy, overly sensitive, very good at school and received zero guidance from my family in how to grow up or what to do with my life. Like way too many young men, I grew up without a father to model for me what it meant to be a man. What kept me moderately sane was retreating into a world of fantasy and science fiction and exploring strange new worlds vicariously with my heroes.
My older cousin was an engineer riding submarines in Spain for a living. That sounded like a fun adventure and so I decided to become an engineer as well. That was it, no other thought, no discussion with anyone, it just seemed to be a good idea. I found out what the best engineering school was and decided to go there. I’m not a big believer in goals, yet I did set an intention. I write more about the distinction between goals and intention in my “Own Your Mission” book and will blog more about it here in the future.
As I said, I was pretty outstanding in school and received tons of awards and scholarships, blah, blah, blah. Bottom line, I ultimately earned my degree in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT, and began my career in engineering.
Hated it! Absolutely hated it! It fit one part of my mission formula: gifts and talents. I had no passion for it, the jobs I took conflicted with my values and it definitely wasn’t my calling or source of contribution to the planet. I was miserable for ten years not knowing that it was even possible to change my mind, change my career or change my life.
Fate—karma, the Universe, God, kismet, whatever—-stepped in to offer me another opportunity for mission. I got married at age 30 and my wife “happened” to be someone suffering from what we euphemistically call mental illness. We went into psychotherapy together. Three months later she decided she didn’t need any further support and I stayed in treatment for more than a decade. My treatment outlasted the marriage by at least a ratio of four-to-one (sorry, an engineer still lurks in me, studying the statistics).
My “failed” marriage was huge blessing which put me on the mission path. I loved psychotherapy so much that I decided that I wanted to become a psychologist myself! And that is exactly what I did.
That was over twenty years ago and to make a long story short, I have never looked back, never regretted the decision (though I do miss my engineer’s 401K). It has helped me to integrate my strong mind with my very protected heart and now that is another of my gifts, the ability to help others to accomplish this integration as well. I absolutely know and own that this work is my calling.
The best criteria that I’ve heard about distinguishing career from calling is this: If you won the lottery tomorrow, would you still be in your career? For me, the answer is abso-fucking-lutely! In fact, I’d buy a building and mentor others into the profession while on full salary.
My path of interest and contribution as a psychologist has shifted, expanded and evolved over the last twenty years. All of my skill sets, from my analytic, systematic, engineering mind, to my compassionate, empathic, sensitive psychotherapist’s heart have combined and expanded to support my mission, which I’ll repeat again (is it redundant to repeat, “again” ?).
My mission is to use my gifts and talents to empower and mentor others in owning their mission while having fun on the journey.
Owning your mission is first about discovering/uncovering mission. It is about really getting to know yourself on a deeper level, your gifts, your passion, your values and then learning how you can contribute to the planet. We are all unique beings with unique skill sets and I truly believe that we are here to make a difference, our difference, in our own way, to our own people, whatever that means to you and on whatever scale you choose to engage in mission.
Knowing your mission plus living your mission is what I call owning your mission. Facilitating that process in others, every day, in everything I do, personally as well as professionally is how I personally own my mission.
Welcome to my world and to my column. I look forward to your thoughts and comments and to learning how I may support, empower and mentor you in mission!
Stay tuned for more from Dr. Sheck about finding your life’s mission.
Also read: In Search of the Magic Pussy by Dr. Sheck
Photo: Flickr/Lachlan Hardy