Our Personal Mission In Life

painting of person walking by Jay Fancher
(c) Jay Fancher

We are surrounded by choices and possibilities. We can travel just about anywhere we want with relative ease. We can study abroad. We can read at our discretion inspirational books that assure us that we are full of potential, that we can become anything we want to become. More than at any other time in history, we seem to be free to choose our personal missions, free to choose the meaning that we give to our life. But do we really get to choose? Viktor Frankl, a neurologist, psychologist, and Holocaust survivor who authored the bestseller Man’s Search For Meaning, said that we detect rather than invent our missions in life.

I believe my mission in life is to be a writer, to touch other people’s minds with my writing. It’s a mission that evolved out of my experiences as well as out of my own understanding of who I am as an individual, of my personality, of my strong points and my weak ones. It comforts me, the thought that wherever life will take me, whatever lows or highs will come, the pen and paper will always be close at hand, ready to help me make sense of my life, to rewrite it even, and in the process create something that other people will find, I hope, worth reading.

At the same time, however, I have doubts, as any wanderer, any artist, any creative mind who strays off the beaten track and seeks a different, more enchanting path through the woods. There are many uncertainties about being a writer, and there’s the solitude that writing usually requires, a solitude which I enjoy now but which I know I may come to question later, and the financial instability of this profession compared to other, more “sensible” jobs. Worst of all is the quiet fear that, by trying too hard to write about life, one can end up, without even realizing, avoiding life, missing out on it.

Sometimes, I think to myself, “If I had stayed at school and became a doctor or pursued some other career, perhaps I would have a more immediate positive effect on the people around me.” I smile at this thought, because I know deep down that if I became a doctor, I would then probably yearn to be a writer, in that way peculiar to humans, who always believe that there is something better somewhere out there, where they are not. Let’s face it, one thing the world absolutely does not need is another distracted doctor.

We can always improve, always better ourselves, but in the end, many of our choices are already made for us by our own inner system of preferences, by the likes and dislikes embedded into our genes, by the things that make us tick, by our adaptable yet changeless personality. We may have different missions at different times in our lives, but they are never simple choices, never easy wishes. Our lifelong search for meaning, and our personal missions, are never nouns, but rather verbs. They begin when we begin, and they don’t end until we end.

Do you have a personal mission in life? Is it perhaps synonymous with your job? Or is there something you really hope to achieve in your life?

21 thoughts on “Our Personal Mission In Life

  1. I find that I am almost always actively thinking about what my mission/purpose in life is. I have yet to find it, however.

      1. 20. I know I have time to figure it out, but I feel like I’m wasting time sitting around not having a clue what I’m meant to do with my life.

      1. i worry i will spend my life constantly questioning whether or not what i’m doing is what i’m meant to be doing. but i also have faith that when i come across the thing i’m meant to do with my life, i will know it.

          1. yes, we definitely should and i need to think about the present just as much as i worry about the future (for without the present, what is the future?)

  2. It’s a bit like that saying, ‘jack of all trades, master of none’. I have always wanted to be a doctor. I have also always wanted to be a writer. But I studied language and creative writing and literature instead of sitting my MCAT exams. 85% through my degree, I am thinking, why can’t I be a doctor AND a writer? Because then I wouldn’t be any good at writing, and not half as good at doctoring as I could be. Should people choose one thing over another, or could they do both?

    1. Anton Chekhov, one of the writers I admire the most, practised medicine all his life. He used to say that “Medicine is my lawful wife and literature my mistress; when I get tired of one, I spend the night with the other.”

      Of course, becoming a doctor in Chekhov’s time was perhaps (a little) easier than in our times. The sad thing is that he died from tuberculosis when he was only 44, which he likely contracted while tending to his patients.

      I think that writing can be a complementary, rather than secondary pursuit in one’s life. For some people, that is. It depends a lot on our backgrounds, too. Being a doctor in Romania is quite an endeavour.

  3. I, too, want to be a writer more than anything. You’ve written so much of what has been on my mind lately. Weighing my dream against my responsibilities. I’ve described myself as being in the midst of a wilderness…only now I can’t see the trees for the forest–if that makes any sense at all.

    1. Hi Agung,

      It’s built into WordPress and/or my theme. Go to My Sites (upper left corner of the screen), access your WP Admin, and then go to Widgets. You should find it there.

  4. Being a writer myself, I can relate so well with you, but I also believe that there will always be uncertainty even when you find out what you really want to do. One will always keep re-confirming if this is really it. I honestly feel, there’s nothing fun about a plain straight road. There’s got to be loads of turns, bumps and temporary stoppages!
    Nevertheless, It’s always a pleasure reading your posts, Vincent! You teach me new things about myself 🙂 xx

    1. Indeed, we are wandering through a forest of forking paths…

      The thought that I can be of some use to people I have never even met makes me feel like I’ve just drank a cup of warm tea – that is to say, much pleased.

  5. I admire your story and perspectives. My mission and purpose in life is something I try to figure out each day but also when I think I know, it changes. Perhaps this is the writer’s imagination in me constantly dreaming of infinite possibilities. We all have potential to do great things and I believe we each have unique gifts and talents to contribute to the world.
    Here’s a link to my very small blog that you may be interested in reading:

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