A guest post from Larry Brooks of Storyfix.com.
There are ten questions that will always make you a better blogger—even if you can’t always answer them.
It’s the asking, the awareness, and the empowering context established through asking, that sets a higher bar for your writing, your business and your life.
1. Are you willing to actually strive for that higher standard, or not?
That’s the first of the ten questions that can change your life.
At the heart of each of these questions is a specific understanding that lights them on fire within your life. It is the recognition that there is a difference between a mission and a goal.
Everybody wants to be happy. In some way, everybody wants to be rich and successful, though the definitions of the word “success” vary widely. We all want to be respected, liked, loved and appreciated, both for who we are and for what we’ve accomplished.
These are missions. They’re over-arching and more vague than goals.
This may sound like rhetoric—mission and goal are frequently, easily, and naively interchanged—but it’s no accident that the highly successful understand the difference. They know that the difference isn’t rhetorical, nor subtle.
Indeed, this understanding is the very thing that apprentices, rookies, dreamers, and anonymous wanderers seek to discover and then, when it’s right there in their faces, adopt as a way of being.
A mission is a destination. A goal is a milepost on the journey.
One without the other, however, can represent yet another definition of insanity. That situation will bring you face to face with a more infamous definition: expecting different results while doing the same old things, over and over.
Here are nine more facets of that understanding. Nine questions that, if you ask them of yourself, will always make you a better blogger.
What is your mission?
What is your purpose? Your vision for your life? Your highest dream? Your hierarchy of dreams?
What is your work—indeed, your life—all about?
There’s nothing inherently wrong with living in the now, to seek comfort and pleasure and reward, to think no further than tomorrow. More people live this way than don’t.
It’s just that this approach won’t lead you anywhere. You’ll be treading water, or at least allowing it to carry you along, powerless against it, within its tides and currents.
You have no engine, no sail, no compass, and no distant shore. You aren’t swimming, you’re treading water. The water may be warm and comfortable, but over time, such water becomes stagnant.
Understand that the happiness this seems to deliver is something you choose. But there are other levels of happiness and satisfaction in life.
You need a mission to make those choices accessible. The “goal” of going on a nice vacation next year … is just that: a goal.
A mission is much more than that.
What are your strategic goals?
Getting rich is a mission, not a goal. Some get to skip the goal-setting by virtue of inheriting their wealth, but even lottery winners set a goal to buy a ticket on a given day. The result is a consequence of intention, rather than genes.
For the rest of us, the road to riches is riddled with mileposts, ruts, puddles, and forks. Each of them defines a strategic opportunity to move forward.
What do I mean by strategic? I mean that the choices we make when we encounter those mileposts—which, when put in our rear-view mirror become milestones—are made in the context of the bigger picture. In the context of the mission.
Getting a new job may feel like a mission, but it’s actually just a goal. An important one. But it’s not a mission until it defines who you are, and where you intend to end up, and delivers a strong motivation to get there.
Ask anyone who has reached significant heights in their life, or have completed a mission. They’ll talk for days about the journey and the milestones that got them there.
Then again, finding such a person may be hard, because those individuals are never really done.
What is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition)?
You may think that your mission is to become part of a specific crowd of achievers, to join a certain club or become known in an esteemed way.
Often you must work your way through a series of lower-level crowds, and advance through a series of minor leagues, to get there. And the only way to rise above the crowd—any crowd—is to differentiate yourself.
Back in school that happened when somebody acted out, punched someone, or got busted. They stood apart, then they went to the back of the line.
In life, in quest of a worthy mission, your USP needs to add and deliver positive value: to stand out with a better, bigger idea, more consistent performance and some indefinable, almost magical X-factor that makes you glow in the dark.
How are you being perceived?
Goals never exist in a vacuum. Nor does the effort we put into reaching our goals. Everything we do in life propels energy into the universe. Others see it, feel it, interpret it and respond to it.
You are in complete command of the energy you put forth. Use your head, work smart, get out of the way of your own backstory (which may be full of resentment, fear, and ignorance), and make sure the energy you are putting out there is proactively and extraordinarily positive in nature.
You have little to no control over the way you’re being perceived. You’re the raw material from which others form their perceptions.
What are you contributing?
You know all of those people who are running ads for free iPads, laptops, and mobile phones if you “opt-in” to only two of the long list of special offers they’re putting in front of you?
Guess what? They’re frauds. They contribute nothing. Their mission is unworthy and doomed.
What are you contributing? What are you, as a blogger, giving away? How are you impacting the thinking of others? What value are you providing, either for free or for a fair price?
Value is the great justifier of price. Always strive to over-deliver it.
Is it just about the money? Or at the end of day, even if you die poor, will you be able to look in the mirror and say, “At least I touched a few lives”?
This is your yardstick—your metric of ultimate success. All the money and friends and admirers you’ll make along the way … those are by-products. Those may be worthwhile goals, but they shouldn’t be the mission.
Your highest mission should be to make a difference. To contribute.
Are you playing to win, or playing not to lose?
Despite this love-fest of new-agey, love-thyself wisdom, the fact remains that it’s a competitive world out there. And there are many potholes and roadblocks to negotiate.
Forward motion always requires the application of energy. In an airplane, when the engines die, the flight goes down, one way or the other. In a relationship, auto-pilot almost always results in a downward spiraling course.
In business, if you aren’t growing, you’re dying. Because all around you the world is changing. Better ideas, more capital, younger bucks … they’re everywhere.
Stay crisp and nimble. Focus on your mission and the goals that empower it. You are the CEO of your dream; don’t be afraid to fire under-performers and take risks on high-potential opportunities.
High achievers know no fear. Nor are they foolish in the face of risk. They weigh, they prepare, and then they choose. Once they’ve chosen, they allow nothing to stop them.
What are you getting out of this?
Here’s another little secret of the fabulously successful: they aren’t waiting to achieve their goal to acknowledge they’re having a good time. Almost always, at the end of the journey, they’ll tell you the best part was getting there.
It’s not just because of the money. More likely, it’s because of the sense of fulfillment and awareness the lives they’ve affected in a positive manner. Sure, there will have been dark moments, but business ins’t a zero-sum game. Just like life.
There will also be moments of pure elation. Just like life.
Getting the drift? Your mission is your life.
Pay attention to your misery and pain. Pay just as much attention to that occasional inner glow. Assign meaning, and have the courage and insight to allow that light to guide you.
Are you getting better?
Here’s that forward motion thing again. Competition is nipping at your heels. Age is unrelenting. What is past is prologue.
But prologue to what?
You get to answer this question. And when you do, you’ll find that the most exciting opportunities, the gut-check of stepping into your fear, always challenges you to be better.
If you can’t find that challenge, create one. Improvement and growth is often forced upon us, but just as often it’s self-chosen.
Are you willing to do the hard things?
The road is strewn with the gravestones of the well-intentioned. Time and degree of difficulty thin the crowd along the way. Survival is complicated. Nothing worth achieving is ever easy.
By definition, there will be moments when you feel unable to go on, to overcome, or to choose what you know in your heart must be chosen.
A critical sub-set of this question contains two elements: persistence and discipline. Both are essential. Both will determine your outcome. And both are choices.
There’s a song by Martina McBride called “Do It Anyway.” You can listen to it here.
Does it describe you? This is one of the most important questions you will ever address in your life, because the answer will define your future.
Other questions quickly arise from these prompts.
…and that’s the point. It may seem that the journey is over and the mission’s accomplished once you wrap your head around these questions. But a funny thing will happen on the way to your dream. The mission will evolve. It will grow and embellish itself with your skills and earned wisdom. And new missions, new purposes and hopes, is what keeps you young and thriving.
Here’s another thing that highly successful folks get: they’re never done.
They want to slide in sideways on the day of their wake. They know that the saddest funeral of all is the one at which everyone in attendance (who is upright) realizes this: he wasn’t done. She had so much more to do.
Sad, but not tragic. Sad, but something to celebrate and admire. This is what you want. You want your friends and loved ones to celebrate your life and grieve that which was underway and left undone. This represents the evolution of the cliché, “he died doing what he loved.”
Because that person was fully alive, in movement, engaged, aware and continuing to grow and experience. And I promise you, whether they used these words or not, that person was asking themselves these ten questions until the day the music stopped.
Larry Brooks writes at Storyfix.com, where his new ebook, “Get Your Bad Self Published” is now available. His book on storytelling, “Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing,” comes out from Writers Digest Books in early 2011.