Having just attended two family member’s graduation ceremonies at different colleges in different states, I’m reflecting on the meaning of these rites of passage. In both cases, commencement addresses were focused on what we need to know to launch our life. It was interesting; in both speeches three points were made with similar messages. I think these points are relevant at any stage of our life.
At the College of Charleston, Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the United States Air Force and former College of Charleston Board of Directors, talked about the importance of Purpose, People and Principles to guide us. At the University of South Alabama, alum Kenneth O. Simons, an Attorney in Birmingham and former Special Assistant to U.S.Attorney General William French Smith talked about the importance of Purpose, Inspiration and Service.
What’s been coming to me on reflection of these speeches, is that we need to keep these things in mind at every juncture of our life. Whether we are launching our life, maintaining things, or initiating changes, these qualities continue to be important. They are our guide posts.
Instead of detailing the personal examples the speakers gave of these principles, I’d like to look at them from the perspective of how they are continual guides for us along our path. Allow me to group their points into 3 similar categories.
Finding purpose in our life takes many forms. For some people it is a clear calling that starts at an early age. For others it’s an unfolding process of discovery over a life time. Both commencement speakers had a clear calling, but told stories about how what they wanted didn’t come as easy as they might have wanted. They had trials and the path was not always a straight line.
It seems that the important message is to know that the process of seeking purpose and meaning in our life, is in fact the point. It’s not the attainment that’s important as much as the unfolding path of getting there. The lessons along the way are just as important as the goal itself.
Our sense of purpose grows and evolves along with us. Our sense of what is important may grow deeper with more focused expertise or may broaden as we develop a bigger more holistic perspective. There is no right or wrong. It is the process of evolving our own sense of making a contribution – in any way that feels right.
Our life purpose grows and evolves as we do – the journey and its lessons are more important than the destination.
Who has influenced us in our life? Where do we find our inspiration? Honoring those people and recognizing their importance is a mark of taking yourself and your sense of purpose seriously. None of us can get where we want to go without looking up and outward to those who have gone before us.
Both speakers talked about the importance of mentors and teachers who were instrumental to them along the way. Eventually, this is a role that we move into as well. The more we value our purpose and take it seriously, the more we become a light for someone else on the same path.
A Buddhist proverb says it well: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” If we want to move into our purpose more fully, we never stop learning and growing. It is the way we deepen and become expert. When we’re receptive to new information, our openness to the process of learning will guide us to the right information and people for our next chapter of growth.
By honoring the people who inspired and taught us, we stay open to a continual learning process that inspires others.
Many institutes have principles and a guiding vision for their mission. At the College of Charleston, the mission in Latin translates to “Wisdom is Liberty” with an additional motto over Porter’s Lodge saying “Know Thyself”. These principles became a touch stone the graduation speakers drew upon. Mr. Simon also spoke of the value of service and it being a guiding principle that prompted important work in his life.
What are the values that underpin the goals you seek for yourself? What is your vision for your life really saying about your guiding principles? Institutions and companies are not the only ones who benefit from clarity of mission, principles and vision. We benefit too.
Our goal and vision for ourselves is often a dynamic picture that changes as we do. The principles and values that are embedded in them are more static. They guide our growth and development. Being aware of our own principles, like growth, integrity and service, helps us stay the course as things change in our life. The more we focus on making the principles and values our guide, the more we will move forward with clarity and integrity.
Clarify your principles and let them be the light on your path that motivates your life vision .
How clear are you in knowing your purpose in life, your mentors and teachers and your guiding principles and values? It became apparent to me that spending the time to become fully aware of these things will serves us well throughout our life. It’s not just a graduation message – it’s a lifelong message.
If you’d like to explore these things for yourself, my Transformation Life Coaching provides a process for doing just that. I offer free consultation to help you determine if my services will meet your needs. For more information, I welcome you to message me here or through my website, www.spectrumtransformation.com.