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Discover Mission, Values, Purpose in Life

A while back, I did some coaching and consulting work for a close friend of mine (let’s call him John). He came to me asking for strategy and planning advice, and we ended up deep-diving into the all-important question of:

“What do you actually want to do with your life?”

I introduced him to a process, a system, for walking through his mission, values and legacy, and then seeing how this all ties in with goals and daily, weekly and monthly actions.

This process is the no-BS Asian Efficiency version of how to align everything in your life, so that what you do in every living moment is a true expression of who you are, what you value, what you stand for, and what you ultimately want to leave behind when you part this world for the next.

It’s a systematic solution to a problem that lifestyle designers and “lifestyle business” consultants have been trying to solve for years:

“How do you actually do something that you love and get paid for it as well?”


“How do I find my muse?”

I hope that if you find yourself asking the same questions, this article can serve as a guide for you as well.

Note: If you’d like to be personally coached through this or a similar process, please send us an email and ask about Momentum Coaching.

Start With the Mission

Mission and Purpose

The magic of this process begins with the mission. Wherever possible, if you know what your mission or purpose in life is, you should start there.

For some people, this is easy — ask them what their mission in life is, and they can tell you right away.

For others, this is not as straightforward.

So what is a mission?

Your mission is the one thing that, when you get to the end of your life, you would be proud of having spent most of your life working towards.

As an example, here at Asian Efficiency, our mission is to make the world a better and more productive place. This also happens to be very similar to my own, personal mission.

If you know your mission right away — no matter how simple or complex it may sound, you are a step ahead — and the rest of this process will be very straightforward.

Now in the case of my friend John, he couldn’t do this.

And so I guided him through some questions to try to work this out:

  • What would you tell your grandkids 50 years from now that you were the most proud of in your life?
  • On your deathbed, what would you remember the most fondly?
  • If you could only do one thing in your life for the rest of your life from now on, what would it be?
  • What purpose are you happy committing to for the rest of your life?

Using these questions, he was able to broadly formulate what he thought was his mission — and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I told him to write it down and worry about word-smithing it into something more elegant at a later time.

Note: If you have a really hard time with this, I highly recommend reading The Power of Story by Jim Loehr.

The System

Mission, Purpose, Values, Legacy Stages

Take a closer look at the diagram above. What it describes is the hierarchy of ideas and conceptual levels between who you are and your mission/purpose in life.

The first stage is You as a person, which we’ll get into more detail about shortly.

The second stage is Values, or the ideals that you aspire to. I believe that everyone should have a list of their top five to ten values written out somewhere and review them daily. This is a good format:

Value: Glowing Green

  • achieve super success
  • be willing to give up more and work harder and smarter than anyone else
  • pushing things to tipping points
  • higher standards than anyone else
  • lead by example

The third stage is Vehicles, which we will cover shortly.

The last stage is Legacy. Your legacy is what you want to leave behind in this world when you move on to the next. It runs parallel to your purpose or your mission, which is to leave behind that legacy.

Let’s dive deeper into each stage and uncover how this process works.

Stage 1: You as a Person


This is you. Or at least a very simplified representation of you.

You see, there is no singular concept called “you.” You are, in fact, the sum of many things, and this is a good thing.

A very useful model for deconstructing exactly what makes up “you” (or “I” or “John”) is the Dilts’ neurological levels model, which looks like this:


Here’s how it breaks down:

  • Mission/Purpose, which in this model are the same thing.
  • Identity is our sense of who we are.
  • Values and Beliefs are the ideals that we aspire to.
  • Capabilities and Skills are the things we can do.
  • Behaviors are the things we actually do.
  • Environment is the external things that surround us.

Now the interesting thing about this model is that different people define themselves by the different levels in this model. I have a theory that how people define themselves by this model relates to how self-actualized they are, with the higher levels of the model indicating a higher level of actualization.

For example, someone who defines themselves strongly by their peer group or the people around them — they’re defining themselves by their environment.

Someone who defines himself by his job or career — that’s also defining himself by his environment, with a bit of capability and skill mixed in.

Someone who defines herself by her faith — that’s values and beliefs.

Someone who defines themselves by their mission — that’s identity and purpose. And that’s the outcome of the process we’re going through here.

Stage 2: Values


Now that you understand how this process works from a conceptual level, let’s get practical.

Where we last left off with John: he had some difficulty uncovering his mission but eventually got some ideas down.

The next step, as per the stages diagram above, was to uncover his values.

So I asked him:

“What’s important to you?”

And had him write down a list of 10–20 things that he felt were important to him.

As an adjunct, I asked him to consider:

  • Decisions he had made in the past (especially big decisions).
  • Moral stances he had taken.
  • Things that he admired in himself and other people.
  • Things that he had done to express who he was.

I then asked him to take the first value and the second one and ask, “Which is more important?” And then to take the winner of those two, and compare it to the third value, then the fourth one, and so on.

By the end of this process, he had an ordered list of his most important values.

Note: This process took about an hour. Yes, it’s supposed to take a while.

Note 2: Mike Schmitz has a great video about values and how they impact what you do on daily basis inside the upcoming Asian Efficiency Dojo — sign up for our newsletter here, and we’ll let you know when it’s live.

From this list, we isolated John’s top five values, which is what we’re going to use for the next stage in our process.

Stage 3: Vehicles


Now that John and I had elicited his values, the next stage was to use them to work out his vehicles.

In this particular process, we define a “vehicle” as anything that you do — a career, a job, a business, a hobby, a cause and so on. “Muses,” or lifestyle businesses that intersect interests and market opportunity, are a subset of vehicles.

The vehicle is a form of leverage that lets you express who you are (identity) and your values to the world at large. It’s a way for you to leave behind a legacy in the world.

The example I gave John was this:

Take someone who values above all, the sanctity of life. This person may become a doctor — to save lives. She may become a social worker — to help others in life-altering situations. She may become a firefighter — also to save lives. Or she may start a biotech company that does cutting-edge research into reversing aging — again, also to save lives.

I also gave him my personal example:

When I sat down almost five years ago and worked out my values, I knew that I wanted to do something that would make the world just work better. And this led me to focus in on Asian Efficiency and our mission of making the world a better and more productive place.

Now realizing what a vehicle is, it was possible for John to brainstorm potential vehicles for his own life. I told him to think about business ideas (he’s an entrepreneur at heart), career paths, hobbies, and other things he spent a lot of time on.

Note that the vehicles do NOT have to be related. One idea could be a coaching business, one could be a manufacturing business, another could be a career in film-making.

Picking a Vehicle

Picking a Vehicle

After about an hour, we had a list of about 40 vehicles that John felt expressed his values.

In his particular case, John wanted to narrow down his focus to ONE vehicle that he could spend all of his time, energy and attention on. This was a pretty smart decision on his part — we tend to get the most results when we focus in on ONE THING, rather than trying to juggle many things.

The first thing we did was to check that all his vehicles expressed the list of his top five values and to remove ones that did not.

I then asked John to assess each vehicle across four criteria:

  1. Resources
  2. Leverage
  3. Personal Want
  4. Opportunity/Market

There are more criteria that could be used, but these were the most relevant to what John wanted — something he could do right now, something he actually wanted to do, and something he was capable of putting into action.

For each vehicle, John put down a green dot if it met a criteria, a yellow dot if it sort of did, and a red dot if it did not.

We then tallied up the vehicles with the greatest number of green dots and used those as a shortlist for picking John’s vehicle of choice.

From the vehicles that met the above criteria, John was able to group the two strongest options into one vehicle. This was his vehicle of choice, which answered the question:

What do you actually want to do with your life?

Stage 4: Legacy — Looping Back

Legacy Lopping Back

From there, John was very distinctly able to see that if he used his selected vehicle to pursue his mission, he would leave behind a legacy he would be proud of.

You see, your vehicles should (and most likely will) continue running long after you’re gone, and what they leave behind is your legacy. By understanding this, we’re able to tie together all our stages, as leaving behind that legacy is a core part of everyone’s purpose and mission.

And with that, John had come full circle through this systematic process of discovery.

Circling Back

We had started with trying to work out his purpose and mission.

We then looked at him as a person and his values: the ideals that he strove to express every day of his life.

From there, we looked at vehicles: businesses, jobs, hobbies and day-to-day actions that he did to express those values.

We then projected those vehicles to the end of his life and took a look what they would leave behind as his legacy… which brought us back to a clearer definition of his purpose and mission.

Through this process, John discovered that a number of things (vehicles) he thought he wanted to do actually didn’t align with his values or that they weren’t “realistic” in the sense of resources or market opportunity.

Because of this, he was able to find the vehicles that would not only make him the happiest, but have the highest probability of actually being implemented in the real world.

In John’s own words:

If it’s indulgent, I’ll happily wake up every morning to work on it.

In Closing

I hope you’ve found this process and system useful. John most definitely did.

If you’d like to find out more about being guided through a similar process, send us an email and ask about Momentum Coaching. We look forward to hearing from you!

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Thanh Pham

Founder of Asian Efficiency where we help people become more productive at work and in life. I've been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, and The Globe & Mail as a productivity thought leader. At AE I'm responsible for leading teams and executing our vision to assist people all over the world live their best life possible.

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