Notes on How to Find Your Mission in Life (by Richard Nelson Bolles)


What life is like when people are living their mission: “We now have a strong desire for living combine with a strange carelessness about dying. We desire life like water and yet are ready to drink death like wine.” (G. K. Chesterton)


Three aspects of Mission (according to Bolles)


First aspect: “to seek to stand hour by hour in the conscious presence of God, the One from whom your Mission is derived.”

·         Mission is shared with all others

·         Requires unlearning the idea that our Mission is primarily to keep busy doing something—it’s more about learning how to BE a Son and Daughter of God

·         “Before we go searching for ‘what work was I sent here to do?’ we need to establish or in a truer sense reestablish contact with this ‘One From Whom We Came and The One to Whom We Shall Return.’ […] [B]y the very act of being born into a human body, it is inevitable that we undergo a kind of amnesia… We wander on earth as an amnesia victim. To seek after Faith, therefore, is to seek to climb back out of that amnesia. Religion or faith is the hard reclaiming of knowledge we once knew as a certainty.” “But we are ever recalled to do what we came here to do: that without rejecting the joy of the physicalness of this life, such as the love of the blue sky and the green grass, we are to reach out beyond all this to recall and receive a spiritual interpretation of our life. Beyond the physical and within the physicalness of this life, to detect a Spirit and a Person from beyond this earth who us with us and in us…”

·         Cf. Rabbi Steinsaltz: “every descent is for the sake of ascension; when we fall, what we get is the opportunity to pick ourselves up and perhaps be even stronger than we would have been had we not fallen.”


Second aspect: “to do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place, following the leading and guiding of God’s Spirit within you and around you.”

·         Mission is shared with all others

·         Requires unlearning the idea that everything about our Mission must be unique to us

·         “But instead of the mountaintop, we find ourselves in the valley—wandering often in a fog. And the voice in our ear says something quite different from what we thought we would hear. It says, “Your mission is to take one step at a time, even when you don’t yet see where it is all leading, or what the Grand Plan is, or what your overall mission in life is. Trust Me; I will lead you.”

·         “In every situation you find yourself, you have been sent here to do whatever you can—moment by moment—that will bring more gratitude, more kindness, more forgiveness, more honesty, and more love into this world. There are dozens of such moments every day. Moments when you stand—as it were—at a spiritual crossroads, with two ways lying before you. […] It all devolves, in the end, into just two roads before you, every time. The one will lead to less gratitude, less kindness, less forgiveness, less honesty, or less love in the world. The other will lead to more gratitude, more kindness, more forgiveness, more honesty, or more love in the world.”

·         “It is necessary to explain this part of our Mission in some detail, because so many time you will see people wringing their hands and saying, ‘I want to know what my Mission in life is,” all the while they are cutting people off on the highways, refusing to give time to people, punishing their mate for having hurt their feelings, and lying about what they did. And it will seem to you that the angels must laugh to see this spectacle.”

·         “The valley, the fog, the going step-by-step, is no mere training camp. The goal is real, however large: ‘Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done, on Earth, as it is in Heaven.”


Third aspect: “to exercise that Talent which you particularly came to earth to use, in the place(s) or setting(s) which God has caused to appeal to you most, and for those purposes which God most needs to have done in the world.” 

·         This aspect of Mission is uniquely individual

·         Requires unlearning the idea that our unique mission (1) is something that we are ordered to do, without free choice on our part, (2) consists in achievements which all the world will see and recognize as valuable, (3) is something we accomplish on our own, without the Spirit’s constant partnership…. 

·         The talent we most rejoice in using “is usually the one which, when we use it, causes us to lose all sense of time.”