The Four Phases of Living Your Mission - Travis Robertson

The Four Phases of Living Your Mission

[fbls] Recently, I was on a small plane with about 69 other passengers. I was lost in a book when I took a break and looked around at the other passengers. I love to watch people as they go about their day and imagine what they do, where they’re going, and what it would be like to be them and see the world through their eyes.

I noticed that the gentleman sitting next to me was a professional photographer. Judging by the images on his screen and the intensity with which he labored over his photos, he is excellent at it and he loves it. He tended to tiny pixels on each image tweaking them until they were near-perfect. He smiled to himself as he worked on each image – as if he was reliving the moment he took each photograph.

The woman seated in front of me was working on a spreadsheet and a Powerpoint document. Whether she was doing it because she loves it or because she has to, I couldn’t tell you. But it got me thinking.

I saw people in business suits and people in track suits. 70 different people on a plane. 70 different goals. 70 different dreams for their lives. 70 different passions. 70 different careers. 70 different life trajectories.

I realized something as I looked around the plane. At least two of us love what we do – me and the gentleman sitting next to me. I only hoped that the other 68 people either love what they do as much as we do, or are making huge strides toward being able to do what they are called to do. Deep down, I hoped that they are pursuing their mission in life.

You see, it’s not what you do that matters as much as it that you live out what you were designed to do and you appreciate the journey your life is on. If the woman seated in front of me was working on spreadsheets and Powerpoint documents because she loved it, then that is to be envied. We all won’t love Powerpoint and spreadsheets, but we should all love what we are doing.

As I went back to my reading, I couldn’t help but think of the quote from Henry David Thoreau: “The masses of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I hope for their sakes that the other 68 people on that plane do not count themselves among the masses.

And I hope that you don’t live a life of quiet desperation either. You were created for so much more than that.

The Four Phases of Living Your Mission

When it comes to living out your mission, there are four phases that you may find yourself in the middle of:

Phase 1 – You don’t believe you have a mission. Many people don’t even think they are called to something greater than what they’re currently doing. They’ve settled. Perhaps you have accepted the lie that you are “unlucky” or that you are average. In your mind, other people having missions, or callings, or a purpose. Not you. You feel like you are doomed to this average life.

One of the best things you can do if this is where you find yourself is to change your circle of friends. More often than not, people in this phase are surrounded by others who think and feel the same way. You must break free from this influence on your life. So that you can move to the next phase.

Phase 2 – You believe you have a mission but don’t know how to discover it. You believe that there is more to life than quiet desperation. You believe that you were designed for so much more. You just can’t put your finger on it. You have “inklings” and “ideas” but aren’t really sure how to crystalize it.

This can be a difficult stage. Many people who find themselves here think it should be easier to determine their mission in life so they get frustrated and give up. I want to tell you that, depending on your past, this phase can take time. Don’t allow it to get you down or make you anxious. I spent a lot of years here partially because I was trying to force it rather than being patient and enjoying the process. Keep learning and stretching yourself. Don’t become complacent and eventually you will move out of this phase.

Phase 3 – You know what your mission is but don’t know how to go about living it. This is a stage filled with so much emotion. Doubt and fear and confusion and excitement and wonder are common if you are in this phase. You feel filled with more questions than answers and you may even feel overwhelmed.

The good news is there are ways to get help and get moving. For some, coaching is a great solution. For others, joining business programs like Warriors of Business can be a great place to start. Whatever you do, you must surround yourself with like-minded people who will challenge and push you to excel. Create accountability for yourself. Keep learning and experimenting. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t feel like things need to be “perfect” in order to take action.

Phase 4 – You are living your mission. You labor under the love of doing what you were created to do. You love what you do and count yourself blessed to do it. People who are around you feel that in you. You radiate passion and excitement. Remember that a lot of people are jealous of that passion and would love to be where you are.

Don’t apologize for being in this phase. Instead, use it as an opportunity to help those in the other three phases. Consider becoming a mentor to someone. You’ll be surprised how much you learn through the process about yourself and your mission in life. You’ll find a level of fulfillment you didn’t know you were missing.

Like those in the other phases, keep growing! Don’t take it for granted and rest on your laurels.

Which phase are you in and what (if anything) do you feel like you’re missing in order to move from where you are to where you want to be? I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this below.

Leave a Reply 47 comments

Cheryl Reply

Hi Travis,
This article is very inspiring and eye opening to me. I really need to move on in my life and reading this has sort of pointed me to the important things I need to consider.  Thank you.

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Thank you so much, Cheryl. I’m glad that you were able to recognize that there are some areas for improvement. That takes courage and I’m excited for this next stage of your journey!

    Keep me posted on it!

kurt_gielen Reply

Six months ago I moved into phase 3 when I discovered my purpose in life thanks to a coaching program I participated in. It was actually very easy because my coach taught me that defining your purpose (which is often perceived as THE most important step in any personal development plans) can be changed later on if it doesn’t fit anymore. Just like any other decision you got to spend some time discovering it but at some point you just got to decide. So I did a number of exercises to discover mine, including Steve Pavlina’s suggestion of writing down one purpose after the other until you get to the one that brings tears to your eyes. And according to him, that’s your life purpose. I never found one that brought tears to my eyes, but I did find 114 purposes that aren’t mine. 🙂

I’m happy to read your description of phase 3, it pretty much describes the way I feel right now. And just like every other step, I’m loving it.

    Travis Robertson Reply

    I love your story, Kurt! The fact that you took the time to figure out 114 purposes that aren’t yours is incredible and take a lot of discipline.

    Your point about our purpose not being set in stone and able to be changed is critical for people to understand. I think too many people get hung up on the false permanancy of their mission or purpose. Consequently, they don’t act because they don’t want to be “stuck with the wrong decision.”

    Thanks for jumping in on this!

Alicia Marinache Reply

Travis, is it possible for someone to change their mission in life? Or you believe one has *THE* mission and they just live through smaller missions until they discover *THE* one?
Great article, BTW 🙂

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Great question, Alicia! It’s completely possible for someone to change their mission and use “smaller” missions at different stages of life.

    I wouldn’t call them small missions, though. Your purpose at any given stage is important. When we’re in our mid years, it will often relate in some ways to our families. As we get older, it may be more about preparing a younger generation. Or…it could be something entirely different from these.

    Some people will have a single mission for their entire lives while others will have a primary theme. Still others may have multiple missions and themes depending on their circumstances.

Dean Reply

Travis timing is amazing. Have you ever read 48 days to the work you love? I was reading it and not really buying into calling and then it happened. I was out into a situation where my calling was revealed to me. It is an amazing feeling when you first get the realization.

    Travis Robertson Reply

    I have read 48 Days to the Work You Love and Dan was instrumental in me becoming a coach. I had the opportunity to be mentored by him a few times and believe in the incredible content he creates.

    I love hearing your story and, having talked with you about it, seeing your passion and excitement first-hand. It’s amazing how we can go from “I don’t buy it” to “I’m sold!” so quickly. 🙂

Lori_Bonn Reply

Love this!  I am currently loving what I’m doing, so I don’t consider myself “in the masses”, phew! 😉
I am currently writing a Book, which was a lifelong dream backburnered because of ‘life’ going on and that taking precedence.  I also started my own Business with Isagenix(Health and Wellness)  almost by accident.(even though I don’t believe in ‘accidents’.) as a result of using the products and getting great results. God has a way of steering us in certain directions when we least suspect it.  Thanks Travis, give hugs to Lisa!

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Hi Lori! That is so cool to hear. Congrats on writing the book – that has to be fun and challenging for sure. 🙂

    You’re absolutely right that God steers us where we need to be as long as we’re willing to be steered. Glad to hear you’re doing well. Say hello to Kevin for me!

Lori_MyEvidentFaith Reply

I love what I’m doing, and also have lots of other things that I love that keep me busy. However, my amazing husband is in his late 40’s and is in phase 2  – was in phase 4 prior to us having kids but fear took him away from that – and finally at this age is trying to find his way back to his “now” mission. Would love to see more tips on phase 2 ! 

    Travis Robertson Reply

    Wow! I’m glad you’re doing what you love to do – that is a huge blessing. Your husband’s situation is not uncommon. Fear can cripple and destroy but I’m glad to see him getting back in the fight.

    I’m sure I can get some Phase 2 content in the mix for you both. 🙂 Remember that what he needs more than anything right now is your support, patience and love. Make sure to leave your email so that you get the blog posts automatically when they go up.

Thomas Mason Reply

I consider myself in Phase 2. Right now I’m just merely existing and trying to survive. I believe there’s more to life than that. So I’m not sure what the weeks and months will hold for me, but I’m determined to direct my focus on discovering what my mission in life is.

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Thank you for your honesty, Thomas. You’re absolutely right that there is more to life than “merely existing and trying to survive.” I’m going to do some posts in the coming weeks and months on working through Phase 2 so make sure you subscribe and get the notifications as they go up. This seems to be a common phase for people and I’ve been there – it’s extremely difficult and frustrating at times.

    Pamela Brackett Reply

    Thomas, forgive me, but out of curiosity I clicked over to your site. Even though you might think your path or your mission is a little muddled or undefined – it is clearly evident on your website that you have one of the most important missions in life:  you’re a father and a husband and the love you have for your family shines through.  And you are a poet.  That’s a pretty awesome place to start from if you ask me.

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Pamela is absolutely correct! I didn’t see the website since your Disqus profile linked to your twitter bio. But I hopped on today and I love what you’re doing.

    I do think there is some room for clarity and, like Pamela mentioned, you have an incredible base to start from. I would suggest filling this out when you have a minute:

      Thomas Mason Reply

       I just submitted the free coaching session form.

Pamela Brackett Reply

I believe that sometimes we cycle through the phases a little as we refine and open to the possibilities of what we can achieve.  It’s just all part of the creative process.  And, you are so right – celebrate wherever you are and never give up.  Great post!

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Thank you, Pamela! You’re absolutely right that we can cycle through phases. Sometimes, our goals change in life and that changes our perspective on our mission. It may knock us back a few phases as we try to reevaluate what we’re doing and where we’re going.

    Great point! Thanks for sharing it.

E Noutsa Reply

Hi Travis, I identify myself as being in stage 2 and do agree with you that is not the place any one want to be in because it is really frustrating. I am working hard to get out of this stage but things are not changing. I am not the type that just gives up but i must say this is a very difficult place to be. I really would love to fine out what my mission is and live it.

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Thanks for sharing that. I’m going to be doing some posts on Phase 2 in the next few weeks so make sure you subscribe so that you get notified when they go live on the site.

David Robertson Reply

I would like to add a phase… er, perhaps a bridge between phase 3 & 4. I’ll call it phase 3.5:

You recognize your mission. You’ve found the help & have started working toward living your mission. Now it’s a matter of time & transition between knowing your mission & living your mission. You’re not yet living it, but your definitely not wondering how to live it, because you’ve worked hard to discover what you need to do. 

What do you think?

    Travis Robertson Reply

    There’s certainly transitional sections of each phase. Usually they are not crisply defined and there is that time where you’re working on living your mission but it’s not yet your living (if that makes sense). I’d still consider that part of Phase 3 though. 3.5 works. 🙂

      BillintheBlank Reply

      Good point on the 3.5 thing, David. Question: Is the transition from 3 to 4 inevitable? If not, what keeps it from happening most often? Impatience? Quitting near the peak? I’ve embraced the thinking that I can always quit tomorrow.

Deacon Bradley Reply

Love this Travis. Phase-1 is an interesting one because once you hit Phase-2 you realize you’re amongst the extremem minority. Love your point about changing your environment to jump yourself out of Phase-1.

I like to consider myself in Phase-3, with brief blips back to Phase-2, hah. I guess you could say I’m constantly refining and evolving my mission at this stage. 

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Thanks, bro! It’s sad but true…the extreme minority begins at Phase 2. You’re in a good place right now because you’re not letting the fact that things are fully defined keep you from making progress forward.

    Often, we have to do something before we can define things more clearly. If fact, I think you just inspired my next post. 🙂 Thank you.

      Deacon Bradley Reply

      Looking forward to it! I can honestly say I’ve tried quite a few things to see what sticks. The first time I was way too slow out of the gates. It had to be perfect… it wasn’t.

      I like Jim Collins’ analogy: Fire bullets first, THEN cannonballs.

        Travis Robertson Reply

         Perfection is the enemy of success. I used to struggle with the perfectionist mindset. I so wish I could take those years back.

        Jim Collins is awesome! Thanks for sharing that reminder. 🙂

beofservice Reply

I’m in stage 2 and recently relocated because most of my friends were in stage 1. Although I feel like I’ve been in stage 2 for FOREVER haha. Thanks for your encouragement not to give up. I’m glad to know that it can take years since I’ve been here years. I’m looking forward to reading your posts on stage 2, but in the meantime is there any way you recommend to speed up this phase?

    Travis Robertson Reply

    Speeding up Phase 2 can be tricky. What works for some, doesn’t work for others. However, there are a few things I can recommend depending on your situation. I saw your submission come in today so be on the lookout for an email to schedule your call. 🙂

Lori_MyEvidentFaith Reply

This conversation is uplifting. 

As a male and as primary breadwinner, my husband has a similar issue with phase 2 as per Thomas. He wants to do God’s will, and it is certainly easy to say that he should do it where he is, but he has been there for so long and it has beaten him physically and mentally. And just as he felt ready to let go and jump to trust God with a new (very physical) career, the doctor told him that he has physical issues that would absolutely derail him, not to mention the insurance issue. And then today, crazily enough, he gets a phone call from someone wanting to contract him for the very thing he was praying to do… So with 2 bad knees and 2 total knee replacements called for per his doctor, we are really dizzy!  Oh boy do I wish He could just leave me a note on my bedside table. 

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Wow! Lori, that’s a tough place to be. Finding that line between faith and “how can this possibly make sense?!” is so challenging. Being in a situation that beats us up physically and mentally is probably the most draining situation for a man to be in.

    I lived that way for about 10 years and experienced the wear on my body, mind and soul. I’m going to spend some time on the challenges of Phase 2. It’s clear this is where so many people find themselves right now.

Gary Ares Reply

It didn’t take me long to get through the post, because I’m definitely in 4.  I just did 1 – nope, 2 – nope, 3- nope, 4 yep!  Problem is I need to work at something that is NOT my mission to make a living and pay bills.  This vision I have I see as raising the tide and floating millions of boats (minds).

I can’t seem to pull myself away from it to do what I’m supposed to be doing (ADHD also).  I’m consumed with seeing it grow, because I realize how it will help millions to enhance their thinking so as to raise their spirit, and take control of their lives to make the world a better place.  
It’s like building an army of positive (or less negative) Smiling Minds.  These minds can then raise happier and more well adjusted children.  The obesity and depression crisis’ can drop, because the mind has healed.

It’s all web based, with social networked communities, able to access content that has psych threads, but very subtle, and gentle.  Topics are every day life events and struggles and how to solve them by possible viewing and thinking differently.  There’ll be some gamification and lots of video.

There’s a ton more to tell, but this is not the place.  I’ve started a small, and free, blog I call aSmilingMind, which is the theme and branding.  The blog is

Any ideas on how finding funding to allow me to do this full time would be appreciated.  All I want to do is pay the bills, and get real good a cooking Ramen.  I’m running out of future, and must leave this legacy before I punch out.

    Travis Robertson Reply

     I’m glad to hear you feel like you’re in Phase 4, Gary. Practically, it sound more like Phase 3 as there is a gap between where you are and where you want to be. But you’re making strides and that’s what’s important.

    Regardless of where you are now, keep in mind that you progressed through through the other Phases whether you though of them this way or not.

    Nobody is born knowing exactly what they will do and it’s not as simple as you made it sound. You probably didn’t intend for it to come across that way and I just wanted to clarify it a little for those who may be in Phase 2 especially. It’s a tough phase – I’ve been there and want others to know that there is hope on the other side.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and joining the conversation.

John Terry Reply

Your hope for the other 68 people on the plane is a refreshing perspective. I had a related thought just 24 hours ago when a co-worker walked into my office with her laptop and showed me a spreadsheet full of user data. It was massive, and she had created a couple pivot tables to look at user engagement from different angles. I’m a writer and editor – and that level of data makes my head explode. My colleague, on the other hand, was SO stoked about it. She said she gets really excited about data analysis and gets lost in the work. I told her how much I appreciate that – and I sincerely meant it. I’m really glad she loves what she does.

    Travis Robertson Reply

    Thanks, John. It’s great that you can appreciate those things that she loves. I’m with you…lost in a pivot table is not my thing. However, we need people for whom that is their thing. The world takes all kinds of people and needs all kinds of people and we do a disservice to others when we preach a single, outcome.

    I think there are too many people in the blog space that preach entrepreneurship or a lifestyle business as the outcome everyone should shoot for. While I’m a fan of both of those and run my own business, I’d be a fool to assume that it’s for everyone.

    Love the story – thanks for sharing it!

Nichole Hall Reply

I am definitely in Phase 3. I am a wife, a mom and a writer. Struggling with a chronic illness for the past 12 years has given me insight as to my purpose in life. To minister and encourage other moms who struggle as I have. Going through Phase 2 took longer than I’d hoped, but once I realized my purpose I jumped into Phase 3 learning what I needed to do to achieve my goals. I’ve heard Dave Ramsey quote, “If you want to become wealthy, you have to find out what wealthy people are doing and do it.”

So I’ve applied that principle to my goal. Writing a book. I have researched what other writers do and am doing it. Of course actually writing is a given, but finding a writer’s group, participating in critique groups and attending writer’s conferences is a must in this industry. And although I’m not into Phase 4 yet, I know one day I will be. The book is finished and I’m part of two writer’s groups and attending a conference this fall.

For those still in Phase 2…Have heart! It’s a process and one you must undergo in realizing your purpose and developing a plan to achieve your goals. 

    Travis Robertson Reply

     Awesome! I love hearing your story and seeing your determination and willingness to learn. Thank you for sharing it.

    Too often people want the end result without the pain and the struggle of the process and it’s great to see you working hard for what you want.

    What’s the book about?

Colleen Brink Reply

I think I am transitioning from phase 2 to 3. I completely trust in God to lead, and I try to follow. He’s been ever faithful. BUT…I do insist that he speak LOUDLY to me, but He knows that’s what I need. LOL

Praverb Dot Net Reply

I love this article and agree with you in regards to the first Phase. A lot of us see the blessings in someone else’s life and think they we can not achieve that success. We pretty much let the devil and outside factors affect our mindset.

Changing one’s friends is the key especially if a person can identify something cancerous. My psychology background has taught me that feelings and emotions are transferable.

I also believe that we “idle” due to learned hopelessness. Thank you for contacting me via Twitter. I love the amount of information that you present.

Corinne Reply

Phase 3 🙂

And have a lot of questions, emotions, just like you said. I recently saw Erica Diamond speak and her message of seeking a mentor or several mentors rings true for me. Now just to connect with them… any suggestions?

Thank you!

Gusty83ro Reply

I just wanna thank you so much for this amazing free articles. At the moment I feel myself very confused because everything started to be different since I have decide to change the way I was and try to get the best from my life. Confidence come slow in my life and I feel better and better with the new me. But now the biggest issue that I face with is that I have a new job and some new work “friends” that I keep constantly avoiding them. I don’t know why (maybe because I feel so mature comparing to them, or maybe because the new me is not that sociable as before!?) but I’m struck with this, trying to figure it out. Have a very nice time. Augustin.

Steve Jolly Reply

Phase One reminds me of the old saying, “If you want to soar with Eagles, don’t fly with Turkeys!”  Great article Travis!

markbiemans Reply

Hi Travis, Just arrived at Fase 4. To get from 3 to 4, there a several things you need I guess. But what gave me the breakthrough was to accept that I was a failure (for so many years I thought). This makes an end to the struggle of fighting failure, which causes automatically more failures. So stop thinking about what others might think of you. You are you, and always were you. But you are old enough now to go your own way, right? Yes, you too. 
My purpose? I have many. Help people. Equalness & Uniqueness. I’ll never get it done. But who cares. As long as it is initiated, and it is GOOD, it will GROW.
Mark Biemans.
It would be my pleasure to help someone in share for help with the E&U website.

Destiny Church of Jacksonville Reply

What books do you read, Travis?

Sina Reply

I believe it was in a TV commercial where I heard this: “You don’t have to know what you’re looking for. You just have to start looking.” And so I start looking and find websites such as this one. And every time I encounter such resources, it’s the bit of rope I need that helps me climb out my rut, of which I am grateful. I agree that in order to overcome fear, one must do something that is scary. I find myself in between Phase 2 and 3. Still, I am hesitant to continue creating challenges for myself. Perhaps it’s the need for instant gratification? Thank you for providing me a with different perspective.

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[…] my post on The 4 Phases of Living Your Mission, I wrote about a phase of life I call “Phase 2” in which you are likely to at some point find […]

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