Ema Mae Bowman, center, visits with Paul Lessard’s family after Paul and Jack rescued her from drowning in her car in raging floodwater.

The older I get the more I believe and embrace simplicity and clarity. Call it experience, wisdom or downright convenience, but life goes more smoothly when we understand our reason for living, and embrace what I like to call our life MISSION.

This is something the military does extremely well, they structure everything around the MISSION and this includes priorities, goals and outcomes. This is critical in the martial environment as any combat veteran will tell you that all the planning in the world is great until the first bullet whizzes by your head. That is when we cease to intellectualize and simply rely on learned instinct, muscle memory and focus solely on the MISSION.

Over the years I have found that the most competent, secure, fulfilled and happy people I know are those who have a firm grasp of their MISSION in life. These folks build their decisions, behavior and their commitments around this singular, crystal clear image of who they are, what they stand for and how this translates in action.

So, in this “Giving 101” edition I want to ask you to take a moment and consider what is your life MISSION?

What is it that lies deep within your heart that inspires you, drives you and defines you? My heroes growing up were the Jesuit Brothers who taught us at the Catholic Schools my father wisely put me into whenever he went overseas with the Marines. These remarkable men maintained incredibly high academic, spiritual and ethical standards and every single day they exhorted us to be men of introspection, humility and faith. Their life MISSION was to develop the total man; body, mind and spirit, and to do this they directed us to look within.

I was led to explore who God uniquely created me to be and how that knowledge could define and direct my life. This was a very personal and intimate process that was incremental, cumulative and involved several key people in my life. I can also say that at a very tender age I totally bought into the idea that I was created to serve something larger than myself which opened me up to a world of opportunities to serve and put my life MISSION into action.

I want to challenge each of you to take a moment today, turn away from the distractions of life and consider how God has uniquely created each of us. Seek out that which is most sacred and dear to you and then honestly examine whether your words, your actions and the manner in which you invest your time and your resources are consistent with this vision you have of your life MISSION.

Many years ago, I was involved in an incident in which critical decisions had to be made instantly that would and did have very significant short-term and long-term consequences. That morning when my friend Jack and I went into the flood waters to save an elderly woman who was drowning in a submerged car we knew that our choices and actions would mean life or death for all three of us. I still remember being asked by a reporter later that morning after the rescue why had we been willing to risk our lives to save someone we didn’t even know.

Our answer was simple and clear, both Jack and I understood and embraced our life MISSION. We trusted God and absolutely knew we were made to serve others and because of this we could “walk by faith and not by sight.” It was in that moment when we were stripped down to just a couple pair of skimpy shorts on a cold and rainy April morning in the freezing and churning floodwaters that our true selves, our life MISSIONs, were exposed and we learned we could trust in this even when everything else was totally out of our control.

Twenty-six years later I look back on that morning and I realize that Jack and I were blessed to be able to physically experience the power and impact of our life MISSIONs. It had sustained and fortified us and given us the courage to take action that irrevocably changed all of our lives. We learned that this degree of self-knowledge and faith can indeed move mountains, impact lives and change communities.

So, I ask you once again, what is your life MISSION? Who are you created to serve? How are you going to change your world?