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“No one accidentally arrives at the top of Mount Everest.” –John Maxwell

The sum total of your life is your Mount Everest ascent.

It’s a long journey, it’s easy to get blown off course by huge storms, and you won’t arrive there by accident. You have to be intentional about it—and you will need to keep looking at your GPS when visibility is low.

The Big Idea—That is why the first principle of personal leadership is taking the time to identify your 3 P’s—Purpose, Priorities, and Plan.

What would a successful life look like for you?

Several years ago, I got a leadership promotion I had wanted for a long time.

I thought it was my dream job—but it turned out to be a nightmare.

After 10 months, I found myself working 70-hour weeks. I was spending less time with my family, skipping church, shortening workouts, and declining social invites.

All things I had clearly identified as my highest priorities, but I wasn’t living them.

Worse yet, when my head hit the pillow at night, my mind was constantly racing through emergent work projects for the following day.

I was drifting off course quickly.

My behaviors and time investments did not match my stated life purpose and the priorities I had so deliberately identified years before.

How long did I want to do this?

Thankfully, I had a very clear personal definition of success, and it took me less than a year of living this way to get back on track.

The real tragedy is when people never take the time to identify their life purpose or highest priorities, and they end up living an entire lifetime without a sense of true north.

Research shows that people with a sense of purpose are more likely to find meaning in suffering, stay committed to goals in hard times, and have a deeper sense of peace.

Studies even show that people without a sense of purpose die earlier. In that sense, purpose literally keeps us alive!

People who live their values are also more likely to combat anxiety and depression.

When our behaviors or time investments are out of alignment with our stated values, psychologists call this cognitive dissonance—something inside of us senses that we are off track with what we know is important.

In the example of my job that I talked about, I knew I would never regret my decision to leave the position if I was investing in the most important areas of my life.

You need to keep your sense of purpose and your priorities in mind throughout your life in order to avoid being taken far off course by distractions and hard seasons.

No one arrives at the summit of Everest by accident.

Likewise, you cannot possibly practice great personal leadership without a sense of purpose, priorities, and values to guide your decisions and how you choose to spend your time.

So can you identify your life purpose and priorities?

I’m glad you asked.

Take action now

The following are some great tools to identify your life purpose, your core values, and your life priorities:

Write Your Eulogy: One of the most useful exercises you will ever do is writing your own eulogy. I still remember when the president of Westmont College challenged all the students to do this in our senior year. Even Marshall Goldsmith—who holds the title of top executive coach in the nation—has every client do this when he starts coaching them. What would you want your family, friends, colleagues, or God (if you believe) to say about you at the end of your life? What would they say about you if you died today? This exercise can help you begin to define what a successful life would look like for you.

Your 100th Birthday: Some people feel that the Eulogy exercise above is too morbid or grim. They prefer to think of their 100th birthday instead. First, identify all the groups of people who could attend your centennial event, then write how you would want them to describe you. This is a useful

Create a Life Plan: If you haven’t read my most recent post on the Life Plan, you can read that here and get my free fillable PDF template. A life plan is the best tool I have found for intentional living and clearly looking at all the accounts in life that demand your time. It will help you set priorities and begin living them. This is the tool that helped me get back on track after the job that took me off course. You can listen to the podcast episodes on life planning in the resources section below.

Core Values: There is a great exercise my coaching program taught us to use with all clients. It’s called The Peak Moments Exercise. Work with a coach or do it on your own by writing down one of the best moments of your entire life in as much detail as you can and then identifying key themes (values) that were part of this experience. Aim for about 5 values and add any important values you think are missing from your list. My personal values are Faith, Family, Health, Growth, Leadership, Adventure, and Margin. When I live them, I feel most fulfilled and on course.

Have a great weekend!


*If you have enjoyed Parker’s blog, check out The Next Peak Podcast that Parker co-hosts. We interview successful leaders and discuss research-based principles that help people win in the workplace without compromising the things that matter most—relationships, a life of purpose, and health.

Suggested Resources

  1. The 7 Habits of Happy People (Research on having a sense of meaning in your life)
  2. The top 5 regrets people have on their deathbed
  3. Life Plan Podcast Part 1
  4. Life Plan Podcast Part 2
  5. Harvard Health–Having purpose may cause you to live longer 


Dr. Parker Houston

Parker Houston

Dr. Parker Houston is a licensed clinical psychologist and board-certified in organizational psychology. He is also certified in personal and executive coaching. Parker's personal mission is to share science-based principles of psychology and timeless spiritual practices, to help people improve the way they lead themselves, their families, and their organizations. *Opinions expressed are the author's own.
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