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NEWS | Aug. 27, 2013

Finding purpose

By Chief Master Sgt. Earl Hannon 628th Air Base Wing command chief

Throughout my formative years, my grandmother peppered me with numerous axioms, many which stuck with me long after her time on earth. Two of those adages which perhaps had the greatest impact on my life are; "you've got to stand for something or you'll fall for anything," and "leave it better than you found it." Not only do these words continue to resonate in my head, but they have also served as guiding principles in my day-to-day decisions and actions.

In the course of our day-to-day lives, both personal and professional, it is extremely easy to get caught up in the "daily grind" and allow external circumstances to impact our actions. It is equally as easy to allow our thoughts to be influenced by the barrage of information and opinions promulgated through outlets such as the internet and social media. The frenzy of our daily lives, especially in a fast-paced and often unpredictable military environment, can easily overshadow our best intentions. But each and every one of us has a choice. To paraphrase Stephen Covey, the author of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," we can act or be acted upon.

We can sit back and wait for our dreams to come true, or we can take deliberate steps to set the conditions for success. The first and possibly most essential thing we must do is decide what is important to us - what we stand for. Once we determine this, we can begin to formulate our purpose --what we will do to leave something better than we found it. Again, this applies to both our personal and professional lives: How will I improve myself technically, physically, mentally, spiritually or socially? How will I improve my work center or community?

With our purpose in mind, we can begin to delineate our goals and decisive, time-phased actions to fulfill that purpose. And just as each goal and action should support our purpose, each daily decision we make should also be weighed against how it supports our purpose. If it does not support our purpose, why are we doing it? This is often the most difficult part, but it is also the point when we must remind ourselves of what we deem most important.

Suppose for a moment that a goal supporting your purpose is to complete your college degree. You must first commit to beginning the degree program and then you must also commit daily to completing the day's required course work. Again, it is far too easy to allow distractions - whether in the form of seemingly higher priorities or time-wasters such as spending hours on the internet - to prevent us from reaching our goals. All too often, when I speak with Airmen, noncommissioned officers and senior NCOs alike, I hear just that: "I didn't have time to complete my degree." Yet when I quiz them about how much time they spend playing video games, surfing the internet, "Facebooking" or on other distractions, it becomes painfully obvious that they did not have a clear focus of their purpose.

All too often we learn of people who reach the end of their career, or the end of their life and lament of an empty feeling or of not achieving their dreams. I implore you to not be among them. Do not allow your aspirations to be overcome by external circumstances or influences. Find your passion, find your purpose; set a goal and work toward it. Establish your legacy. Stand for something and make your life, work center and community better than you found it.