How do you define yourself?

Van Gogh's Self-Portrait at the Met (IMG_0635a)One of the biggest challenges facing most mission entrepreneurs is how they define themselves. For most were involved in other pursuits or careers long before they heard their inner call.

With each came a different aspect of their life experience. And most importantly, an expression of their identity, a statement of who they are and what they are about.

This is why it is so hard to change careers -- it inevitably demands we shed old identities and adopt new ones more suited to what we now are and want to become.

Nevertheless, old identities die hard, and their remnants often remain even once the old application is long since gone.

My own life drives home that point.

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For over 30 years I practiced law in one form or another. While the hats I wore within that profession varied with the nature of the work in which I was involved, the sense of identity that came with it didn't.

I was a guy who solved legal problems and resolved disputes, bringing to bear extensive specialized training and years of experience to meet the needs of the moment. They weren't necessarily easy situations to deal with, but I prided myself on finding a path through the complexities to a place that worked for my clients.

It came with a sense of certainty that I could and would do the job, not to mention be paid well for doing it. It was filled with obstacles to overcome, frustrations to manage, and emotions to dissipate -- and a lot of great people to help along the way that I grew to care a lot about.

Then a strange thing happened. I had an epiphany (you know, one of those things that turns life on its ear) that set me off on a spiritual path I'd toyed with throughout my life, blending all my meditation, martial arts and energy work with an inner journey to know myself and explore the relationship between my inner and outer worlds.

I wrote and published a book. Went on speaking tours. Build web sites and blogged. A lot! Organized discussion groups. And generally set about to change a world that didn't want to be changed.

But I was still a lawyer, the guy who worked with and within a system where people fought and clawed over money, power or simply to get their way. Some of that continued as clients kept needing my help

So here I was a guy with a long list of mainstream credentials trying to make his way in a new age, spiritual world without the benefit of formal training, holding out ideas about how we can get more out of our lives and treat each other better.

It wasn't easy. I couldn't go forward. But I couldn't go back, either. I was caught in a tug o' war between two identities and the careers they called me to pursue. Little wonder I couldn't do justice to either as long as my time and attention was being split between them.

Wan't it Lincoln who said, "A house divided cannot stand?" Well, the house I was trying to build wasn't standing real well at that point.

That is, until I realized there wasn't any separation between the two. They were both simply different means of applying the very principles I had worked so hard to develop. Whether the message was one of peace, self-knowing, or moving through the problems of people's lives, all of it required I bring the best of what I knew myself to be to the moment at hand, and practiced what I preached.

In short, my "business" wasn't defined by the area of its application, any more than I could be squeezed into the little boxes of lawyer, peacemaker, or spiritual teacher. It was an exercise in learning to read and respond to the energies that flowed in me and my life, doing the best I could in each moment to draw upon whatever I had that might meet its needs.

In other words, I still find ways through difficult situations and solutions to problems -- now, though, more often than not it's empowering others to see them in new ways and solve them themselves, and addressing their causes so they don't keep happening.

This is probably much of what you are probably going through as a mission entrepreneur. Perhaps you are trying to create a new identity more aligned with your new calling. Or maybe you are trying to keep one foot in both worlds, and do your mission at the same time as you devote yourself elsewhere, too.

It might help to see that you aren't being pulled in different directions. Rather, you are being given a chance to see the wholeness of your being in a multi-dimensional way that allows you to choose what and how you will go about your affairs.

You are the whole package, my friend. You are not one thing or another.

Try to find a way to express it, to let people see all of what you are, even while you serve them in one capacity or another.

The world ahead demands we find a way to break free of the self-limitations of constricting identities and the boxes we put ourselves into, and bring the totality of who we are to the experience of life.

It's not only important to you that you do; it's important to everyone whose lives you touch as well. For in seeing you do it, it gives them permission (as if they need it) to allow their other attributes to come forth as well.

That may seem like it has little to do with your mission. But then again, your mission is less about what you do for the world, than how it allows you to know and be all that you are.

And that is a mission unto itself.

God bless you indeed.