staying on mission
"... I had to make my own way. Always, from the start. I had to go out in the world and become strong, to discover my mission in life."
~ Tina Turner
When I was about 13 years old back in the early 80s, my dad was an executive at a large oil company, when corporate "mission statements" became really popular. At the time, my father thought mission statements were the best innovations since the invention of pasteurized milk. So one day, he called my 8-year-old sister and me into the kitchen, and invited us to sit down at the table. We'd never actually had a formal "family meeting" before, so my sister and I were a bit wary. My mom, who was already in the kitchen, wiped her hands on a dishtowel, and also approached at my dad's request.
Once we were all seated, my father began:
"I have decided that we should write a family mission statement."
My sister and I looked at each other, and without any comment we got up and left the table. My mom smiled at my dad, amused; she then patted him sympathetically on the shoulder, and returned to her dirty dishes.
"What?!? It's a good idea!" he called plaintively, but no one listened.
Back then, I thought a family mission statement was one of the silliest things I'd ever heard. And in some ways, I still shake my head every time I think about it. What was he thinking?
About 5 years ago, my sweet friend Erin Loechner wrote a post about the creation of a personal mission statement. And suddenly, my dad's idea of having a mission statement didn't seem so silly anymore. I loved the idea of having a personal mission statement that described what I was all about -- just something for me to keep close -- and unlike a family mission statement, something to which I was beholden to no one but myself. It would be something that captured what I loved to do, what lights me up, and what I hoped that my work would stand for, both personally and professionally.
And so, 5 years ago, I came up with this:
I published my mission statement on my site, and I've referred to it many times over the past 5 years. And the longer I've had it, the more I love it -- mostly because it has been broad enough to encompass all the various iterations of work I've had during those years. It helped keep me focused as I wrote my first book (and write my new book). It has kept me focused for my speaking career. And for my coaching work. And I can already tell that going forward, whatever may lie ahead, I'll be able to continue to refer to it to keep me headed toward my true north. Because it reflects what I want my legacy to be.
Now, writing a mission statement for yourself may seem as silly to you as my father's suggestion seemed to me over 30 years ago; but if it doesn't, I'd strongly recommend writing one for yourself -- it has really be powerful when making big decisions about my life. You don't have to publicize it, like I did -- in fact, I think it would be just as powerful to write one and then keep it tucked away somewhere, to refer to whenever you have a decision to make, and you're not sure what to do.
To get started, ask yourself the following questions:
Grab a pen and paper (or your journal), and actually spend some time writing down your answers. You'll appreciate having them all in one place to reflect on as you write your personal mission statement.
1) What are the things you love to do? This should include hobbies, things you love to do at work, things that you would do whether or not you got paid to do it. For me, those things include photography and writing. What do they include for you?
2) What are things that you know that you're really good at? Another way to ask yourself this question: what do people thank you for?
3) What are things you're passionate about? This could include things that you love, but they might also include things that make you angry, and you want to fight against (like, bigotry, racism, etc.)
4) What do you want to be remembered for? What do you want your legacy to be? What do you hope people say about you when you're not around? What message do you hope people walk away with when they experience your work?
Once you've got the answers to these questions, try writing your personal mission statement using what you've written down as prompts. To help you think about what your statement should say, think about it as a series of sentences beginning with "I will ..."
Have fun, friends. And if you're so inclined (but only if you're so inclined, no pressure!), please share a statement or two in the comments. I'd love to read what you all stand for.