I realize it’s far too late to write a New Year’s Resolution post… which is fine, because I stink at keeping resolutions anyway. And this year, I wanted something a little grander in scope. It’s all well and good to promise myself that I’ll read to my daughter every day, or that I’ll work hard to lose my pregnancy weight. But none of that really matters (and I have a hard time making it work) unless I can answer the question “Why bother?”
So I spent the first few weeks of 2014 writing my personal mission statement:
I am a loving and ethical critical thinker, committed to a life of value. I approach each day with passion, intention, joy, kindness, and balance.
Originally, I thought I was going to write a mission statement just for motherhood. I researched examples and how-to guides, the most useful of which included this workbook PDF and this handout. Going through the exercises made me realize that I did not want such a focused mission after all. I wanted a statement for who I am in general. Why? I believe my personality impacts who I am as a mother, a wife, a teacher, a writer, a friend… etc. My outlook doesn’t really change, no matter which of my many hats I am wearing. And I believe I’ll be more satisfied and effective in all of my roles if I approach them from the heart of my fundamental self.
My mission-writing process, step by step:
1) I brainstormed a list of positive qualities/values related to me. Some of these are integral characteristics of my personality already. Some of them are more of a stretch, but still qualities I’ve been consciously working on for multiple years. All of them are traits I think mesh well with my true self. (Humility and selflessness, while admirable, sadly did not appear on my list.)
2) I also brainstormed a list of my life roles. Then I prioritized them. I compared my two lists, using my most important roles to narrow my qualities/values down. I wanted 3-5 key words. It was surprisingly easy once I could ask myself, “Which of these traits can help me do my best job as a mother, wife, friend, and educator?”
3) I paused for a double-check. As being a good mom tops my list, I thought of the mothers in my own life I admire. Do they embody the 3-5 key words I picked off my trait list? (Yes!)
4) As a final (initial) step, I turned my trait list into an actual mission statement. I don’t have clear advice on how to do this. Everyone’s writing process differs. But I do have some thoughts on how you’ll know you’re done:
- I believe strongly that a mission statement should be short. You should have it memorized. You should be able to share it with interested strangers during a brief elevator ride.
- Because it’s short, your words need to pack a punch. You’re cramming an entire life philosophy into a sentence or two. Be intentional. The mission statement itself is brief, but you should be able to write pages elaborating how you’re going to embody it (and believe me, I plan to).
- Notice the word “sentence” in my previous bullet point. I don’t know if it’s the writer or the English teacher in me… but either way, I’m convinced that mission statements should have subjects and verbs.
5) Now I’m going to live with my statement, revisiting and revising as necessary. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!