We enter this world without much direction that isn’t either instinctual (meeting our own needs) or given to us by other people. As teens or adults, we have the privilege of choosing our direction, and each year we progress toward independence, we have more power to choose.
Have you thought about choosing well?
Think about the last big decision you had to make. How hard was that? Did you make a list of pros and cons, consider each carefully, and still end up looking to a trusted friend to ask what she or he would do? Most of us do that, or we make an impulse choice based on our gut feeling about the decision.
As Dan Ariely’s book “Predictably Irrational,” pointed out so well, our gut feelings are notoriously untrustworthy.
What can we do to minimize our inherent irrationality, particularly when it comes to big decisions or choices that can change our lives and those of our family?
I suggest borrowing a concept that makes businesses and nonprofits successful.
Create a mission statement!
A personal mission statement can make an immense difference in what you choose and how well you stay on that path you have chosen. Dr. Stephen Covey popularized the concept for billions of business leaders. A personal mission statement defines who you are and how you will live, and this link will help you create yours!
You may start out with a mission statement for different areas in your life, and the site helps you to do that, but I encourage you to refine the common elements in those statements into a one or two sentence statement that works for everything. Sounds challenging, doesn’t it? Sometimes it takes weeks, months, or even years to get to that one statement that clearly defines your purpose in life, but you will get there.
When you do…everything gets simpler.
A personal mission statement makes it easy to figure out what choices advance your mission and which do not. It makes it easier to say “No” to things that aren’t necessarily bad, but simply do not fit in your mission.
And as for mine? It started out as three pages, single spaced. I refined it to one page, but still, I couldn’t let go of all of the details. I was “in the weeds,” until I took some Covey training that helped me focus on the common thread that had appeared in my personal, professional, parenting and philanthropic missions. Finally, I narrowed it down to a couple of sentences and eventually landed on this one sentence that applies to everything.
How does it play out in my everyday life?
It keeps me aware that positive change can be large (Mentoring, Philanthropy, Volunteering), or it can be as small as taking the time to smile at a stranger, to listen to someone tell their story, or to do something for another who will never know you did it. My mission statement keeps me focused, aware, and actively seeking opportunities to leverage even the smallest thing into something positive.
Wishing you well as you find your mission statement. Keep it close, and use it often!