There are costs and risks to a program of action,
but they are far less than the long-range risks
and costs of comfortable inaction.
John F. Kennedy
For many people, the only real introduction to the idea of mission statements has been through the movie Jerry McGuire. Mission statements aren’t stuffy or dry corporate documents, but well-articulated visions that are meant to energize us. Most companies use a mission statement to help remain focused on their core values or purpose. While people spend hours and hours laboring over a mission statement for a company or their resume, rarely do people spend the same time articulating their life mission. Today we are going to break down this concept of “mission statements,” and see how it applies to everything that we do.
The easiest way to grasp the concept of a mission statement is to begin by swapping out the word “mission” with “purpose.” These statements become a way to articulate our purpose. Often, when our attitude is suffering, it is because we have not connected purpose with our actions. Many people make the mistake of believing only great feats have purpose–world peace, feeding the hungry, organizing a protest or petition, holding a fundraiser, donating to a blood drive. While this list does have positive action items, we can also bring purpose to everything in our lives–including tasks like doing the laundry or grocery shopping.
Let’s use grocery shopping for our example. After reading the two scenarios, ask yourself which example would be more beneficial to your attitude and outlook. Example A is “auto-pilot.” It is probably how many people shop today. Example B uses awareness and purpose.
Example A: I sigh because my family members are complaining that there isn’t any food in the house, even though it seems like I just went shopping two days ago. Why doesn’t anyone else ever go shopping anyway? And why don’t they put what they want on the list so I don’t have to go shopping all the time? I do a quick inventory (without the help of anyone else), make my list and drive to the store, even though I was hoping to make some progress on a different project this afternoon. I try to shop quickly and am surprised during checkout by how fast my bill added up! I am tired as I lug the groceries to the car, only to drive home, and lug them into the house, where the first question I hear is “Mom, what’s for dinner?”
Example B: Today is the day I always do my grocery shopping. Grocery shopping is a way for me to encourage my family’s health by selecting nutritious foods.
You will notice Example B is much shorter. Any idea why? It is the magic behind a mission statement or statement of purpose. When we have the clear direction or purpose-filled-statement, we are not distracted with all the “little stuff.” When we don’t have a clear vision, we see everything, including the little stuff. It is the little stuff that derails our attitude. With a focused statement in place, the little stuff doesn’t matter, because what we are doing is bigger than that–what we are doing is purpose-filled. A mission statement should be something easy enough to commit to memory and strong enough to give you a purpose.
Here is another way to think of it. If you were to come and work with me today and the only instructions I gave you were: “just do some work.” What would you do? You would likely look around the office, observe what people are doing, try to think about what would contribute or what to work on. How would that change if I said, “Would you please read through these speaker handouts and write down any feedback or ideas you have on how I could improve?”
By giving clearer instructions and purpose to the task at hand, you wouldn’t have to wonder what to do, and you would be less susceptible to external distractions or getting caught in your own thoughts, because you had a mission in front of you.
Most people are used to mission statements that are made once, and then occasionally glanced at whether it is in work or in life. I strongly encourage you to make a million mission statements. You can create a mission statement for every errand, every task, or for a goal, for a day, for a week, for a month, or for a life. The more purposeful statements you make, the more focused and energized you will become. The reason is simple: Mission statements clear away all the “mind clutter.” When your mind is presented with a mission, it will act like a computer and work to complete it. Successful businesspeople are masters at using mission statements to stay on course while avoiding diversions and distractions. We can use this business-template to achieve success in our personal lives. Adapting regular mission statement use to our daily lives will help us stay on course while avoiding diversions, distractions and destructive thinking.
Your Turn: Today, create a positive mission statement for the majority of the activities you do. Writing down the statement will increase its effectiveness. As you learn this practice, you will get to the point where you will be able to easily think of these statements. When you reach that point, you can stop writing down every mission statement, and just write down your larger mission statements that are geared for a day, a week, a month or a specific goal.