I’m a mom – and not just any mom. I’m a married mom with two kids and between the four of us there are a bucketload of disabilities and exceptionalities that both limit my energy and increase my workload. On top of writing, coaching, teaching and helping to run a local charity my weeks typically involve at least two or more doctor’s appointments, calls to my kids’ schools, extra assistance for my family with their daily tasks, managing my own personal care team (because even the most helpful folks can’t read my mind) and staying connected to the community that keeps me sane, supported and secure in the midst of all of this chaos!
Like everyone else, I also face a litany of competing voices and priorities all scrambling for my time and attention – social media, local events, the dream of a nice vacation or the need to purchase a new dryer – but unlike others my energy reserves are incredibly limited. I only manage what I manage because I do so much of it from my bed, I take frequent breaks and I have learned the incredible price I will pay if I don’t actively listen to my body.
This is where the idea of ‘mission’ comes in.
Now lots of people in the coaching world talk about the importance of mission. Life mission, work vision statements, 5-year plans – it’s all the same thing. The idea is to help (mostly high-flying business executives) to bring efficiencies to their work processes to allow them increased productivity, greater reach and increased success in their chosen field.
And ‘mission’ in this sense is certainly valuable. The impact of intentionality is huge, and mission statements can definitely help refine an individual or a company’s focus.
But sometimes in all of this chatter it can feel like ‘mission statements’ are just for the wealthy or the powerful – and I think it’s time for that to change.
That’s because all of us – whether high-flyers or bedridden – have more inputs coming at us every day than we can process or respond to. And so all of us need some system for deciding which things to do and which things to put off or pass over.
But making a mission statement can seem daunting. “What if I get it wrong?” or “What if I change my mind and decide I want to do something else?” or “What if I can’t actually do what I said I would do – doesn’t that make me a failure?”
These are valid questions, but rather than pointing to a need to avoid building a mission statement, I think they just show us that we need to approach the process differently. Here are my four steps for a personal mission statement.
#1 – What Am I Doing Right Now?
Spend a week writing down all of the different things that you’re doing each day. Try to be quite diligent about writing down how you spend your time and how much time you spend on each thing. Then spend some time at the end of the week flipping back through your calendar to see how representative this week is for you. Is it normal, or are there key activities you would usually engage in that you missed this week (for whatever reason.)
#2 – What Matches Your Values and What Brings You Joy?
Once you have your week’s list, look through it to see how well your activities match up with your values. (If you don’t yet know what your values are, you can read more about the values discovery process here.) You also want to look at which activities you are doing because you ‘have to’ and which ones bring you joy. (And before you get frustrated at me because changing your loved ones’ diapers has never and will never bring you joy but nevertheless needs done, I see you … I’ve got this point covered in a minute … but we still want to know what is bringing you joy!)
#3 – What are the Reoccurring Themes?
Now look back over your list again – the one where you’ve highlighted the activities of your life that are in line with your values and that bring you joy. What are the reoccurring themes that stand out to you? What do you seem to keep coming back to? What do you daydream about or turn over in your head or get excited about doing when you don’t have to? (This isn’t the same as worry or fret over, by the way!)
These themes will eventually form the basis for your mission statement.
#4 – Let Go of What Isn’t Yours
As you look back through your list from the week you recorded, what are you doing that could be done by someone else? What are you doing that doesn’t need to be done as regularly as you’re doing it – if at all? (For example, I had friends who vacuumed twice a day and pulled out their oven every. single. night. to clean down both sides and around the back because his mom had always done things this way. But while that might have been his mom’s mission, it wasn’t what this artist friend needed to be spending two hours a day on while trying to raise four kids!)
Sometimes letting go of things means accepting that they simply aren’t a priority and don’t need done. Sometimes letting go of things means passing them off to someone else in your family or at work who would take more joy and pleasure in doing them. Just because we’ve done something for a month or a year or five or ten doesn’t mean it was necessarily wrong to begin with, but it also doesn’t mean it has to be ours indefinitely. It’s okay for things to be for a season, but not forever.
Knowing you’d like to make this shift and having the tools to move through this process are two different things entirely. So if that thought of going through this process leaves you feeling panicked or conflicted, you might have a message or two that needs worked out with your values with the help of a coach – please feel free to get in touch if you’d like to talk more about this.