Monday, May 18, 2009

Living with a Mission

I tried for years to define my “Mission Statement”, a personal document that helps you to outline your purpose in life, so that you can better align your daily activities with what you want to achieve. It’s part of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey, which I highly recommend as “must read”. I really struggled with it, though, because I couldn’t quite narrow it down the way that I wanted it to read.

Dr. Covey’s website offered a mission statement generator at one point, which asked you a series of questions. You took the one word answers from those questions and formulated a sentence that described how that should be a part of your life. It sounds complicated, but it was really easy to use and the first time through, I came up with what was the perfect Mission Statement. It integrated all that you valued, and I was so pleased with the results!

This is what I came up with:
• I will live my life so that others can trust me.
• I will raise children that can stand on their own and serve others with compassion.
• I will create a family environment that is encouraging, respectful, and spotlights the value of each individual.
• I will strive to live my life so that I may always feel free to run in the rain, laugh with abandon, and take chances when appropriate.
• I will be true and dependable to those around me.
• I will center my life on the Gospel, so that others may see the light that illuminates my world.
• I will embrace others and help them to see the world as a place with endless possibility, and that one has never gone too far to turn back.
• I will have respect for others and expect their respect, as well.
• I will make all decisions and seek the guidance of my Heavenly Father in all things, thanking Him for the blessings that I already receive.
• I will seek to make the world a better place.

I’ve been through a lot since then. I often feel like an entirely different person; but as I re-read my mission statement recently, I felt the familiar comfort of a pair of well-worn jeans. It still fit perfectly.

I’ve wavered in the implementation of my statement, to be sure. I think that the most poignant diversion was to the idea that I will respect others, and expect their respect, as well. I let that one slide, until even I had no respect for me. I’m gaining that back, little by little. But what matters is that my GOAL is still the same, even if I got a little lost along the way.

That is why it is so important to have such a statement, so that once in awhile, you can evaluate where you are headed, and if your daily activities accurately reflect the things that you most value. For instance, if you value time with your family, but are spending your days in search of money…that’s going to create a discord in your life. I think that when we live in harmony with the goals that we have set for ourselves, we are most happy. I know that I am.

The first line is fascinating, in retrospect. Trust was something that became scarce in the world that I lived in recently. I found myself in the middle of the storm, and I’m sure that I deviated from that value. I truly want, however, to be someone that can be trusted.

Let’s take Survivor, for a moment. (timely, as JT Thomas was crowned the winner just last night for Survivor: Tocantins) You often hear them describe their behavior on Survivor by saying, “It’s just a game…that is not how I am in real life.” I beg to differ. I saw more Survivor type tactics in the workplace than I can ever describe, and I think that any time you have a situation in which one person can benefit from deceiving or cutting down another, you will have that sort of behavior. This completely goes against my personal ethics, and I know that I could never play such a game. I would be devastated by the time I left the tribe.

More importantly, it would put me in a position in which it would be advantageous for me to break my first and most basic value: to be someone that can be trusted. I saw this unfold as Survivor: Tocantins wrapped up. JT and Coach, specifically, wanted to play the game with integrity. While all around them, others were saying that you HAD to lie and cheat in Survivor, they maintained their integrity. (Coach is another discussion entirely, and in his defense, I believe that HE believes everything that he said.) JT had the decision at the end to choose to take Erinn to the finals, whom he felt he could easily beat, or Stephen, who was a wild card. At least in JT’s mind.

The fact that JT received EVERY vote last night says much for the idea that you do not HAVE to lie in the game. JT managed to keep his word, as evidenced when Coach was voted out. JT had promised not to oust him; although JT knew that it was coming, he personally did not write down Coach’s name. It wasn’t a cop out. He was playing the game, but in the most honest way that he could. His one moment of questionable ethics arose when Taj was voted off. I think that he instantly regretted it, but it was too late to take it back. A good lesson for us all – one small step off of the path can be irreversible, no matter how much it hurts us or those we love in the long run. No matter how sorry we are.

Debbie, on the other hand, commented in the reunion show that the students at the middle school at which she is a principal ‘knew that she would have to lie’ in the game. WHAT?!! How can she feel that this is acceptable under any circumstances? I completely disagree, obviously, and was disappointed in her behavior.

I’m not commenting on this to be negative, but to illustrate how we think as individuals. I know that I could not be happy in an environment that encouraged me to be at odds with my core values. I believe that my job had taken that path. I was becoming increasingly agitated and felt less confident in myself. I wasn’t happy. But it was a job, and my family has a habit of eating, so I kept at it.

Had I not been laid off with budget cuts, I would still be slogging along. I know that I would not have taken that leap to rid myself of a toxic atmosphere. My Heavenly Father knew that, and I think that this layoff was a means to an end. It hurt, but in the end, I knew that was what He wanted for me.

I felt this reaffirmed as I read my Mission Statement. It doesn’t necessarily make the struggles any less real, but it does soothe my soul to know that my eternal progress is so much more important than whether or not we have money to spare.

A new job will come along, or we will find a way to live on what we have. Either way, I will follow the spirit to find the right place for me. A place where I can live in accord with the principles that are most important to me.

Do you have a personal Mission Statement? Have you been able to identify the things that will keep you well and happy? Try the Franklin Covey Mission Statement Generator…it’s quick and easy, and I think that you will be surprised with what you come up with.

And do share, if you feel comfortable doing so! We can all use a little help from our friends!

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