Before relocating to Colorado a few years ago, our family lived in an old Ohio farmhouse set on some truly beautiful acreage surrounded by woods and meadows. The seasons passed there in glorious color and there was always some kind of wildlife passing my kitchen windows. Because we were located outside the city limits, the house had an unusual feature which is less attractive; it was across the road from a cemetary.
I will admit that when we first moved there I was not a fan of its location but in a short time that view took on a new meaning for me. Naturally, at first when I looked at it I thought of death; death on the way to the grocery, death on the way to church, death on my evening walk with the dog. But then I began to personalize it to my death and what might be on my headstone. What would the people in my life say about me after I am gone? What do I hope they will say? My mind turned these questions over and over.
Now this is where the cemetary became a place of transformation for me, from pondering my death to sculpting my life.
I began to work backwards, beginning with the end in mind. If I want folks to say I was helpful and kind, then I must do helpful, kind acts for them right now when they need it most. If I wish to be remembered as a giver, then I best be finding ways to give financially or in volunteer hours this week, not in some idealized future when I have lots of uncommitted time and money. See, I found that sometimes my activities simply don’t match up with my ideals. It seems like I’m slaving under the tyrany of the urgent, while postponing the important. The cemetary clarified my ideals for me and challenged me to prioritize my values in daily living. It helped me create my personal mission statement. If you want to reduce the chaos in your life and increase purposeful activity flowing from your own values and not some random script you’ve been living, then a personal mission statement is the next step for you. Here’s how to craft it in 3 easy steps.
STEP 1 IDENTIFY YOUR LIFE ROLES
List all the roles you currently fill. Consider the arenas in which you operate: home, work, community, church. From these arenas then get more specific.
Here are a few sample roles:
- Wife, Mother, Banker—Retail development, Band Boosters, Friend
- Husband, Father, Salesman—Prospects, Volunteer at food bank, Church choir
Now flash forward in time and write a brief statement of how you would most like to be described in each of those particular roles. Identifying your various roles allows you to gain a more balanced perspective of the demands on your time as well as the people in your life that you are influencing. Writing down how you wish to be described in these roles clarifies the values and principles for living which you esteem highest.
STEP 2 IDENTIFY AN INFLUENTIAL PERSON
Identifying someone who has influenced your life in meaningful ways gives another angle from which to identify traits we aspire to. This person might be a co-worker, friend, family member, parent or neighbor or even an old teacher.
After identifying this person, answer these questions:
- What qualities do I most admire in this person?
- What qualities have I gained (or hope to gain) from this person?
Now, through steps 1 & 2 you have identified how you would like to perform in each of the roles you fill and you have identified qualities you have seen modeled and wish to replicate within your own spheres of influence: You’ve nailed what you want to “do” and who you want to “be.”
STEP 3 CRAFT YOUR MISSION STATEMENT
Looking at your descriptive statements from Step 1, notice if there are repeating patterns. For instance, I noticed that I wrote down that I wanted to be “available to connect” in several of my roles. So that means that if I have a choice between baking for a bake sale or mentoring a young mom, I must prioritize the mentoring because relationship is where I place my highest value. I am functioning in my giftings when I am one-on-one with women, encouraging and listening. My friend Tracey is great at finance and details of administration. She is also a fabulous cook, so when she has to choose she would prioritize a chance to help a senior citizen balance their checkbook or make them dinner over knitting booties for the local childrens’ hospital.
I’m going to say something shocking right here: YOU CAN’T DO IT ALL. As much as you are willing and capable, you cannot do every good deed that presents itself nor should you! God made you the way He wanted and He imagined you serving with joy and delight as you move within the rythms of your giftings. Creating a personal mission statement allows you to identify those areas you shine in and will bless the world through.
Here’s how my final statement looks as a mom whose kids are grown:
My mission is to devote my discretionary time and energy to developing the traits of mercy, patience and wisdom. I spend time with people who possess these traits while exercising them in service to others. I choose to be available to younger women, coming alongside them to encourage and exhort as they navigate the roles God has given them.
If your children are small, yours will look different. When my kids were small, this is what it looked like:
My mission is to train my children to love and serve God because I believe this will give them the most stable foundation for a good life. I do this by using everyday occurrences to teach the truths of scripture. I look for opportunities to serve in which my kids can serve alongside me. I place the highest value on living the Word of God, which means I must read it and study it until it becomes part of me.
There can be more than one paragraph certainly. You may make a statement such as this for each role you play, honing in on the qualities and/or activities you wish to exercise and develop. The best part is that once you have done the tedious work of creating your mission statement, decision making will become much easier. When faced with a choice to take on an activity, I simply refer to my statement and see if it aligns with my mission. I then can say “no” to opportunities free from guilt because I am living on purpose with my mission in mind!
Once you have crafted your statement, I hope you’ll share it with us in the comments section below.