Why are you here? What is your reason for being? Are you waiting for invitations from others so you can begin really living your life? If you can’t immediately answer those questions, it may be time to formulate a personal mission statement. Did you think mission statements were only for corporations and businesses? Not anymore. Best-selling author Laurie Beth Jones suggests it’s important for each of us to clearly define our missions. Otherwise, it’s like sailing through life without a rudder. I spoke with Laurie Beth, who shared her insight and inspiration.
What’s the best way to form a sense of mission?
Carl Jung once said, “Nothing affects the environment of a child so much as the unlived life of a parent.” Many times people subconsciously live out their parents’ unfulfilled lives, even though it may not have anything to do with what they themselves want to do. It’s important that you look at your parents’ lives to make sure you’re not subconsciously living out their dreams rather than your own. Then, once you’ve performed that clearing exercise, form your mission statement. Following are the three elements of a good mission statement:
A mission statement should be no longer than a single sentence, so writers block shouldn't be an issue. People who accomplish a lot with their lives have laser-like focus. This focus enables them to zero in on what their mission is and state it succinctly. One of the most powerful mission statements in history was given to a 14-year-old French girl. She received a message that, essentially, was:
That girl was, of course, Joan of Arc, and with no resources other than her faith, she rallied the French army and won battle after battle. And it was all because of that two-word mission statement: Save France.
A mission statement should be easily understood by a 12-year-old. Your mission statement should be so concise and simple that an average 12-year-old would hear it and then say, “Oh, I get it. This is what you do.”
You should be able to recite your mission statement from memory at gunpoint.
This means your mission needs to constantly be in your heart. You face decisions every day that are going to either take you closer to where you want to be or take you farther away. You have to know at any given moment what your mission is.
Webster’s Dictionary defines “mission” as a clearly defined territory of responsibility that is assigned by a higher headquarters as part of a larger plan. A mission is felt as a calling. I believe everyone is given a divine mission, and it’s our job to find out what it is -- and then do it. Then we will be in bliss because the only path to bliss is finding your mission and living it.
We often feel like we have to do it all; that we’re responsible for everything. Once you get clear about your mission you’ll sleep easier at night because you’ll know how to choose your battles.
What are some of the myths about mission?
One myth is “My job is my mission.” A mission is not a job description; it’s always larger than your job description. For example, let’s say you ask someone his mission in life, and he says, “To be a doctor.” What he has given you is a job description; his actual mission is probably healing. The truth is, if your mission is healing there are many ways to heal. Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil are doctors who don’t practice in a traditional setting, yet they are living out their mission of healing. Your job is a temporary means of delivering your mission.
Women seem to have gotten trapped in another myth: “My role is my mission.” Many times if you ask a woman what her mission in life is, she’ll say, “To be a good wife and mother.” Who was she before she got married? Who is she going to be when the kids are grown? Women can get very tied up in their roles. They need to be aware that their roles can change. Your mission is larger than your role.
Some people think their mission is their “to-do” list. To-do lists should only be developed after you’ve written down your mission and your vision statement. A vision statement is a long, flowery description of what the landscape will look like as you accomplish your mission. The Founding Fathers got together and said, “We are here in order to form a more perfect union.” That was their mission statement. Then somebody said, “What would a more perfect union look like?” And that’s when they had to define it with the Bill of Rights. (In a more perfect union, we would have freedom of speech, we would have freedom of religion….) The Bill of Rights is the vision of this country.
People always buy into visions, either their own or someone else’s. We all absolutely have to have a vision. “Where there is no vision, people perish.” Don’t write your to-do list until you know your mission and your vision. Stephen Covey says that people get caught up in the good life or doing urgent things that aren't important. Once you are working from your vision, you are doing the important things that may not have seemed so urgent before you got it clear.
What in your opinion are the steps to success?
1. Get the information you need.
Get as much information as you can about your situation.
2. Get specific goals.
Joan of Arc’s mission was to save France. Her vision was to get the Dauphin crowned. Her first goal was to get off the farm; then get a horse; then ride to the Dauphin; then get permission to talk to the generals of the army. That’s getting specific about what it is you’re going to do.
3. Examine and enlist your resources.
All the men who signed the Declaration of Independence pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. They knew they needed an army so they sold land to buy ammunition for the army. Look at what you have; then decide what you can do to get what you need.
4. Turn old business into new business.
Many times we’re looking for new customers and haven’t paid attention to old customers. I tell people to go back to people who have helped them in the past.
5. Give people something tangible to remember you by.
People need visual reminders.
6. Break ranks and be bold.
So many people are marching in place, waiting for someone to give them permission to do something. Leaders give themselves permission.
7. Get visible.
Don’t keep a low profile once you get clear about what you came to do. Joan of Arc got a white horse and a new coat of armor and a flag. She was quite a visible sight when she came riding up to the French troops. She knew the power of presentation.
8. Saturate everything you do with prayer.
Prayer opens us up to receive divine help.
If you could only give one piece of advice, what would it be?
Follow your heart. It’s never to late to start.