I’m on a mission. For this mission, Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” is acting as my guidebook, as it were. I’m poring through it, back and forth, front to back, and back to front, and in between, in snapshots and snippets and sections. Tonight I reread a portion on mission statements, and realized I’ve yet to write one for this mission. This must be rectified immediately!
I’ll tell you why: we go in the direction of our thoughts. What you focus on is magnified in your life. Given those truths, writing a personal mission statement and putting it in a place where one sees it every day is a priority for positive focus and successful outcomes. Here’s a story from Genesis 30 I like to use as an example of this concept (for those of you who don’t like or believe the bible, don’t get nervous or over-analyze. I’m not gonna thump ya – just using the story to make a point):
Jacob fell in love with a girl named Rachel. Her father, Laban, made Jacob work for him for seven years to “earn” her. To Jacob’s dismay (which is most likely a pretty big understatement), he woke up on the morning after the wedding to find that Laban had tricked him and given him Rachel’s older sister, Leah (I’ve never been able to figure out exactly how he couldn’t tell the difference on that). So Jacob worked seven more years and finally married Rachel, too. He’d had enough of Laban’s shyster-ish ways and told him he’d like to take his family and go his own way. They made an agreement that Laban would keep all the nice, fluffy white sheep and Jacob would get to take with him all the speckled and spotted sheep (worth less at market). Upon striking this agreement, Jacob did something kind of weird. He peeled the bark off of a stick, which revealed a bunch of spots and speckles on the wood underneath. Then, every day, he went and put the stick in a place where it would be in front of as many sheep as possible. This passage says that while the sheep were eating, resting, drinking, mating, or whatever (well okay, it doesn’t say “whatever”), they were looking on this stick. Can you guess what happened? Yep. White sheep started giving birth to speckled, spotted sheep, and before they knew it, Jacob’s flock far out-numbered and out-valued Laban’s. He left Laban’s household with more speckled sheep than you could shake a stick at (sorry, had to), an independently wealthy man.
The point made by this story has been reinforced by popular psychology and behaviour specialists the world over: what you look at, you give birth to. Not literally, of course (or I’d have given birth to a soap star at least once). You get it.
If you’re thinking, “All this leadership stuff is cool, if you’re into that, but what is her stand on economic diversification?”, all of that will come in time, I promise. Right now I am working diligently to ready myself for the road ahead. I want to lay solid foundations that will stand the test of time and yield significant results, because my dream is long-term and ambitious. I cannot run the risk of having negative thinking or distraction derail the dream. For this dream to become reality, my mission statement must be like a fortress, impervious to the elements, impenetrable, unshakable: impassable.
Covey says: “… your missions statement becomes your constitution, the solid expression your vision and values. It becomes the criterion by which you measure everything else in your life.” I firmly believe that to be an effective leader, I must, as the first and foundational priority, determine my core values. Those values set the tone for my conduct and disposition and provide a framework that facilitates the creation of a culture that the community I serve. All of my discussions and decisions are motivated and underscored by my core values. Writing a mission statement helps me identify positive values I wish to stand upon in my own life and cultivate in those around me.
For more information on writing a personal mission statement, check out what Stephen Covey has to say. I’ll keep you posted on how it goes for me and how it helps. I’m interested to hear from any of you who have written personal mission statements, and of course, everyone’s general thoughts, as always.