I have a personal mission statement. It’s important to have one. I think everyone should stop and consider their core purpose in this life from time to time to make sure their journey is aligned with their principles. Without it we’re all just wandering around in the thicket peeing on the trees. My mission statement isn’t perfect. I look at it all the time and think I can do better. Sometimes I rewrite it entirely. I’m usually very satisfied by the time I finish it but, within a few weeks, it seems horribly, irrevocably wrong. I don’t think I’m very good at writing personal mission statements.
But that doesn’t stop me.
I first got the idea to write one about a year ago. I was reading Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People and wasn’t really enjoying it. The habits made perfect sense but I’m not really very good at developing those, either, which is probably why I’m not among the highly effective. Reading Covey, though, somehow lead me to download and consume another of his works, How to Develop Your Personal Mission Statement. I was in the mood to find some purpose in life at the time so I gave it a try. Again, very satisfied with the result. Again, it made no sense within a few weeks.
At the same time as I was doing that I started reading Victor Frankl and Vic mentioned something very cogent that has stuck with me in the four seasons since: he said that we don’t so much invent our mission as detect it. It’s there. It’s waiting. It occurred to me that I was trying too hard and I needed to stay in the trees a little longer, look around a bit more, and let my mission come to me.
So I lived.
I’m pretty good at doing that, I practice it every day. In the process of doing so I kept this thought in the back of my mind: if you’re not living your purpose, Tom, then you’re just living someone else’s script. I love that. I’d like to say it’s mine but I know it isn’t. I’m not really sure where I heard it, to be honest. Maybe Covey said it, too, or Frankl, or maybe it’s in the Bible somewhere. I don’t know, I haven’t read a Bible in years. I hear it still sells well.
Every couple of months or so I change a word or two of my mission statement or delete a sentence or add an adverb. Life is fluid. I’ve scrapped it entirely at least twice and started the whole thing over. The one thing that stays the same in every rewrite, however, is the first sentence. All of the words and phrases that follow are malleable and seem to change to suit my current dreams, ambitions, fears, and favorite TV shows. But not the first sentence. The first sentence appears to be my core principle.
“Delight in life.”
Maybe the rest of it is fluff. Perhaps I only have one true mission and delighting in life every day is all I really need to keep me out of the trees. Maybe that’s my north star. My purpose. My mission.
There should be something more, I realize that. There should be a but. You know, something like “Delight in life but read the Bible,” or “Delight in life but support honest leaders,” or at least “Delight in life but build the first interdimensional, trans-galactic commercial flight vehicle.” None of that is likely, but that’s the rub – I’m the guy with bucket list items of “fly unaided through space,” and “live forever.” So maybe “delight in life” is all I really have. Victor Frankl would be proud; my mission found me a long time ago.
Later today I’m going to give it another try. I’m going to write out the rest of my mission and feel smug and satisfied with it. I’m really going to buy in this time. I might even develop a good habit. I realize my mission statement isn’t going to make complete sense in a few weeks and is going to get scrapped again in a few months, but it’s a start. Another start.
Of course it’s going to be irrevocably flawed and imperfect.
It has to be.
It’s a reflection of me.