Spiritual Exercise – Purpose

Write Your Personal Mission Statement!

This month – as a way to personally engage with our question of “What does it mean to be a people of purpose?” – we ask you to identify and share your personal “mission statement.” It doesn’t need to be complicated. There is no right way or proper format. The intent is to write or find a set of words that articulates the core values, passions or goals that give your life purpose.

What drives you? What values or commitments distinguish your life from others? What guides your decisions ? What is your greatest gift to the world? Your deepest passion? Your sacred intention? At your funeral, what do you want people to say your life was about?  These are the types of questions that this exercise asks of you.

Keep it simple.

The exercise is most useful if you keep narrowing and trimming your list. After all, our lives are driven by many purposes. That’s natural and normal, but it can also be a problem. In fact, for many of us, it is the problem. We’ve got a bunch of competing goals and values yanking us in dozens of directions all at the same time. Often, we find ourselves losing the sense of meaning in our lives. Who we truly are, our most authentic self, what we stand for and what we have to offer to the world.

To be “people of purpose” is to be clear about what shapes our life’s purpose. This month, we seek that clarity. Scroll down for some additional activities and for some examples.

Some Specific Guidance:
Remember, there is no one way or right way to do this! Here are some different ways to approach the exercise:

Approach #1: Let The Internet Guide You Through It
There’s a clever automated program on the web that helps people create their own personal mission statement. It is found at: http://www.franklincovey.com/msb/. It asks you questions about core areas of life and then translates your answers into a concise statement of purpose. The program allows you to go back and refine your answers and statements.

Approach #2: Mimic One of the Wonderfuls
Scroll down to find various statements of purpose from the famous and less famous. Use these diverse approaches to inspire your own. Questions you might ask yourself include: What is sacred to me? What would I take a stand for, or risk myself for? What do I value?

Approach #3: Pick A Poem or Quote That Speaks for You
It’s not cheating to let the words of others capture your purpose.  Many of us have taped a poem on our bathroom mirror or put a quote at the end of our email messages to keep us focused on who we want to be every day.  Instead of writing your personal mission statement from scratch, maybe spend this month sorting through the poems and quotes that have been important to you  over the years and bring in the one that best captures your life’s purpose.

And of course, you may find an entirely different approach than these. Find the way and the words that best reflect you. Make sure to bring your statement to share with your theme group this month.

Living Your Mission
Some of us may want–and have time–to go beyond our basic assignment of writing our personal mission statement and bringing it in to share.  Here are some ideas if you’re wanting to take the exercise to the next level:

  1. Identify a way to keep your mission statement in front of you each day. Forgetting is easy.  We need practices and strategies for keeping our core purpose in front of us on a regular basis.  So what’s yours?  Taping it to your bathroom mirror?  Putting it in your email footer?  Memorizing it and saying it out loud every morning as part of your daily meditation?
  1. Read a book about a person who had a deep sense of purpose. Biographies and autobiographies are all about people trying to articulate the core purpose that drove one’s life or tied it all together. Pick an autobiography or biography of a person of interest and learn more about what their guiding purpose was – Jane Goodall or Albert Schweitzer for instance. Additionally, you might read a book like Greg Mortenson’s Three Cups of Tea or Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder, which are about people who dedicated their life to one dramatic purpose.
  1. Write a family mission statement. After you are done with your personal mission statement, consider working with your partner or children on creating a statement that captures what your family is all about. Or invite your partner to do the exercise and then compare your statements.  How do your core purposes support each other?  How do they compete?  What might it mean for how you support and care for each other?
  1. Make your purpose proud. Writing your mission statement is important, keeping your actions focused towards your sense of purpose helps you become yourself. Pick an action – large or small – that leads towards the expression of your purpose.

For Inspiration
To help create your own mission statement, here are some examples.

Gandhi’s mission
Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
I shall fear only God.
I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
I shall conquer untruth by truth.
And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.

Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield says “My mission in life is to contribute to the quality of life for as many people as possible and make it sustainable.”

Media superstar Oprah Winfrey’s (O Magazine, OWN cable network) mission statement is: “To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”

Entrepreneur Richard Branson (the Virgin Group):
Thou shalt:
1) Do what you love. If you don’’t enjoy it, don’’t do it
2) Know your purpose. – Why you do what you do
3) Think differently. Aim to change the game through innovation

Thou shalt not:
1) Give up. Learn, adapt and persevere
2) Play dirty. All you have in business (and life) is your reputation; make sure you can sleep soundly at night
3) Take yourself too seriously. Serious fun is at the core of everything I do

Anonymous Mission Statements
“My mission is to give, for giving is what I do best and I can learn to do better.  I will seek to learn, for learning is the basis for growth, and growing is the key to living.”

“Our Family Mission: No empty chairs.”

“I want to be the kind of person my dog already thinks I am.”

“To be humble. To say thanks to God in some way, every day. To never react to abuse by passing it on. To find the self within that does and can look at all sides without loss. Finally, to go through life with a smile on my face and a twinkle in my eye.”

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