About 12 years ago, when I was on the road a lot for my employer, I was reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey for the first time. Habit 2; Begin with the End in Mind had a profound impact on my life going forward. That chapter titled Principles of Personal Leadership starts out with a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”
(There are several excerpts taken directly from the book listed above included in this post.)
For those of you who are students of Covey’s work you might remember it begins with the quiet task of visualizing your own funeral three years from now. You’re about to hear the eulogies from four people; a family member, a friend, coworker and someone from your church or other community service organization you’ve been serving. If you take it seriously this is an interactive book, so you go through the exercise of writing down what you hope they will say. This exercise will greatly increase your understanding of the value of a personal mission statement. To begin with the end in mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination.
Companies do this all the time to focus their employees and get them all rowing in the same direction. A couple of examples:
Levi Strauss & Co.: People love our clothes and trust our company. We will market the most appealing and widely worn casual clothing in the world. We will clothe the world. Their values to make that happen are: Empathy – Originality – Integrity – Courage.
Microsoft: At Microsoft, we work to help people and businesses throughout the world realize their full potential. This is our mission. Everything we do reflects this mission and the values that makes it possible.
Examples like this galvanize your team and help give them intrinsic motivation to exceed even their own expectations. Now companies sometime change their strategic direction, mission and even values. A new leader comes onboard, a new competitor or technology changes the marketplace or they simply didn’t have a good enough first creation of their mission and values in the first place. Can we do the same thing? Can we change? If we’re not so happy with some of the things the four people giving our eulogy might say or more importantly might not say, can we rewrite a new blueprint for our lives? Yes!
THE FIRST CREATION
There is a principle Covey describes as “all things are created twice.” The first or mental creating and the second or physical creation. In this case, what you think you’re going to do with your life and what you actually do. Just like building a house, if you don’t have a good architect, blueprints and construction plans; when you break ground and start putting up the walls you will run into all kinds of problems.
At 47, while going through a period of deep introspection, this chapter helped motivate me to change the direction of my life. Writing out the blueprint for what I wanted my life to be going forward. It focuses on who you want to be (character) and what you want to do (contributions and achievements) and upon the values on which your being and doing are based. Creating a personal mission statement clarified for me what was really important to me. It has given me a clear direction to row in, personally, professionally and spiritually. My life is the best it’s ever been; successful professionally, happier in my marriage than I’ve ever been, and a strong and growing relationship with my God. Whenever I waiver or begin to slide into grey areas, reviewing my mission statement helps remind me of what I want to be at my core.
AT THE CORE
Covey discusses how what’s at our very core, our center will be the source of our Security, Guidance, Wisdom and Power. Each of us already has a center, though we usually don’t recognize it as such. Neither do we recognize the all-encompassing effects of that center on every aspect of our lives.
There’s a spectrum from complete dependence to total independence within each of these. Good and bad. There also can be a balance of Interdependence. The most enlightening part of this study and exercise was that you can change your center and certainly change its healthiness. You can choose to have a set of Principles at your core and a Purpose to your life.
WRITING YOUR OWN
A mission statement is not something you write overnight. It takes deep introspection, careful analysis, thoughtful expression and often many rewrites to produce it in final form. This article is just to whet your appetite, to hopefully motivate you to invest the time in finding out your own mission. The process is as important as the product. Writing a mission statement changes you because it forces you to think through your priorities deeply, carefully and to align your behavior with your beliefs.
There are some who offer quick fixes Quint Careers website offers a simple Five-Step plan. MissionStatements.com has hundreds of examples. Steve Cooper has an interesting article on Forbes.com on the subject. FranklinCovey.com certainly has lots of training around The 7 Habits including Habit 2.
I recommend you buy the book and take the time to Seek First to Understand (Habit 5) before trying to be understood. If you’re interested in learning more about my journey or my own Personal Mission Statement just email me at KenGregson1@gmail.com