Writing a mission statement for your life or business is an adventure. Whether you are revisiting the language and form of your current mission, or preparing to write your first mission statement, the process of working with your mission can become an expression of who you are as well. While writing a mission statement can feel like a serious undertaking, surprising results may come through if you are willing to shift your approach.
First and foremost, give yourself permission to PLAY. Your mission is who you are at the core. It has always been who you are, it reflects who you are now, and it will be who you are ten years from now. Through play, we tap into the earliest and purest expressions of ourselves when our spirit emerges stronger than our inhibitions and insecurities.
The first time I wrote a mission statement, I did not appreciate the value of play as part of the process. Instead, I worked very hard to intellectually figure out my mission statement within the context of a course assignment. I crafted the language carefully, memorized it, and practiced delivering it out loud to the group. It was ‘accurate’ in the sense that all the pieces were authentic and true to who I was, but I struggled to memorize it, and I lacked confidence when I shared it with others. (Hint: A great mission statement will light you up and get you jazzed/re-energized every time you say it!)
One day, years after I finished the course, I was working on my business mission. For those of us who run our own businesses, our personal and business missions may be the same or very similar. Yet, that day I decided I would start at the beginning and work through the process again to see what would happen.
I had already discerned my core values for my business and was playing with how I wanted to incorporate them into the mission. I moved the words around, playing with the order and how they worked with each other. Just as they began to settle into a pattern I liked, I received a song ‘download’ into my brain and had the experience of a song being written through me. Music is often my playground for creative expression; it made sense to me that song became the vehicle that showed up when I allowed myself to play. What surprised me, though, was the experience I had of something coming ‘through me’ rather than anything I was doing to actively create it. While I know many writers and artists talk about a similar sentiment when they create, I had not personally experienced this before.
In the end, I had a mission that included my core values in a form I could easily memorize and a song that resonated with me and those with whom I shared it. I invited my friend, Jan Power, to sing the lead and create guitar accompaniment while I harmonized with her on the chorus. We recorded the song, and I chose to include it as the last track on a CD of narrated essays I was finishing called Courage in the Lake.
A few months later, my rabbi listened to the CD. She said the song aligned well with the message of her high holiday sermon, and she asked me to share the song with the congregation on Rosh Hashana, one of the few times of the year our temple is filled to capacity with most of our members. Talk about what can happen when preparation meets opportunity! In a matter of months, I went from playing a bit with crafting my mission statement to sharing it with more than four hundred people in one morning. The affirming comments people made at the end of the service are still clear in my mind. The structure, musicality, and lyricism of the song were quite simple. Yet the content rang true–for how others saw me, what I wanted to contribute, and what others needed to hear.
When people who are already familiar with the basics of discerning core values and writing mission statements ask me for suggestions about the process, I offer these four guidelines:
1) Have your values in front of you and a clear sense of who you are and have always been. Some people find it helpful to reach out and get feedback and perspective from several friends who are able to reflect the strengths and characteristics they see and admire. Seeing common themes in what people share can be useful in recognizing our own strengths and core values.
2) Play. Play. Play.
3) Keep it short and memorizable.
4) Be open to something showing up–now or later–in a form that you did not expect. Your process may be as unique as your mission!
Express Yourself Write’s mission statement:
We choose to commit to communicate, with compassion and courage, creating authentic connections that transform our lives.
Check back soon for a link to the song!