I read Steven Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People when I was 23. It had a great impact on me. It was reinforced by my mother who trained in the coaching methods of the FranklinCovey organization. My mother is a life coach, or was a life coach for a while.She had a business coaching people on how to develop the lives they really wanted for a long time. I benefited from her wisdom and guidance. One thing she’s always asked me that sticks with me to this day is, “Are you happening to life right now, or is life happening to you?” If I’m ever feeling frustrated with life and like I’m not achieving what I feel I should, it usually comes back to this idea for me. I’m frustrated with myself because I’ve allowed life to start happening to me and I’ve lost the internal growth mindset I should have to continue to improve. Looking outward and blaming everything that’s going on around me for why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling is usually a good sign that I’ve lost perspective. When this happens I go back to a principle I learned from Steven Covey many years ago. I take out my Vision, Mission, and Values statement to reacquaint myself with what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. If you haven’t taken the time to sit in a coffee shop, put the head phones on, get introspective, and let some words flow from the heart, I’d highly recommend you go directly to your calendar right now and block off an hour for you to do this. Seriously… go block the time off right now and come back to reading this once you’re done.
If you have done this before and you haven’t reviewed your mission statement in a while go block of the time to read through it again. Even if you feel it won’t be that productive for you and you know what it says, do it.
The act of writing and reading this statement will achieve a subtle change in your emotional state that will bring a sense of calm to your day and to your work. Pulling up and having an understanding of how what you’re doing today fits into the bigger picture of what you’re doing with your life will bring meaning to that boring piece of work ahead of you. My recent revision of my statement looks like this:
Mission – My mission is to create positive change in people and organizations with empowering leadership
Vision – Every person will have the opportunity to live a joyful and fulfilled life because they will and their organizations will put mission and purpose first
Growth -Intentional actions designed to develop my intellect, physical fitness, and emotional health. Also, intentional actions designed to help other individuals and organizations fulfill their/its purpose.
Excellence – Achieving the best I am capable of in whatever endeavor I choose to partake in. Excellence is marked by ambition, leadership, competition, and teamwork.
Love – Genuinely caring for others. Love is marked by compassion, vulnerability, and selfless service.
Integrity – Making decisions in congruence with what is written here.
There is more beyond this such as my personal beliefs about life as well as better defining the roles I play and how I function in them, but that’s the most important part.
There is always a risk that doing this exercise might highlight how you’re not doing the work you should be doing. As Steven Convey might say,
“If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.”
This is always a tough conclusion to come to. No one likes to be in conflict with themselves. Cognitive dissonance is something we all avoid. Just because you recognize the dissonance though doesn’t mean you have to do anything about it right away. Coming to that conclusion is important and figuring out how you’re going to make changes eventually will need to be something you put more thought into. Life is too short to spend time doing work that doesn’t help you become the person you want to be or provide the value to the world that you can uniquely provide. We must all strive to reject the scripts the world has provided us and think for ourselves. If we strip away the expectations of society around us, get quiet, and really listen to our hearts, what do we hear? Do you have the courage to admit to what you’re hearing? What you’re hearing doesn’t mean you have to change your entire life around right now. If you want to live with integrity though and be your authentic self, you’re going to need to listen to what your heart is saying and put it into action in small ways little by little. Take finances out of it at first. You don’t have to quit your job. You need to take a baby step to living more authentically in this little moment.
And now go forth. Live inspired.