I’m currently in the process of deconstructing my mission statement. Part of this is because my massage and bodywork business is closed, which has a silver lining in that I have more time for personal development and introspection. This is also an ongoing exercise in self-awareness that was sparked by solid coaching from my business coach. If ever there was a great example of why coaching is critical, this is one.
I am quite good at what I do, but often I am awful about evaluating myself. This is why I hire coaches.
This is also an example of what I call the “living document” nature of mission statements, as they will change to reflect changes within us, including personal growth.
The timing of this is perfect since I have been talking about this as part of the goal setting and achievement portion of mindset and performance interventions. For those of you that have been following me for a while, you know that I am adamant about having a “why” to go with your goals. In fact, I usually take this a step further by asking “who” - as in “Who are you?”. If I am at all good at what I do, it's because I spend enough time establishing solid rapport to really get clients to open up to me and reveal what they are actually after.
Ironically, I often struggle to do this with myself.
From my perspective, this obsession with missions, visions, and “why” is largely rooted in sport psychology, and motivation theory in general, particularly Edward Deci and Richard Ryan’s Self-Determination Theory. In a nutshell: the more aligned with your values that your goals are, the better a chance you have of internalizing your motivation (intrinsic), which is more effective for performance and goal achievement than extrinsic motivators.
As such, I like personal mission and values statements, and many of you know my old one:
“I will be the person I didn’t have.”
A part of me still likes it. I think it is short, vague enough to be controversial, sounds edgy, is a mild “deepity”, and it allows me to totally avoid confronting certain issues I have!
My business coach, Rebecca, is also a Neurolinguistic Programming wizard and mindset coach, which makes it super fun to try to pull a fast one on her when it comes to thinking patterns or mindset theory. I can bullshit others, but it’s hard to bullshit someone with more experience and education than I have.
So I totally understood why she was not 100% happy with my personal mission statement. She was nice about it, at least.
The big problem had to do with the linguistics involved, but this sparked a whole period of intense reflection that had me questioning my intent in the world.
I’m a dilettante in NLP, having only gained knowledge through self-study and my typical bookworm behavior, so I will not claim expertise here, but there are a few concepts that I do understand. In NLP negation or negative statements are highly frowned upon. The reason behind this is the belief that the unconscious mind cannot process negative statements. The perennial challenge from NLP practitioners is to ask you not to think of something.
For example, if I tell you “Don’t think of a big yellow school bus”, what did you think of. At best, your brain needed to construct an image or representation of the school bus, initially, in order to then stop thinking about it.
You can see why this was eyebrow raising for her.
Her main question was: “What didn’t you have?” - which, in NLP, gets immediately translated to “What do/did you want?”
I practice what I preach, so I took this as an excellent opportunity to do some self awareness exercise. An interesting thing happened when I began to bluntly ask myself this question. Here are some examples of what I wrote down:
· “I didn’t have love”
· “I wasn’t supported”
· “I didn’t have a voice”
· “I wasn’t encouraged”
· “I wasn’t raised to be courageous”
· “I was never told the truth”
A clear pattern evolved.
I won’t label this “good” or “bad”, but rather look at it from a detached perspective, so I can be objective. But here is the general finding:
I clearly focus on what I didn’t have or don’t have, rather than what I want.
Interestingly, the linguistics are screwy from the start. All my statements had negative constructs in them. In other words, I was great at avoiding things that caused me discomfort, but this mission statement really wasn’t effective as a way to focus my efforts on what I really wanted to achieve and embrace. There was no clarity in the statement. What did I want? Who did I want to provide it to?
I began the process by translating things from what I “didn’t have” as a child to what I had.
Old Statement - I didn’t have love
Revised Statement - I was neglected
Old Statement - I didn’t have a voice
Revised Statment - I was ignored
Old Statement - I wasn’t encouraged
Revised Statement - I was discouraged
*This list is truncated for the sake of brevity
This seems odd, but in order to be able to value the positive statements, I needed to reset them and discontinue negative construction patterns in my thoughts. My reasoning was that until I cleared those limiting blocks, I wouldn’t be able to get out of a negative thought loop. Admittedly, this thought process is really useful for making smart-ass Facebook comments or snarky blog posts, but it has no other value and is maladaptive.
Once reset, I contrasted them with the opposite of the statement to distill what I actually wanted. With these statements, I was able to get clarity by contrasting things as such as:
What I don’t want - Neglect, or to neglect
What I want - To love and value myself and others
What I don’t want - To ignore people or to be ignored
What I want - To be heard and valued, and hear others.
What I don’t want - Being discouraged/discouraging
What I want - Being encouraged/Encouraging others
What I don't want - Lies
What I want - Candid truth and trust
*Again, this list is truncated for the sake of brevity.
Going back to the old mission statement. I have to honestly question whether or not my tweaks were convenient avoidance behaviors as I got comfortable in a 9-5 style job. Again, self-awareness exercises like this are a great way to explore oneself and reveal growth opportunities.
Looking at the above modified statements, I now have a fairly good indication of the things I want to move toward in my life and how they fit in with my personal values. These statements are not vague or ambiguous, but rather concretes examples. Additionally, they are not negations or a cluster of statements created using negative constructs, which can encourage avoidance or flight at the subconscious level.
These statements are something I need to let “marinate” for a while as I develop and hone a new personal mission statement. With a changed mission statement, does my overall intent or self-declared life purpose change? No, and this serves as a good lesson that sometimes the vision and mission are fine and don’t require change, it’s just the mindset we use to deploy it that does. In fact, nothing really changes about my purpose, only the attitude I approach it with.
I speak often of reframing the way we look at “failure”. In this case, re-honing my mission statement was not a failure of the previous statement, but rather the culmination of effective coaching and willing self-exploration.
All of the things I preach, I practice.
Let me know what you think below. Do you have a mission statement or need help with one?