I’m not the New Year's resolution type. When I realize something needs changing, I change it. Done. Setting a date on which to change gives me just enough time to think it over and get too bored to care. Yeah, I know I’m more impulsive than the average bear. What can I say? It’s who I am.
Yet, especially now that I’m older and have children, I find myself searching for a way to make decisions and track progress over the year — a set of guiding principles, you might say.
Except I already have plenty of guiding principles, and I do mean plenty. I imagine my principles as various items shoved into a kitchen junk drawer. I know I have them and I know where to find them, but they are in a jumbled mess among the pens, chip clips, and USB cables from cameras long gone.
Some principles I’ve had since childhood but they aren’t even mine; they were impressed upon me by various grownups and they’ve been stowaways in my mind ever since. They’re not mine but they were someone’s and they sure seemed important at the time, so I haven’t let them go.
Then there are the principles I set for myself as a new parent. Those definitely need to be weeded through and blasted with the bright light of realism that comes with parental experience.
It turns out that I have a lot of personal rules for how to be, and many of them aren’t working in my best interest. They’re old, outdated, and mismatched with my current station in life. Trying to be true to them all has created a dissonance where I constantly feel like I’m failing at something. So what if I am really happy about my A achievement, because I blew it at B and C!
I’m never going to fix this problem by resolving to be better at the things I want to be better at. I WANT TO BE BETTER AT ALL THE THINGS! Obviously! I know how to work hard. My problem is that I’m working hard at too many things and coming up with mediocre results across the board.
Instead, I want to be better at deciding what to strive for and what to let go. I want guiding principles that make these decisions easy, because decision fatigue is a real thing.
To accomplish this, I’m working on a personal mission statement and then a family mission statement. These mission statements will help me and my family choose where to spend our time and energy. They will help us match our actions with our intentions. And they will help me stop feeling obligated to adhere to these 100000 rules I’m still carrying around that aren’t even my own.
How to create your personal mission statement
You could probably write a thesis about how to develop a personal mission statement. As we’ve already discussed, I’m more into instant gratification and less into painstaking planning. My approach is to keep it simple, but your approach may differ. Make this as simple or detailed as you like.
My favorite essay on the personal mission statement comes, of course, from my mentor and teacher Katy Bowman in her book Movement Matters (affiliate link). It goes something like this:
- Take a deep breath and toss your junk drawer full of other people’s (including your former self's) rules, expectations, and desires for your current self.
- Write a list of words that hold meaning for you (or your family). Some examples: outdoors, play, service to others, faith, strength
- Add verbs to the words and phrases: spend time outdoors, play together, practice service to others, practice our faith, improve our strength
- Write it up. Play with it. Work through it. Settle on a working version of your mission statement and then refine it over the year. Consider it your personal work in progress.
Like this idea? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.