Personal Mission Statement

Some people are lucky. They know what they want to do from the moment they hit middle school, maybe even sooner. But not me.

Salem Sunrise

Some people are lucky.  They know what they want to do from the moment they hit middle school, maybe even sooner.  Some people look at their personal path extending back into childhood, remembering a love of writing, or horses, or cars, or math.  Although I, like Arthur J. Miller Jr. think that we can look back at childhood skills and flow experiences and point to innate skills, it’s not always easy to put together these things into a coherent career path and say “Well, I’ve always wanted to be a firefighter!”

Here’s a taste of my winding 12 year path –

  • I loved reading and writing and wrote my college essays about how I dreamed of starting a girls magazine.
  • By the time I graduated from college I thought I wanted to open a bakery in Seattle, building an intentional living community and hosting speakers.
  • Two years out of college I talked about my dream to manage a retirement community and direct activities for older adults.
  • A year or so into my first adult job I loved watching our therapists at work and I started taking courses at night with the hope of being a nutritionist (or maybe a physical therapist, or occupational therapist) and helping people reach their goals for healthy living and pain-free work.
  • Five years ago I wrote a different personal statement for graduate school about how I was excited to learn how to provide the structure and organizational development needed for people to flourish in the workplace, and for businesses to achieve better outcomes.

When I considered the various interests I’d had and what I wanted to accomplish, you couldn’t just point to them and say well, it’s “obvious” you’ve “always” wanted to work in a particular industry, doing a particular job.  Although the liberal arts are widely mocked as not pointing to a specific career – not every person can say they’ve always wanted a specific career.

I didn’t have one unifying vision throughout these 12 years post high-school to gain a specific position.  What did I do during this ambiguous time?  I explored my values and beliefs, as well as a wide variety of fields like social work, sociology, biology, psychology, business.  I tried out hobbies like leading an exercise group, taking courses in grant writing and anatomy & physiology, and volunteering with the SalemRecycles committee.  And let’s not forget attempting to be a North Shore Blogger.

This May I got a position as an HR Coordinator handling recruiting, organizational development activities, and organizing training opportunities at a small company.  I am happy here. For now.

Still, the story of Eric Liddell, the runner profiled in Chariots of Fire, haunted me. The famous line from the movie – “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure” –  is endlessly presented in Christian blog posts as the ultimate construction of how you can know what you’re designed to do, a personal mission statement.

And goddamn it, I wanted a mission statement too!

I wanted it because I believe a personal mission statement provides overarching guidance on what activities you should choose to spend your time on.  Life is equally about knowing your priorities and what you should do, and carefully choosing what you won’t.  This quote by Steve Jobs says it well, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.”  In August of this year that I was finally able to articulate what my mission statement is for my life.

So here it is –

My mission is to aggregate information, to create connections, and to stimulate reflection.

And when I do those things, I do indeed feel God’s pleasure.

This is a mission statement that fits in well with human resources, but this is a mission statement that could equally well apply to another career path I might pursue, such as a teacher, a therapist, a community organizer, a career coach.  Therefore, it’s a mission statement that can grow with my own experiences and expand to hold my ambitions. Looking at my previous career aspirations, it could have fit equally well for me if I’d been the director of a retirement facility, as if I’d been the editor of a magazine.

Ultimately those three actions are the way I orient my life, and the way I create value on teams.

How do I aggregate information? I read a lot. A lot.  But I don’t just read that information and keep it, I pass it on. Hence, creating connection.

Create connections?  I’m not a social butterfly, and never have been.  At best, I’m an ambivert, happily making friends one to two at a time, asking my friends for introductions to their friends, and slowly amassing an empire. I don’t do lighthearted easily, I’m much more likely to connect with you at the coffee shop and get your full life story.  Then, I use the information I’ve read, or gleaned from conversations to solve problems, and help improve lives.

How to stimulate reflection?  I’m a reflective person, but I would like to help others live intentional lives by asking open-ended questions that get at the transcendent things of life.

I feel simultaneously comforted and inspired by my mission statement, as though I put a missing piece into place in my life – the final thing I needed to help my values make sense.

What’s next for me?  Well, I’ve got the Mission, and I’ve got the Values, but the truth is – I’m still working on the Vision.

Hopefully sometime in the next 12 years, I’ll figure it out.


Other posts I’ve written about self-reflection you might like:

Creating a habit of Self-Reflection

5 Ways to Know Thyself!

The first 30 days of 30

In my first 30 days of being 30 I started on some new projects – like learning to play banjo, improving paltry my Excel skills, buying a smartphone and getting a job!  I also fought the same nemeses I grappled with in my twenties – lack of focus, despondency, days of purposelessness, flashes of anger.  Unfortunately I didn’t wake up on April 3rd I with flawless self-control, enduring positivity, and perfect poise.

Idly, I wondered about various immature things I still do – Should I still be putting my knees on the back of the pew at church and slumping during long sermons?  Staying up until 2:30 am reading fantasy novels?  On runs around the park I considered if the Christmas weight stuck with me because my metabolism slowed? Or because I eat dessert every day? What is with this tight calf muscle that won’t go away? Why do I still have all these pimples?

As I’m helping a professor with her tenure porfolio and sorting through conference presentations, professional memberships, and board obligations I’m impressed with her C.V. and consider my own short resume.  What are my priorities in for the next ten years? Are the ones I came up with a few years ago still relevant? Do I want to continue investing my time writing these blog posts or should I spend more time writing the rough draft of my eBook on career change in your 20s? Should I be reaching out to be on the board of a nonprofit the way I always have wanted?  Should I look for more speaking opportunities?

But so far, overall, I’m happy.

Why I Participate in Lent

Three reasons I participate in a season of Lent; community, reflection, intentional living.

Artist Chris Clark's rendition of Jesus using quilting.
Artist Chris Clark’s rendition of Jesus.

This year, Lent takes place for the seven weeks between Wednesday, February 18 and Saturday, April 4.  There are 3 reasons for why I participate in Lent.

Lent is public yet simultaneously exclusive, private, yet simultaneously communal.

I love a good paradox, and Lent seems to be that.  Although the Christian holidays of Christmas and Easter are more commercial, Lent has not become that way, and frankly, probably won’t.   A season devoted to giving things up? How can you capitalize on that*.  Therefore, I don’t have to listen to ads for Lent, buy special products for Lent, and start complaining about Lent decorations in late January.  More on Lent decorations in a minute.  However, Lent isn’t so foreign, at least in Catholic Massachusetts, that people don’t know what it is.  Nevertheless, few people care about Lent who aren’t fellow followers of Jesus, or practice any of the traditions.  Also, the significance lies both in personal change and devotion, as well as a communal acknowledgement of our collective necessity for self-discipline, change, and reliance on God.  Therefore, I find it public, but simultaneously exclusive; private, yet simultaneously communal.

Jesus praying in Gethsemene

Lent is a time for reflection.

This is a habit I’m diligently enfolding in my life with intent for behavioral change and spiritual growth.  It also means a few more lines to my check charts.  While reading in Mala Power’s 1985 book Follow the Year with Ethan I loved these lines,

The first day of Lent is named Ash Wednesday.  In nature many things have to wither and decay and turn to ash before new life can spring forth.  Early Christians held that before each person can experience the new life of Easter Time, he has to let some of his faults and bad habits die away and thus ‘turn to ash.’

Which faults and bad habits will I let die?

Lent is a time of being intentional. 

I acknowledge all that I have, and give up some of it for a season.  I’ll be giving up taking baths (but will not give up ‘bathing,’ don’t worry), an activity I love, and instead donating money to Charity:Water in remembrance that what I often take for granted, others don’t have at all.  I also want to kick some of my worst eating habits, such as eating after 8pm by re-framing it as “fasting after 8pm” and like many others, eliminate sweet things from my diet in favor of simpler food.

Another, harder change, one of the aforementioned bad habits and faults, is that I would like to stop be-laboring the point with my husband.  I’m not a nag, really, but when I latch onto a thing I wish he would change, it’s as though I’m attempting to prove the folly of his ways for a dissertation.  One hundred pages seems like just enough space to cover why leaving socks on the floor is the worst, most despicable, trait in the history of mankind. That is, until you get me going about leaving tupperware in his workbag.  I’d like to replace this negative pastime with a more positive one – like doing one special thing daily, such as actually taking my fair share of turns putting our son to bed.

Will I decorate for Lent?  Likely a few touchstones will make their way into our house.  A few years ago I created these items and wrote a blog post about it.  Perhaps adding a few pages to my altered book will help me spend time in reflection.  Searching for “folk art Jesus” and “Mixed Media Icons” have inspired me to try and fill what is currently a void.  If you haven’t heard about creating calendar nuns for Lent, you might enjoy this cute, brief, story and craft.  This website also details traditions for Ash Wednesday, many of which are family friendly, and other Lenten customs.

Will you celebrate Lent? Practice Reflection? Give up anything?


 

My brother-in-law has written several posts about Lent that I highly recommend reading.

Give Lent a Chance!

Is Lent Really 40 Days Long?

Bible Reading Plans for Lent

*My pet theory about MacDonalds filet-o-fish sandwich is that it’s designed for the 7 weeks Catholics can’t chow down on burgers.  I don’t want to know if that’s true.

30 Before 30 Update -Christmas Style

Christmas Update on my 30 by 30 project. What’s done, what’s in progress, and what have I given the boot from the list.

ChristmasCardImage

Hi to all my Christmas Card readers! I wanted to be sure you got the full update on my 30 before 30 progress… but I realize (alas!) that none of you want to a 2 page Christmas letter.  I get it, don’t worry.

If you didn’t realize I was doing this project here’s where I first blogged about it.  If you click here you’ll find the last update I wrote in October.  April 3 is fast approaching to finish, but I’ll probably give myself until April 30th to complete the items.  One of my personal life philosophies is that “Getting there is half the fun.”  This is probably because I owned this suitcase as a kid.

care bears suitcse

Also because learning (and setting goals) in my personal life is something I consider it’s own reward.  I particularly like this quote in Warren Bennis’ book On becoming a Leader –

“Learning is experienced as a personal transformation.  A person does not gather learnings as possessions, but rather becomes a new person.  To learn is not to have, it is to be.” [emphasis mine]

Executive Summary. If you read nothing else, here’s what you need to know.

  • 9 Goals finished.
  • 8 Goals actively in progress
  • 2 Goals dropped due to obstacles.

Progress Report since October 3.

Goals I finished.

Although I originally planned to run the entire North Shore Trail Series (as both a New Years Resolution and part of this 30 by 30 list) some important things came up on the way.  For example, my brother-in-law’s wedding in Indiana, my final day of spring semester classes, and leading a board level retreat at church – an activity I consider to be one of my top accomplishments this year. The final race of the series was October – where I ran Ravenswood, in Gloucester MA.  I love that race, it’s beautiful.  Trail racing is also as hard as I remembered from HS cross country, and I’m not surprised that this year I racest my slowest pace times, despite actively logging more miles than last year.  There were other factors involved too, I’m sure.  Here’s the final NSTS point counts.

Floss Daily – I cracked down on my lax tooth care habits in November/December and worked hard on flossing every day.  How did I make this happen?  I started brushing my teeth with Ethan every night.  This is one of my favorite things about kids – they keep you real.  How could I not floss when Ethan wanted to as well?!  Attaching the new habit you want to do to an old habit is a proven method for making things stick.  After making this every part of my day, it’s pretty much routine now.

Goals Actively in Progress/ Half Finished

Meeting up with an old HS friend. Actively working on this… but scheduling old friends into your new routines is hard too.  Hoping to meeting up with plenty of old friends during Christmas break.

The Economics Course.   I completed the first 3 weeks of this Macroeconomics course… but then our internet was a little bit out of our control for about 5 weeks.  I couldn’t stream video.  When it finally got put to rights, I’ll be honest, I spent a week and a half catching up on my favorite TV Shows (Once, The Mindy Project, and New Girl) rather than learning more about the classical economists, supply side economics, and budget deficits.  The class wraps up this week… and there’s not way I’ll finished 9 weeks of material in the next 3 days.  We’ll see where this goal goes.

Recognize Influencers.  I ran into a woman I used to work with who really influenced how I build teams, achieve cohesive groups, and think about what it means to be inclusive.  We didn’t always see eye-to-eye when we worked, but she strongly influenced how I work with others and how I view leadership and success.  It was really great to let her know this, as well as apologize for some of my less than stellar behaviors. Two more to go!

Goals I dropped/ Am Skeptical I’ll finish.

Mentoring. I signed up to mentor a freshman at SSU this fall… but my student dropped the program and I was left without a mentee.  I’d still like to do this, but it looks like formal mentoring isn’t in the cards for me yet.

Graphic Design/Photo Editing. Depending on how I count this one, I’m either done… or it’s probably not going to happen. I has a really fun time over the summer reading more about graphic design theory.  This fall I spent an enjoyable evening completing this Skillshare Course in Lettering, and even produced this sign!  But, lately, I haven’t had very much interest in manipulating images.

Hand lettered Psalm SignReflective Summary

I could still probably pull off 25/30 of these goals… especially if I put more effort into the long term ones.  I spend a totally disproportional time job hunting compared with achieving any other goal.  However, this goal is also the most important to me.  Figuring out what to do with this blog/blogging future, then clarifying our family’s five year plan fall right under that.  The other goals are pretty peripheral… even if rock climbing would be really fun.

Creating a Habit of Self-Reflection

Here are the habits I’ve created to cultivate a lifestyle of self-reflection. What do you do? Is self-reflection important to you?

Self Reflection Habits
Photo via Flickr: Nomadic Lass 246:365 – Journaling

The post I wrote on 5 Ways to Gain Self-Knowledge continues to be my most viewed post at All Growing Up.   Self Knowledge is one of my core values and an activity that I spend time in weekly, monthly, and yearly.

However, in the original post I really focused on two types of Self-Knowledge activity,

  • Broad and ongoing suggestions.
  • One time (or infrequent) specific actions that you can do such as taking the Meyers Briggs or other tool like the DiSC or Strengths Finder.

Developing good habits is usually contingent on attaching the new habit to an already established one. Habits make up a lot of our day and adding in another step to your routine doesn’t have to be difficult.

Here are the habits I’ve created to cultivate a lifestyle of self-reflection. 

Please add your own in the comments section.


WEEKLY

My Journal – is a significant part of my self-reflection process. Each Sunday I sit down and take inventory of the past week – what were the highs and lows, what are the priorities for each week.   I try to hit on the things that I’ve been mulling over, or things that I’ve realize about myself based on conversations, events, and readings.  I also make my to-do lists – with about 10 projects each under the categories of Friends and Church, Home and Family, Self Development, and Career and School.

Update my GoodReads List – I consider Goodreads a form of micro-blogging, similar to Facebook and Twitter. Updating Goodreads with new books I want to read is an excellent chronology of what I’ve been hearing about or reading. I also like to date books finished.

Using technology to track moods and influences, to take a pulse, certainly simplifies data collection, and can be visually stunning – and possibly even obsessive. If you haven’t heard of Nicholas Felton, who created Daytum, you should look him up. If I had a smartphone, I’d use this

MONTHLY

Graph Paper – As much as I’d like to say I use my smartphone, I’m still stuck in 2003… and sometimes 1980. I often get into these real data gathering moods on basic health indicators, like hours slept, or days exercised, how many servings of produce I eat each day, and if I flossed my teeth. But then I put it on graph paper I keep in a Dunkin Donuts calendar next to my bed and calculate rough percentages at the end of the month.  Super low tech – maybe I’ll ask for a fitbit for Christmas.

Answering Set Questions over a period of time is a useful way to see change. Each month I try to answer the following self-reflection questions (in said journal).  If my answers align with my beliefs, I’m on the right track.

  • What do I want to do more of?
  • What do I want to do the same?
  • What do I want to do less of?

 YEARLY

10Q Questions – At the beginning of October I finished my yearly 10Q reflection. The site, run by a Jewish organization, sends you a set of 10 questions that allows you to reflect back on your year.

GoogleDocs – I also reflect around New Years Day (January), and my often my Birthday (April). For these, I generally open up GoogleDocs, where I have a couple dozen documents with titles like “5 Year plan” and “Career Goals 2012-2017.” This is a work in progress for me, since I don’t follow a predetermined set of questions or system. Who knows, maybe that should be a goal for my 40 before 40 list. Ha.


What about you – do you have self-reflection habits? Are they daily, monthly, yearly? Do you think a system is best – or should it be more organic?

What about apps or websites – how do you organize your data?


The Key to a Great Summer

It’s July.

How did that happen?

I’m a planner and a doer by nature – and between those two, I slightly emphasize planning more than doing. It’s very easy for me to forget there are three components of every experience – anticipating, participating, and remembering.

So often, rather than remembering – or savoring – the experiences that I’ve had, I’m off planning the next experience.

Savor

Reading “Thinking Fast and Slow” in May and June, however, taught me something new.

The Remembering Self is in Control

What does that mean?

Daniel Kahneman tells the story of two groups of subjects who were invited to participate in a research experiment involving submerging their hands in a bowl of ice water for several minutes. (I know, makes you really want to be a research participant… right?) The first group of people experienced the frigid waters for a few minutes. The second group experienced the frigid waters for the same few minutes, but a key difference was the experimenter had the subjects keep their hands in the water an extra 30 seconds or so, but warm water was added to the bowl, which lessened their discomfort. After rating their experience, participants were more likely to choose to repeat the second, but longer, experience because it ended on high note!

There are several conclusions psychologist draw from this and other research.  They note that there are two “selves.”  One self experiences events – the frigid hands in the water.  Another self remembers that event – but through the lens of completion with a higher priority placed on the end of the event.  That warm water suddenly meant the experience wasn’t that bad… right?

The remembering brain shapes our memories, lives, decisions, and what experiences we will choose to repeat in the future.

How can I use this knowledge?

As I was contemplating my whirlwind June I realized – I want to have a GREAT SUMMER!  I don’t want to look back in August and ask “Where did it go?!”

I’ve decided to Spend More Time Savoring this Summer.

I used a framework I learned earlier this year – More Less Same – in order to focus and prioritize activities so that I could actively savor the summer experiences I love so much, like church softball, camping, and just being outdoors.  I needed to decide what I needed to do more of, and what I needed to do less of, and what I could keep the same.

MoreLessSame

Have you made a list like this before?

Using a calendar and flipping through my journal, I noted frustrations and triumphs and then listed several things to do more of – so that I could build in more time to Savor.

I want to do MORE…

Pictures – Especially, taking, posting on facebook, and getting into physical photo album form. Although there is always a danger that taking a lot of photos will destroy your memory of an event (citation) – looking at photographs of good times actually increases your happiness and confidence (citation). I’m only so-so about remembering to take pictures – but I want to be better.

Writing – I keep putting writing on the back burner in favor of reading or friend time – but I’d like to move toward more writing, whether it’s journaling, blogging, or even tweeting.

I want to do LESS…

Reading. I’m reading some great stuff right now (especially enjoying co-reading Kyle Strobel’s “Metamorpha” with my husband, and discovering AS King – recommended by LCarsLibrarian. ) But rather than trying to read a book a week, I’m just reading a few chapters at a time.

Exercise.  I’m still trying to run the North Shore Trail Series (Saturday the 12th, 6 miler!) But I’m focusing on maintaining my fitness levels, rather than increase them.

I want to do the SAME…

Praying – As I recently read and found amusing – praying for 30 minutes or more a day actively changes the way your brain works. This is probably about how long I pray every day – so I’d like to keep that the same. I also find prayer to be an excellent way to remember and savor experiences, as well as consider how to reorient your life to reflect your priorities and focal concerns.

Friendship Building – I love how many fun events we’ve been doing with friends lately – from church softball, to family volleyball, up to last weekend time spent camping.  I definitely want to keep going out a couple times a week in a socializing low-key fashion, but finding time to rest after each of these activities is key as well.

camping walk

So what about “Summer To-Do’s?”

Like other friends, I love making Summer To-Do lists, and have in the past… but I’m not going to this year.  There are a lot of items from my “30 by 30 list” that fall I want to check off – and that fall into the “More” and “Less” category.   I’m hoping to finish a wedding photo album before my 4th anniversary, as well as write some Thank You cards to big influences in my life.

Finally, I want to look ahead to August and plan a peak experience for sometime at the end of the summer – something that I can both anticipate – as well as savor as extra enjoyable.

How about you? What are you doing More, Less, and the Same of this Summer?

As always comment here, or on my facebook page.

 

2013 The Best. The Worst. The Lessons Learned. All at incredibly high speed.

Nose to the Grindstone Header

I took seven classes last year. I was going to go through my year month by month, but most of the months started out like “In (month) I was neck deep in _(class name)_.  Didn’t have time to do much else.”  On the plus side – I’m 2 classes and an internship away from possessing a master’s degree.  Something I’m both very proud of, and yet hasn’t turned me into a real master of anything. More on that another time.

High points of the year:

3 wonderful family getaways in the summer – camping, a great wedding weekend and new sister-in-law, and half a week on the Cape.

Co-leading adult Sunday School with my friend.  Two things made it a high.  Our hour-long discussions and runs in preparation at 8am on Saturday mornings.  The subject of the class, spending money wisely based on scriptural teaching. I’ve got more on that another time too.

Two courses taken that increased my knowledge and appreciation of the sustainability movement, as well as tempered my personal enthusiasm with a little practical perspective.

Low points of the year:

Many. The work load (and money spent paying for classes) was heavy, and I had to trade off things I also reallllly like, not just once – but over the course of the year.  Most obviously – blogging, but I gave up a fair number of weekends, sound sleep, quality time with the husband (he’s a champ), making art, fun local events and often anything that required a lot of energy.  I’m not saying I didn’t have any fun (see that first thing above for example)… just that it was a lot of work.

Lessons learned? Well, here’s three of many.

The power of gratitude.  I read Ann Voskamp’s 1000 gifts book in February , and it helped me put my year in perspective over and over as I was remembered to savor little things, like light on the windowsill, trying a new recipe, even the slowest of slow jogs.

I started thinking about about the power of habits and establishing a culture of excellence for oneself.  (I particularly like this quote from Aristotle.) I found a lot of inspiration from reading posts of my hero-bloggers, Donald Miller, and the other authors at Storyline.

I might know a lot… but I still know nothing!   I am all about intersections in life…. which is one reason I chose to study organizational psychology.  It’s a balance between research and practice.  A balance between reason and emotion (they don’t have to be diametrically opposed!).  The balance between strategy and innovation.  The balance between structure and creativity.  Therefore, in the middle of the year when I took a class on consulting basics, and read some great books by Peter Block, and Edgar Schein.  I was pleasantly surprised to learn that change management (one element of Organization Psychology) taps into some of the great practices of philosophy as well, including the Socratic method – asking questions to get at what the client knows, without assuming that you know the answer as an “expert.”

Here’s to 2014.

I’m looking forward to so many things in 2014, working toward my resolutions, graduation, more happy weddings, deeper friendships, gathering more knowledge… and hopefully, a little more time for rest… and blogging.