Earlier today at the Emerging Leaders Preconference, Rosetta Thurman held the full attention of her audience as she walked them through an exercise to help participants develop their own personal mission statement. This paragraph, page, or even piece of artwork reminds you who you are and helps you make decisions related to how you spend your time in your life. It’s a concise statement that reminds you of what’s important. Thurman tapes hers to her computer screen for those moments when she needs to be reminded to walk away from it.
From the beginning of the session, she asked the ballroom full of emerging leaders to ask themselves “Who are you?” and “Why are you here?” as a guide in both your professional and personal lives. She also challenged the audience to get away from the paradigm of the “work/life balance” and move closer toward being whole—just include everything that you care about in your life in some way.
Then, taking a lead from author Stewart Friedman, she asked the crowd to think about the four domains of one’s life and determine how much time you spend on them: work, home, community, and your private self.
All of the domains are determined by the individual so work can only include the time you spend at your desk at work or it could include volunteer time, board member time, etc. Home encompasses time spent with family, your spouse/partner, children, chores, shopping, cooking, etc. Community includes whenever you are out “doing good” in your neighborhood. Private self is self-explanatory—taking the time to sleep, exercise, improve your mental health, or getting that mani/pedi as Thurman said.
She asked attendees to then assign a percentage (out of 100) for time spent on each of those four domains. The room fell silent for several minutes.
The next step in Thurman’s process was to rate how satisfied you were with your percentages. She encouraged participants to question your “shoulds” and truly ask if you want to try to increase time spent on one domain more than another.
Thurman’s next step in building a personal mission statement is to start to identity your core values and determine ways that your values will be turned into actions. To her, core values are different than your interests. She gave the example that you might be interested in celebrity gossip, but it’s not what you care about most. She asked participants to come up with a list of about 10 values such as ambition, equality, flexibility, dignity, empathy, etc. and again ignoring the “shoulds.” For example, Thurman said she should care about homeland security, but she doesn’t like taking off her shoes at the airport.
If it was silent while the participants were working earlier, you could have heard a pin drop on the loudly-colored hotel carpet during this time of reflection. Some of the values shared with the group after thinking it over included: fun, humor, respect, compassion, growth, creating, relevance, connectivity, listening, kindness, loyalty, and inspiration.
The next step was to envision those values as an action—how would you carry them out and reconcile those values with reality? Thurman said that it isn’t easy, but it should be done every day. Ask yourself if you were who you wanted to be today as it will help you to be mindful of your actions and keep you on track toward living your values.
Some values turned to action shared with the group included: community (the hardest part is the decision to show up); compassion (spend less time venting and more time listening to others); and, truth (speak and know it).
After going through those exercises, the next step was to write those few sentences of your personal mission statement, including the big questions of “who are you?” and “why are you here?”
Although I was often busy taking notes to write this post, I’m halfway through the process already and I might just end up with a personal mission statement by the end of my return flight to D.C. on Sunday.