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Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Several years ago I read a book called The Path: Writing Your Mission Statement for Work and For Life. Author Laurie Beth Jones argues that we will be more likely to fulfill our life’s purpose if we can articulate what it is, so she takes the reader through a series of exercises to help draft a mission statement for life. Though I was somewhat skeptical of this approach when I did it, I have found that it has had a lasting impact. Last night I suddenly realized that I’m living my mission statement in ways I hadn’t realized before.

It feels corny putting it in print, but the purpose I drafted when I was pregnant with Luke was to “help people to trust, God, themselves, and other people.” It was broad because Jones said our purpose should encompass our personal lives and well as our paid and volunteer work. Given that my professional work includes writing and teaching, on a variety of topics, and my volunteer work ranges from Quaker committees to political action, at first it seemed a stretch to find something that could cover all those things as well as motherhood. But then the word “trust” became clear, and I realized that trusting and helping others trust is a key part of what I think my life is about.

From time to time remembering my mission has helped me know whether to say yes or no to a request that has come my way. There are many things you can fit under the umbrella of a trust-building mission—working for a candidate who opposes the politics of fear, stroking the hair of a child who has had a nightmare, writing stories of courage—but not everything does. I’m gradually getting better at weeding out the things that are not my job. Still, I often feel I get sucked into things without a lot of discernment simply because I say yes too quickly. What was exciting last night was the realization, while talking to friends, that some of the volunteer work I am doing is clearly part of this trust-building mission, even though I had not seen it that way before. It gave a sense of wholeness and integration to a life that often seems like one of those acts where the juggler is rotating a knife, a bowling ball, and a flaming stick. It’s good to feel the interconnections.

So I’m thinking this idea of writing a mission statement is something I want to encourage others to try, if it speaks to them. Of course the first step will be trusting that your life has a purpose and trusting your own ability to figure out what it is.


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