About nine months ago I took my first shot at writing a personal mission statement to help solidify what’s important in my life. I’ve always had a sense of things that are important to me, but I had never really taken the time to think long and hard about it.
If you’ve never had an opportunity to write a personal mission, I highly recommend the process. I decided to write mine as part of reading Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” and it was an extremely fulfilling process. In his book, Stephen says a personal mission statement,
“focuses on what you want to be (character) and to do (contributions and achievements) and on the values or principles upon which being and doing are based.”
So I jumped in head first and for about two months I made lists, sketched pictures, created diagrams and then wrote and re-wrote versions of the first draft for my mission statement. It took what felt like 100 hours, but when I was finished it felt amazing. Within two pages I was able to capture exactly what is important to me and the person that I wanted to be.
For a few weeks I read my mission statement everyday, I shared it with my wife and a few close family members and even printed copies which I taped to the inside of my notebooks at work so that it would always be fresh on my mind. I felt like I was on track to live out my mission and it felt good.
Then, something unfortunate but all to familiar happened. Instead of sticking to my mission and paying close attention to the things that I had identified as important to me I stopped reading it on a daily basis. Slowly, I started to ignore what I had worked so hard to create as the initial excitement of writing it wore off.
Now, nine months later I’m reflecting on what exactly went wrong. Why after spending so much time and getting so excited did I completely drop it?
- Was it because I didn’t have enough time?
- Was it because I was scared about living up to the person that I had so clearly defined?
- Was I just being plain lazy?
To be honest, I’m more than willing to own up to any of the above, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I simply stopped short and didn’t follow through. Once I had finished writing my mission statement I simply neglected to “put my money where my mouth is,” or set goals that would put me on a path to living out my mission and becoming the person I wanted to be.
Has this ever happened to you? Have you ever wanted something so bad and tried to focus intently on achieving it only to come up short?
For me it certainly wasn’t the first time, so I began to wonder why this happens and in particular why in my personal life I often neglect to set goals when it comes so naturally as part of my work.
After much thought, the best answer that I could come up with was that my lack of action was driven by fear and the “what ifs” started running through my head.
- What if I failed?
- What if I disappointed my family and friends?
- What if…?
In other words, I knew exactly what I wanted to accomplish and the type of person I wanted to be, but I was avoiding putting goals in place because then I’d actually have to do something about it.
The truth is, fear is often a natural emotion associated with goal setting and a major blocker for those trying to achieve their goals. A quick search on Google yields more articles on the topic than you could read in a year, so I think it’s safe to say it’s a pretty common emotion associated with goal setting.
As part of my reading on the topic I came across a great article on fear around goal setting, written by Willo O’Brien of WilloToons.com, which is worth a quick read. Here’s a direct quote from the article:
“What have you got to lose? Seriously, you’re not going to die. Nobody is going to laugh at you. You don’t even have to show anyone. And furthermore they’re not set in stone forever. The goals you make now may be irrelevant in the next few months, and that’s OK, too! These are *your* goals. This is *your* life, and therefore it’s a living, breathing list that you can add to or change at any time! So dream BIG!”
I think she’s exactly right. Goals are simple, goals are harmless. It’s important to give yourself the benefit of the doubt and take some time to put your goals on paper so that you can strive towards them and hold yourself accountable. It’s okay to be afraid… embrace it!
The process of working towards a goal is often just as important as achieving the goal and coming up short is a natural part of the process. Learn from your mistakes and be persistent. What’s truly important is your unwavering commitment to evolving yourself, no matter how times you fail.
So once again I’m back at it, writing goals to help me fulfill my mission statement because I believe in myself and my ability to achieve great things regardless of my personal insecurities or what others think and say.
So ask yourself, is fear holding you back?
A Few Helpful Resources