By Maggie Merritt
Steinberg Institute Chief Operating Officer
A solid mission and vision statement is a staple for most, if not all, organizations. And, if asked, I would assume we’d agree that mission statements are an important tool for organizations to look toward while conducting their business. As our Our CEO, Karen Larsen, says, the Steinberg Institute’s mission, “…clearly states our purpose and gives our team a north star, guiding us in our work.” And it’s true! Our mission guides us as we make decisions about how we will invest our time and resources daily and annually.
I’ve been thinking about what the potential impact might be for all of us if we took the time to formulate our own personal missions. I can’t help but think this simple act might significantly improve the quality of our lives. And I’m not talking about resolutions. Those are often created out of guilt and feelings about needing to be something different than we are. A mission statement is a thoughtful and creative declaration — devoid of anyone else’s opinion or society’s version of what success looks like — that encapsulates our most sacred aspirations for life. And, if we also delineated a few key action steps we could take over the next 1 to 3 years that would lead us toward living our best lives, I don’t see how we could go wrong.
One definition I found for vision was: The ability to think about or plan the future with imagination or wisdom; a mental image of what the future will or could be like. Lewis Carroll, an English author, poet and mathematician known for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, once said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” And when we look back at our younger years, we can see how we took ‘any road,’ and in many cases, those roads didn’t always lead us to where we wanted to be.
Part of my personal mission is to live a long, healthy, active, and happy life. There are still too many places in the world I want to explore, and I have five fabulous grandchildren I want to watch grow up. To actualize my mission, I do my very best to eat healthy food (most of the time!), drink lots of water, practice yoga, get out in nature, spend time with people I love, play as much as possible, and engage in meaningful work. My mission is not a “rule book” that elicits guilt. It is a source of inspiration, serving as a guide when I need added support or as a reminder about where I’m headed. And what I love about it is that it can be updated as I move through my life. It evolves right along with me.
To help me remember my mission, I’ve taped a note where I can see it every day that reads: I will do something today that my future self will thank me for. It seems so simple, but I must tell you that this one affirmation written on a little post-it note has helped me make choices that will increase the likelihood that I will live the healthy, vibrant, and active life I aim for.
I invite you to take this on for yourself. Set some time aside and put what matters most to you in writing; describe how you want to live your life; where you want to find yourself (geographically, physically, financially, and emotionally); identify the support you need to get there; and sketch out a few action steps you can take that will lead you to live your best life. Take your time with it, and let it turn into something that truly inspires you. Let your mission be your guide!