I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before. I was sitting in what came to be the best corporate training session I have ever attended, feeling pretty good about my life. I had trained super hard to earn an athletic scholarship at Purdue, studied hard to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in five years, skipped fun-in-the-sun summers in favor of corporate internships and had landed my dream job working at arguably the best brand-building company in America. Then the trainer asked: “What is your personal mission statement?” Blankness. At that moment, I realized that never had I thought outside of the immediate to consider my life on the whole. I couldn’t answer the question. I hadn’t taken the time to really think about, much less put on paper, what I wanted my life to be about.
Now, one of my very favorite words is “intention.” It can be all too easy to habitually flow through our days until more than a few birthdays, graduations and even job titles have passed. For me, it took some intentional reflection. My career aspirations had always been dominant. But when the trainer challenged us to put our mission on paper, your great-grandpa came to mind. At his funeral, I heard wonderful stories. They weren’t about what a wonderful craftsman he was, how he built an admirable company or other worldly achievements. The piles of stories were personal. Many told of how he taught them to fish. Friends recalled his open invitation for conversation over a pot of coffee. He sang in the church choir and offered words of wisdom on the importance of being a friend. He lifted people up in small ways every day.
I did want a successful career. But after intentional reflection, I demoted my professional aspirations. I expanded focus on family and helping others. The exercise of creating my personal mission statement led me down a new and exciting path. It led me to prioritize my relationship with your dad, which at the time was strained by five hours of interstate. I took time off work to help your Aunt Jennifer when your cousin Jake was born. I set a goal on how often to visit my parents. I became an animal shelter volunteer. I furthered my education in exercise & nutrition, made the decision to stay home with you girls and now am creating these letters. That’s quite different from the office I thought I would be occupying at this point. Bonus: aligning time with purpose is gratifying. And, on the inevitable tough, ground-hog-like days, reflecting on your mission will help you persist (or perhaps make a meaningful change).
So, consider the following: What legacy do you want to leave? What do you want others to say about you at your funeral? Can you explore a career that will enable your mission? How about your potential role as a mother, spouse, neighbor, daughter, community member or volunteer? Where does your health fit in? How about your hobbies and passions? Now look at where you spend your time today. Do the things you spend the most time on support your mission? Don’t worry about perfection. Of course, we all have unfun, part-of-life responsibilities. But big picture, are you happy with your current trajectory? Are you making the difference God created you to make? I could go into much detail about the darn limits of time or the ability or inability for women in particular to “do it all.” Perhaps I’ll get into those aspects another time. For now, I encourage you to regularly look up from inertia, line up your irreplaceable time and effort with things most important to you and reassess as life evolves. (And if living next door to your mom did not make your list – I want to talk to you)!
All my love,