Writing a Mission Statement ~ Questions & Themes

This is my second post about writing a personal mission statement. In my first post - Writing A Personal Mission Statement ~ A Roadmap for the Journey - I shared my own story of why I decided to write one and some of the questions I asked myself in that process.

I want to help you write your own mission statement (if you don't have one) and I hope some of the reflection I share in this post will help you.  First off, more questions to ask yourself. Then, looking for themes in your life and naming gifts. 

A Few More Questions

  • What personal values matter most to me? (We all have a bunch of values but some rise to the top.)
  • What did I dream of doing as a girl, as a young woman? Can I see bits of that in my life right now?
  • What parts of my life work (mothering, homemaking, work outside the home) bring me the most joy and pleasure?
  • What do I freely give of myself because it simply bubbles up from within me?
  • In my current responsibilities what tasks do I feel contribute to the bigger picture of my life? Inversely, when do I feel like I'm just going through the motions?
  • When I look at other people's lives, what parts of their life work make me feel jealous or envious?

Let's talk about jealousy.

Most of us see jealousy as a bad thing, and I believe it is if we let it be destructive in our lives. It's important to be content with who you are and in your circumstances. But when you don't know who you are and what your mission is it's easy to look longingly and with envy at other people's lives.

I really believe that contentment and comfort in your own skin comes from knowing who you are and what your mission is.

Instead of beating yourself up for feeling jealous of someone's life (or parts of it) use that emotional response to your advantage. It can give you clues to your truest desires and the life you want to live.

I use this technique myself. When I feel jealous of someone else (this happens less and less now that I feel I'm living my personal mission) I ask myself "Why do I feel this way?" What is about this person's life I'm jealous of?" "Is that something I truly want for myself?"

I still don't think jealousy in and of itself is a good thing. But just like pain and fear it's an involuntary response that sends us a message. We can use that message to understand ourselves better.

Look for Themes

When I wrote my own mission statement I looked to my past to see if I could find themes, threads of continuity that connected my past to my present. I figured these would also carry me into the future because if I still did these things, they are probably a part of who I am.

One of my personal life themes is teaching. I love helping people understand things. Watching the light come on for someone brings me joy. And I love learning myself.

I started tutoring when I was a teenager. As a young adult if you wanted to be a teacher the only obvious choice was to become a public school teacher. There wasn’t much imagination in my world those days to think of other options. So I went to university to become a teacher.

Of course, my other dream - to be a mom - came first. I didn't want to be a classroom teacher and mom of littles at the same time. And after student teaching I realized a public school classroom teacher was not my dream, “teaching and learning” is.

When I figured this out, late in my undergraduate degree, I briefly considered getting a masters degree in educational philosophy and foundation. I discovered this is what I really loved studying. But I was very happy (really) to let that all sit indefinitely so I could be a full-time mom and homemaker.

Eventually I started homeschooling our kids, which gave a focal point to my desire to faciliate teaching and learning. And I've come to realize I can continue my own education without a university classrooom.

Over the years I taught classes in our home and community. This was before discovering I could use the internet in a similar fashion with a larger audience. Homemaking classes, soapmaking, health and wellness, and how to homeschool. The things I loved and knew I also loved to teach.

Teaching is a strong theme in my life. And I realized that must be part of my mission.

The need to nourish and nurture is another theme in my life. This influences everything from my love of growing things to cooking daily for my family.

When I evaluated what I spend a lot of my time doing it was obvious that as a full time mother and homemaker cooking is right up there.

This didn’t happen by accident. In our modern world you can choose to get around this if you really want. Frozen foods, take out, a partner that does the cooking.

For me, cooking is not just about filling our bellies. Or even about fulfilling my "responsibility" as the mom. Cooking fulfills a real need and heart's desire I have to deeply nourish those I love.

This doesn't mean it's always easy. It's a discpline and I have periods where I feel burdened by the chore aspect of it. (The shopping part especially and if I could I would totally outsource that.) But cooking is such a huge part of what I do every day, that I formally recognized it as part of my mission. And this elevates it somehow.

I didn't want to write "cooking" in my mission statement since the deeper root is to nourish.

This need to nourish is expressed in other areas of my life. It's a theme. It's why I love reading to my children - I want to nourish our minds and imaginations. It's why I love making homemade skin care - nourishing from the outside in.

Those are just two examples from my own mission statement. But each of the points of my mission statement can be broken down this way. They are themes that weave my past and present together and they find expression in my daily tasks.

How Do Others See You

Often other people can see our gifts, our talents and who we are clearer than we can see ourselves.

I believe this is one of our main jobs as parents. To look for, name and encourage who are children truly are.

Our role as parents is so much more than feeding, housing and chauffeuring. We are called to help our children identify their passions and gifts - which informs their education - and to prepare them for their life's purpose and mission.

We help our children identify their gifts but there are people in your life who can probably help you in this regard also. A partner, a good friend, a mentor, your grandmother. They will see things in you that you haven't picked up on yourself.

Even people less close to you, who you know for just a short period of time may observe and name gifts in you.

Listen to this, it may give you a clue to parts of your mission.

In my case (and this is nothing unique, many people have this same gift) I have been told for years I am an encourager. I have had people identify this in me from a spiritual perspective - during prayers and blessings. I have been told countless times over the years what an encouragement I am. Encouragement naturally bubbles out of me when I speak to people. Even people I don't know very well.

I'm outspoken and vicacious so I can live and speak encouragement and blessing into people's lives. 

At first I wasn't willing to claim this as part of my mission. It's rather "ordinary" and I feel anyone can do it. Also, I'm kind of pointy edged, speak frankly and I don't always feel encouraging in that honesty. But then I saw that so much of what I do and what I want to do comes from this place. From a heart's desire to encourage.

It's written all over my life. So I claimed it as part of my mission.

So here's one a couple more questions to ask yourself.

  • What do other people see in me? We're looking for the good stuff here, not the negative stuff you've been told about yourself.
  • Do I see a theme or common thread in what other people see?

In my next mission post I'll share my mission. It's so simple. You might think after all this it's long and complicated, but it isn't. I'll also share what what I love about having a written mission statement. (Hint: freedom to be me).

All along the process of writing my mission statement, thinking of how to publish it here at FIMBY, and now actually sharing it - I've been wanting to find a resource to give you to help you write your own. I've got a few resources I've pulled together. I will share those in a future post.

But it occurs to me now, at the end of another couple thousands words on this topic, that I may in fact be writing a good resource myself. That'd be cool.

Ready to be brave? Where do you experience jealousy - is there something to that? What gifts do others see in you?

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  • Renee

    Renee on April 18, 2012, 3:32 p.m.

    Renee, jelousy is something I struggle with daily and as you said it can be debilitating. Someday I think I will find just the right book that will help me deal with my jealousy issues. I just wonder, you seem to have a grasp on it, have you ever come across any material that encourages one to move past the jelousy?


    • renee

      renee on April 18, 2012, 3:46 p.m.

      No books that deal with jealousy per se but Mindset for Moms by Jamie Martin does deal with your mindset in general and what she says in that book is very, very good. And easy to read, digest and apply. She talks about comparison and jealousy a bit. And in general how our mindset can make a huge difference in our reality. You can read my review here. (This book is part of the Simplify Your Family Life e-book sale going on). I really do believe that the harder your pursue your own passions and mission, the more you focus your mental energies on your own life's work - the better you can channel that jealousy constructively. But perhaps I am just naive! It wouldn't be the first time. I do believe though, it's a combination of practicing gratitude (recommend Ann Voskamp's book One Thousand Gifts for this) and living your own mission wholeheartedly. Sounds simple but can be difficult to practice. And I certainly am not a model or anything. Just a fellow sojourner.   I think some people simply struggle more with jealousy also and that is beyond what I am talking about in this post. I'm not a pyschotherapist. One of my children, for example, is always more aware of how she is lacking and others are not. This may be a childhood phase but I think it's more than that for her. Perhaps you are like this? And you just struggle more with this. One of my personal struggles is insecurity. We all have our "handicaps" that can hold us back. I was hoping to shed light on how we might use one of these (jealousy in this case) to our advantage instead of disadvantage. 


  • renee

    renee on April 18, 2012, 4:02 p.m.

    So I'm second guessing myself now (that's my insecurity). Thinking I should have maybe used "what inspires you about someone else's life" instead of "what makes you feel jealous". Like somehow talking about jealousy is taboo.


    • Renee

      Renee on April 19, 2012, 3:29 p.m.

      No worries, I got your drift. I just honed in on the jealousy, because it is something I struggle with. I know using a more creative way of thinking about it, and showing gratitude always, are what I must strive for. Thanks for your reply. You know I have picked up One Thousand Gifts before but didn't get all the hype about it. I put it to the side, perhaps it is time to revisit it.


      • renee

        renee on April 19, 2012, 5:49 p.m.

        You know, I felt the same at first also. But the book kind of grew on me. I journaled my way through it (you can read here about Marge, my reading journal) and I often return to Ann's words and my reflections in my journal. I think that's the sign of a good book. 


  • Emily

    Emily on April 18, 2012, 5:11 p.m.

    This is so thought provoking to me. So much of truth, and all of it expressed in such a lovely, honest, and sincere way.

    I can see so much in myself in you, Renee.

    This thing called jealousy is real. I think as a young mother, envy and insecurity took a lot of my peace away. As I'm growing older, I feel like I've made a shift in not comparing myself and my inadequacies to what I perceive as "perfection" in others. I've realized that we all have strengths, talents, gifts and that we all have hidden weaknesses, as well. It's so easy to judge the outward appearance in others and then focus only on what we need to do better or achieve to get to "perfection" or being up to par with those we strive to emulate.

    I think defining a mission statement takes a lot of time. Sometimes years as we evolve and change in our roles, our life's journey, our gifts, our desires. But the values and principals we cherish, in my opinion, never really change.

    Looking forward to more from you. As always.

    (and thank you for yesterday's note you left me. Thank you for your friendship, friend!)


  • Bec

    Bec on April 18, 2012, 5:36 p.m.

    Fabulous thoughts! So very helpful to me; and I've spent a lot of time pondering the idea of mission. Your blog is a gift to the world! Thanks for sharing!


  • Kika

    Kika on April 18, 2012, 5:51 p.m.

    I have been reading some great books (ever so slowly) that have been causing me to consider my vocation/life mission. Interestingly, I've been realizing that the searching process has involved, for me, an uncovering of what I am not. Sort of a weaning process. But it has been eye-opening because I admire many people for various reasons but can ulitimately come to the conclusion that this does not mean I want what they have or that I would be happy doing what they are doing even if I have genuine respect and admiration for their work. I recommend a little book entitled, "Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the voice of Vocation" by Parker J. Palmer.

    I agree that if we think back to what we liked to do as a child or what we dreamed of, that we can have clear, strong clues about who we really are and our strengths.

    I have asked my dad to write to me about three strengths he sees in me and am considering asking a couple more people. I will only ask people that I believe know me quite well because many people can say things like, "you are so patient" (or whatever) but not really understand the inner turmoil or zillions of thought zinging around in my brain :)

    This process is uncomfortable. Sometimes even scary. It is the hard work of going inside and once and for all (hopefully?!) uncovering who we really were created to be. And it can be dismaying, at least where I am now, to realize that I don't necessarily fit into some tidy box that is easy to put your finger on or label. If it is not jealousy, then it is envy, that I feel when I see women who have so clearly figured out who they are and walk with great confidence in this. I will get there.


    • renee

      renee on April 18, 2012, 6:09 p.m.

      There is no box Kika. And it would be shame to try to put yourself into one. So true about what others see in you but don't see underneath!


  • Jessica

    Jessica on April 18, 2012, 8:05 p.m.

    I think there is good in everything, if we only know how to look for it. You have found a beautiful way to turn something unproductive (jealousy) into something we can transcend by utilizing it to examine ourselves and the reasons for our desires. Don't second guess yourself on this, Renee - I really like this concept and found it to be a small epiphany! I've been dealing with some of that feeling myself lately (jealousy) and it was SO freeing to think of it as a catalyst toward something positive in my life, rather than something I should be beating myself up over. This becomes especially true when I consider it in light of writing my own personal mission statement. I had read (and enjoyed) your previous post on this, but hadn't been moved to consider a mission statement for myself. I AM now feeling I should be exploring what you are talking about. I have written before about priorities and how letting those most important 'float to the top' can help you make decisions every day. I think putting it to paper in a personal way for myself could be (as you hinted) truly freeing. Ruminating, and looking fwd to the next installment.


  • Shannon

    Shannon on April 19, 2012, 3:24 a.m.

    Years ago I recall using jealousy to get real with myself. I was jealous of he close friendships all the women around me seemed to have. I had to face the reality that I had not been the friend that I should have been. I started calling people up and getting to know them better. I organized a moms night out group. I actively sought out ways to be a help and comfort to people. I stopped being so uptight. I even had a craft party where I invited women from all corners of my life to bring their crafts to share, and a covered dish, and that group morphed into our book club. I now have warm friendships. It was very transformative.


  • Odette

    Odette on April 19, 2012, 6:45 p.m.

    Love this idea of a mission statement. I have actually been struggling with recognizing my passion or mission for a long time, so when I looked at a lot of the questions you suggetsed, I have no answer for them :( I have been doing what I "have" to do for so long that I have sort of "lost myself". I can't recognize what moves me or what I'd LOVE to do, because I have not had the opportunity to let myself think of this. I yearn for having purpose, direction and fulfillment, but do not even know where to start! My life today is soooo far off from what I imagined or looked forward to, that I do not feel like I even have a strting point or "recurring themes". Any ideas or suggestions?? I truly cannot WAIT to start living a passion-led, fulfilling life! Thanks in advance


  • Renee

    Renee on April 26, 2012, 12:08 a.m.

    "I want to be like . . . her!" In the last few years I have said this less and less. I try to look at other women for what they are at their core--not what they have or don't have--when I started looking more at the soul rather than all the "other stuff" I find that I can be more present with and for that person and not what they wear, how many kids they have, how young or old they are, or what I think is so important at the moment. As I become more aware of my life's passion and direction I do not compare myself as much as I did. It is all a journey, isn't it. Being the best that each one of us is called to be at this moment.


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