For several weeks, I've been meaning to write a post about personal mission statements. And then, at the conference I attended last week there was a leadership session where the presenter offered up his personal mission statement, and his story, and his heart, and this post has been writing itself in my mind ever since. In law school, I had the honor of taking a class from a profoundly thoughtful and loving man about ethical leadership in Corporate America. Part of that class involved writing a personal mission statement. Months before taking that class, I was a summer associate at the law firm where I would later start my first post-law school job, and a hit song at that time included the lyric "Do I make myself a blessing to everyone I meet?"
That line stayed stuck in my mind for most of that summer, and continued to roll around in my thoughts as I returned to school and found myself sitting down at my computer to write my personal mission statement. As the words appeared on the paper, I realized that the lyric really succinctly stated what I wanted to say: I want to make myself a blessing to everyone I meet. Nearly four years later, that's the goal that I wrote down on my paper at the conference last week, too.
The speaker shared that his mission statement is to show agape love to the whole world. To those who aren't familiar, agape love is a concept that Christians like to talk about as the kind of love God has for humanity--it's a completely full and unconditional love. (In fairness, I think the concept actually comes from the ancient Greeks but if you're hearing about agape these days chances are good you're sitting in a Protestant church.) Then he shared that shortly after he wrote that mission statement, his child passed away. He talked about hugging the doctor who treated this child and telling him that he did the best he could. He talked about how he had no idea he was going to face that tragedy when he crystallized his mission statement, but on the day he faced that unimaginable hardship he really needed it.
The tricky part about committing to a goal of loving everyone, or making yourself a blessing to everyone, is that it doesn't leave anyone out. If that's really the course to which you're steering your ship, you can't pass over the doctor who didn't save your child's life. I can't say that my goal is to make myself a blessing to everyone I meet if I actually want to be petty and spiteful to people who annoy me, or treat me poorly, or wrong me. That means I have to let go of negativity, and that is much easier said than done. I fail at this goal every single day. But I also try to meet it every day, and I consciously try to make myself a blessing to everyone I meet, in little and in big ways. I help where I can, when I can. I try to show kindness to strangers. I try to show kindness to people that I know but don't like. I try to show kindness to people that I love but am annoyed with. I try. And I will keep trying and trying and failing and succeeding, because that's what being a human is about.
Another quote that hits this nail on the head is by Ralph Waldo Emerson: "To know that even one soul has breathed easier because you have lived: this is to have succeeded." So that's my mission. To make myself a blessing by helping, and showing love, and kindness, and forgiveness, and compassion to everyone I meet. To make other people's lives easier in little and big ways however I can. What's yours?