We are just past the halfway mark of Fall in Love with Your Work, and I have already learned an amazing amount — about myself, about what matters to me, about my skills, my options, about how other people see me. But today’s lessons is where it really started coming together. Where all the work I’ve been doing for so long has finally started to crystalize. Today is the day we started writing our personal mission statements.
To be honest, this is not the first time I’ve tried to construct one. I’ve worked on missions statements for corporations, for teams, for individuals, and, yes, for myself, and let me tell you, it is always hardest to do for myself. So hard, in fact, that I have never gotten even remotely close. Until today. Thanks to a combination of three sets of words.
- Four words that came to me as I woke up the morning of day 3: to educate and inspire
- A list of verbs Maia provided for our consideration: bridge, brighten, communicate, connect, create, discover, embrace, encourage, give, heal, integrate, lead, learn, love, mentor, open, organize, relate, remember, restore, teach
- My own list of verbs inspired by her list: act, educate, excavate, illuminate, inspire, unearth
I marked the ones that resonated the most strongly (italic for strong, bold for strongest) and got to work.
First, I replaced the word educate which felt didactic, judgmental, and heavy-handed with the word illuminate. Illuminate is one of my favorite words not just because it means to shed a light on something, or because that spotlight reveals but does not dictate what any person should do with that revelation, but because I am, among other things, a medievalist whose primary focus was church carvings and illuminated manuscripts. And those drawings were not just decoration, they were illustration, they were revelation, and they were unbelievably, stunningly beautiful — even when what they showed was suffering. And that is it for me. That’s what I aspire to do with every form of creative expression I undertake, be it fiction, poetry, quilts, photography… to show the world in all its happiness and pain. In all its glory and suffering. In all its joy and sorrow. In all its scarcity and abundance. To show that all of those things, all that humanity and majesty and misery is exquisitely beautiful. Awe inspiring. A miracle. And that all of those things, all of these people, are intertwined. Intimately connected. And to help other people see and feel that, too. And to remind us all that with that connection comes a responsibility to each other, because if one domino falls, we each fall in succession.
So with that in mind, and despite the fact that we still have two more days of working on our mission statements, moving from what we hope to do, to how we plan to do it, to who we are doing it for and why, here is my full missions statement, still a work in progress, but closer than I’ve every been to that shining star that will help guide and focus me on this path I am walking.
My mission is to illuminate the causes that matter most to me by creating art, stories, and tools that inspire people to connect to themselves, the world, and others and to act on their behalf.
It still need a little tweaking, but I’m getting there. And I know I’m close, because when I look at the writing I’ve done already, the stories and art I most want to create in the future, it all fits perfectly and all the other things, those driven by other people’s agendas, or my own internal “shoulds” begin to fall away, making space for what really matters.
“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.” Chinese Proverb