Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “What am I working toward in life?”
A lot of businesses and churches will draft up formal “Mission Statements” to try and answer that question on an organizational level. They also use “Purpose Statements” and “Vision Statements.” Some will go even further and draft up a set of “Core Values.”
I won’t bore you with an explanation of all the nuanced differences between those different documents, but for the sake of this post, I'm just lumping them all together to talk about those written summaries that serve as a kind of 30,000 foot view of what a particular group of folks are working toward.
For example, Chick-fil-a's Mission and Vision statements are:
“To be America's best quick service restaurant at winning and keeping customers,” and
“To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us. To have a positive influence on all who come in contact with Chick-fil-a.”
Those sound like decent business objectives to me. I guess the only big question is, how useful are they? At the end of the day, does it really make any difference if a company's purpose, mission, and vision are thought through and written out?
I found it very interesting to learn that when Chick-fil-a’s employees were asked what difference it made to them what their company's objectives were, 71% said it made a big difference in motivating them in their work. In fact, the majority of employees said they felt Chick-fil-a's overall trajectory as a company was one of the reasons why they applied for a job there in the first place.
In addition to the motivation of its employees, a big reason Chick-fil-a's loyal customer base keeps returning to eat with their families isn't just the fact that they make great chicken sandwiches, which, I suppose, is a part of it. But evidently, another big factor for the repeat business has to do with the well-articulated reasons Chick-fil-a gives for their existence in the first place. It's something people who share and value the same interests want to support and rally behind.
In the same way a lot of businesses and churches use Mission Statements to guide them, what I want to propose to you is that such written statements can be just as helpful and useful for individuals and families as well.
You may think I'm crazy, and it may sound silly to you at the thought of drafting up a formal Mission Statement for yourself or for your family, but just hear me out on this. Even if you never share it with anyone, I have found the benefit, especially when I'm neck deep in the trenches of my own personal to-do list, to be able to pull out a kind of pre-charted map to help me navigate where I'm trying to get in life.
If you want an example of someone from history who did this sort of thing and who took the time to write out a personal Mission Statement for himself, referring to it often, resulting in what I believe was a life well-lived, I can point you Jonathan Edwards. Edwards was that great American preacher-theologian of the 1700s who helped spark the first Great Awakening revival. Actually, I could point you to many different figures in history who at one point in their life sat down and wrote out contemplative statements defining their understood purpose for living, but Jonathan Edwards is a great example because Edwards didn't just draft up a short two or three sentence overarching mission for himself. He ended up fleshing out such a purpose and vision for his life over some seventy personal resolutions to serve as a detailed guide for his every waking moment.
Of course, I don't believe a person has to outline 70 different resolutions, but I want to share with you Edwards' first resolution that seems to have served as a starting place for all the others. He wrote,
"Resolved that I will do whatsoever I think to be most to God's glory, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration, without any consideration of the time, whether now or never so many myriads of ages hence; resolved to do whatever I think to be my duty and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved to do this whatever difficulties I meet with, how many and how great so ever."
That may be a really old-fashioned way of saying things but hopefully you can see the overall direction Edwards tried to point himself in. He committed himself to live his life chiefly for God's glory and to carry that out, regardless of his circumstances, in a way that best served his fellow man.
Some years ago I sat down and tried to write out a simple Mission Statement for myself, which I have honestly used and referred to on a regular basis to try and gauge where I am on the map of getting to where I'm trying to get. There's no magic formula to writing these things out. I just tried to think about what my different roles are in life as a husband, father, pastor and so forth. So, I'm thinking categorically here in terms of the different hats I wear. I also tried to think biblically in terms of having priorities that aligned with the same priorities the Lord assigns in the Bible. But here's what I wrote:
"My personal life goals are to glorify God, by His grace, through the continuous pursuits of knowing him and becoming more like Christ, enjoying and investing in my wife and family, having a positive impact on my church and community, and living a peaceful and quiet life."
So, there you have it. That's the 30,000 foot view of my personal life goals. And I've also taken the time to flesh out those different categories and what my aims are for each to look like in practice. I won't unpack all those extra details here, but the point is I've sought to be deliberate and to give the time and thought to define what I'm living for in life.
Whether it's for an individual or for a family, I'm proposing such an exercise can be very helpful. For any fellow homesteaders out there, having a clearly written out purpose, mission, or vision can be particularly helpful since the homesteading family is in the unique position of their family being their business. As entrepreneurs, it only makes sense to have a strategic objective of some kind in place. And the purpose isn't just to have something to slap onto a brochure, or to bury away in a nightstand drawer, but to use it as a regular point-of-reference to remind you and to motivate you in what you're working toward in life.
I've personally found it useful to keep my Mission Statement tucked away in my notebook planner which has my annual calendar and running to-do list in. Whenever I sit down to schedule something out, or map out a new project, or develop a new year's budget, I'm able to look back on this written statement to see if what I'm thinking about scheduling, or thinking about working on, or thinking about investing in even fits within my overarching mission. I can tell you, adopting such a practice makes it a lot easier to know what to say yes to or what to say no to. It makes navigating the day-to-day a lot easier. Or maybe I shouldn't say "easier." Maybe maybe a better word then that is it makes things a lot "simpler," because life can still be hard. Life can still feel like we are laboring in the trenches, but at least we know the direction we're digging in and we haven't cursed ourselves with a life of aimlessness and uncertainty.
So here's my advice to you. My advice is to go and get a piece of paper and start writing out a purpose, mission, or vision statement of some kind to help you define what you are working toward in life and then keep that written statement close by. Refine it as you need to as time goes by and as the Lord continues working in your heart and mind, and as you receive better clarity hopefully as you're studying your Bible. But then use it as a tool to help guide you in your scheduling, your projects, your budgeting, and even your relationships.
Don't be aimless, but be deliberate.