I remember when company or school mission statements became all the rage. I even had to take part in the creation of one or two of them. I never really liked either the process or the products. The missions always sounded a little bit the same, and they were more often than not filled with platitudes. After they were completed they were usually features on the first page of the employee and student handbooks, and then promptly forgotten by mostly everyone.
I’m not against having a clear mission, but most of the time mission statements are purposely vague which makes them very much like horoscopes or fortune cookies. One might easily be exchanged for another one without anyone really noticing. In fact, I often imagine the final products as initially being prewritten documents with blanks filled in to make it sound like the organization for which it stands.
One of the best mission statements ever written was the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States. It rather perfectly outlines the intent of the laws that follow. Essentially it outlines seven general but noble goals including to form a more perfect Union, to establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity. Since the origination of the Constitution, the three branches of our government have been clearly tasked with maintaining the objectives outlined in the Preamble by following the laws outlined in the Constitution. It hasn’t always been an easy task.
Of course, as with any mission statement even the Preamble is purposely vague about how to achieve such lofty aims. The Founding Fathers wisely understood that a mission statement should be flexible enough to endure the test of time. So it is that our Constitution has been amended to allow for new philosophies and changing times. The Preamble, however, always remains the same in underscoring that the seven ideas in its body should always be the goal. These are commitments to a particular kind of government.
I’ve often asked myself what my mission should be in the remainder of my life. Sometimes I laugh and think that just waking up each morning is an accomplishment given how many people that I once knew have died. But then I realize that greeting the new day is not something that I have actually done. It’s little more than an instinctive reaction. I certainly want to continue learning and with that in mind I read voraciously. If I did as much for my body as I do for my mind I would be quite buff, but I’m not totally bad given my age and the fact that I have not been able to return to the gym for over a year now. I’ll keep walking and hopefully install a recumbent bike in the house to keep my muscles working. I’ll also partake of those fifteen minute HIIT videos on Netflix. I try to do something nice for someone everyday, but sometimes I get preoccupied with tasks that really do not have to take place, so I need to remind myself that kindness should be a priority. I enjoy writing, but I normally get inspired by the places I go and the things that I do. Covid has somewhat restricted my ideas so that I am not as satisfied with my efforts as I normally am, but then who feels normal these days anyway? I am determined to travel again, but I’m feeling a bit discouraged with the uptick in Covid cases, and for now my trailer is out of commission.
I look forward to fall. I’m more inspired to be industrious and accomplish things when it is cool. The heat seems to slow my brain and my body. I don’t even get joy out of being in my yard when it’s ninety six degrees in the shade. Soon, however, I’ll be teaching my kids again, and there is little that brings me so much joy. I suppose that when all is said and done being a mom and grandmother and wife and teacher is my true mission in life so why would I need to create some kind of trite statement to define how I hope to represent my life?
In truth I’m far too much of a free spirit to tie myself down to a stilted document that attempts to define my future goals. I don’t even like planning my days too far in advance. I get antsy if I have too many appointments on the calendar. I want to be able to take a spontaneous drive or bake a cake or go out for lunch whenever the spirit moves me. I’m retired. I don’t want anything binding me to a particular routine. I’ve worked hard to get here and I just want to be able to wander however the spirit moves me. So I stand by my original thought that mission statements feel contrived and often quite meaningless.
I hate to admit to mostly flying by the seat of my pants through life. I feel more creative and alive that way. I miss too much when everything is already planned. These days I can finally get by with being a kind of sprite, and it really feels good.