23 February 2010

On a mission

One of the few times I watched Jon & Kate + 8, a topic on that broadcast, discussed somewhat incidentally, was the fact that this family had created a mission statement.

[Note to self: please refrain from indulging in judgmental thoughts about the probable level of family collaboration involved in creating the aforementioned mission statement.]

I was impressed during the broadcast at the concept of actually taking the trouble to formulate and verbalize a family mission statement and I decided to do a little research with my best friend, google. What I learned was not surprising. A number of family therapists cited in the search results recommend that couples (my research was limited to couples since I’m not a mom) not only participate in the exercise of creating a mission statement, but also define the values that guide your lives, both as individuals and as a couple.

I love methodology and in one of my previous volunteer assignments, led a few organizations through strategy building workshops similar to this. The participants begin with some trepidation, but quickly gain confidence and make rapid progress. It always sounds more difficult than it really is.

Anyway, Cristy and I took the time last year to explore our values in life areas such as faith, social pursuits, daily home-life, financial management, holiday and family celebrations, professional-career pursuits, etc. I think we defined 10 or 12 general categories. The values we verbalized were those beliefs we held about who we were as individuals in the distinct life areas and how we each felt we needed to participate as a couple in order to feel whole, validated and cherished.

Not all of our opinions were aligned, but we tried to negotiate through some ideas about behavior that would meet some important needs for us both.

It was useful. Performing that exercise together made us feel as though we had established a broad set of basic agreements for the way that we would interact in these areas of our lives. Because we had made agreements, a large degree of ambiguity about who we were as a couple evaporated. It was as if we had completed a private rehearsal of sorts. While I cannot predict the future, I feel my chances of being blindsided by something unexpected that conflicts with one of my core living values, is greatly diminished.

Nothing is guaranteed. Disasters can happen, garbage disposals can erupt, as ours did this week. We only hope that the practice of finding common ground around the values that are the most important guiding principles of our lives will help us combine our strengths in times of stress, sorrow or sickness. The practice of negotiating behaviors in advance will help us feel empowered to ask for the supportive behavior that we need from the other to offer that extra support when we’re not quite feeling whole. The practice of exploring and envisioning will open our minds to the possibilities that exist for enriching our own lives as well as the lives of others with whom we interact.

All things considered, I’d have to say that Jon & Kate, or at least the producers of Jon & Kate, set a very good example for which I am truly grateful.

15 comments:

  1. And I think your relationship will nor end up as tabloid fodder as theirs did. I've had the garbage disposal go blam on me too.

    I think the mission statement thing is a way of setting goals and if you follow them and commit to it you will get results. Yeah some compromises but in the grand scheme of things, nothing to worry about, right?

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  2. What a beautiful thing you guys have done...if more people got to the core in the beginning maybe therewould be more lasting relationships. And compromise can be a great thing, it helps us learn to stretch, bend, and reshpe.We did that as a church once where we had a building campaign and in a years process had many smaller committees that would merge and comne together as the body. Each group made a mission statements and coontinued to combine them until they reached a statement for the entire church. It was incredible to have been a part of it. Thanks for sharing your story with us. Best wishes and blessings to you and Cristy.

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  3. I have never seen the show but I do love the concept of a family mission statement.

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  4. Hi Sue - I agree about the powerful impact of participating in an exercise where you contribute in assembling a collective statement of mission or vision. I have facilitated a small number of nonprofit groups and the participants are always energized by the process and the results that they achieve through collaboration. Thank you for your sweet wishes today! Sending hugs ~~

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  5. me too - I had never considered this before, but we take the trouble to do it in professional organizations, so why not put forth the effort to envision and verbally align our energies, values and goals with those that we love most in the world?

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  6. oh the garbage disposal thing is just gross. Makes me queasy to think about it.
    I need to hop over and visit your blog, I'm behind. Hope your week is going well!

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  7. Okay....so what did you come up with....what is the Mission Statement?

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  8. Diane, I'm intrigued. What sorts of exercises did you go through to get to your ultimate "mission statement?" I, too, am curious what your final Statement looked like.

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  9. As of 11-20-08, it reads: To develop a lifelong relationship that nurtures and strengthens our love, enables us to grow together and live with intention as we acknowledge our place in the universe as children of God.

    works for us.

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  10. Our work on the values was far more labor intensive. We spent 3 or 4 evenings discussing them.

    This mission statement highlights the fact that we want to nurture our relationship, accommodate growth in our relationship and acknowledge the unmistakable force of faith in the compass of our lives. It is not a tactical plan, but a theme. Sometimes it is also useful to define a vision statement. Vision statements are great as an initial step for setting overarching goals. But for us, we were OK skipping this exercise.

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  11. I'm so glad to see Elizabeth's comment above because your post made me think of Anne & Elizabeth's last couple of pieces at Life in Pencil. Your post and theirs have really inspired me to spend more time thinking about big picture goals. I live and die with my to-do list, but it is filled with banal tasks. My husband and I have mapped out our long term goals a few times, but those conversations often center around money - and whether or not we have or will have enough to finance our future. Maybe we need to sit down and talk about our dreams. Sure, money is a part of it, but a mission statement, as you have framed it, isn't as much about money as it is about meaning. Thanks for this inspiring post, Diane.

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  12. Very cool idea. Sounds like something every couple/family can gain something from...

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  13. I truly admire you for doing this together. It's a powerful exercise for sure. I spend so much time at work with nonprofits trying to figure out how to better address their own mission statements, by the time I get home, if I hear that phrase in my own house, I go nuts! :)

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  14. The idea of a family mission statement is very intriguing. I agree that it is critical for us to transcend the day-to-day and think big from time to time - about things like meaning and purpose. Thanks very much for your thoughtful comment on my blog!

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