Friday, February 25, 2005

Mission, Vision and Values, by Dr. Michael M. Messer

This is a very interesting and thought-provoking article written by my friend Mike Messer, a psychiatrist. I am publishing it here with his permission. I hope you are as inspired by it as I am! By the way, he would love comments.


MISSION, VISION, AND VALUES. On an individual basis, a mission, vision and values statement is a powerful tool to understand our own purpose in life. It also tends to reduce the randomness of efforts; and taken seriously, the process can yield significant results.

Let's look at each part. First, to understand your own mission the question to be answered is "Why am I here, what is my purpose for living?" Contained in this question is the belief that each life is unique and has a purpose. The question may create an existential crisis with queries such as "How is what I do any different from what other people do?" or "What value is my life to others?" For me, this took about a year and a half of wrestling with the question on and off and, for better or worse, writing to you is fulfilling part of that mission.

Vision is a trajectory question. By that, I mean that a personal vision statement is a declaration of what you see as a measure of ultimate success in your life. What is the goal or state of being that would describe ultimate success for you? In writing the values statement, it is better to have a goal that is a "stretch goal," one that takes you beyond what your own concept and capabilities can conceive of you doing today.

Let me pause here to describe one thing before we move into the development of a value statement. It is important to write out each of these statements. Why? To write them makes it much more concrete for our minds. The mission and vision statements should be succinct. They should be five words or less, and in reducing it to only a few words it will convey a richer meaning. For value statements, one to two words should suffice along with possibly an explanation of what the values mean to you. One psychologist who went through our program and developed her own mission, vision, and values said "You can't just think it, you have to ink it." Enough said.

When writing values, consider those aspects of your life that are most important, lifelong and unalterable principles that guide your life. What are these values for you? Begin by writing them down in a brainstorming process. The next step is to question the value back to its core. The way to do this is by continually asking the statement "why?," and repeatedly answering this question will lead you to core values.

Let me give you an example. One of the physicians in our program said that one of his values was that he wanted to fish more often with his family. He enjoyed fishing and he thought fishing more might be the answer to his family difficulties. Then we asked why? he wanted to fish more often and said he wanted to enjoy activities with his family. Then we asked why? he wanted to enjoy more activities with his family and he stated he wanted to have a close loving family. This became a core value for him. Interestingly, his initial statement was a potential minefield. For example, if his family did not want to fish, did that mean that he could not be close to them? Was fishing his only option to solve his desire to have a close family? To get to the core value broadens the options and produces more opportunities to live by your values.

Also in this example, the "goal" of fishing was actually changed to become a "value" of commitment to his family. Changing the goal to a value can be tricky at times but remember, values are concepts, and they are concepts that have worth in themselves, not leading to something else i.e. a goal.

The two books that I have listed are helpful in the process of understanding purpose. Leider's book and Palmer's book are very good and I would highly recommend both of them.

Pursuing purpose can be life changing. For some caregivers the process made significant changes in their life. One physician, for example, realized his calling was to be in academic medicine, another physician developed a trauma service, and another began retraining himself to be a triathelete.

The technique of using mission, vision, and values is a way to examine your life and, taken seriously, it can produce monumental changes.

The Power of Purpose: Creating Meaning in Your Life and Work. Richard J Leider. Barnett-Koehler Publishers, 1977.

Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation. Parker Palmer. Jossey-Buss. 1999.

2 comments:

Smallman said...
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Quit Smoking said...
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