On a Mission

Photo by  George Hiles  on  Unsplash

Mission statements. Every company, institution, or entity has one. 

National University of Natural Medicine

Our mission is to educate and train physicians, practitioners and pre-professionals in the art, science and research of natural medicine. 

Patagonia

Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to insure and implement solutions to the environmental crisis

SpaceX

To revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets

I've been thinking about mission statements a lot recently because I was asked to write one for my future practice. That is several years away, but I think creating one helped me zero in on what I want to do with my education three to six years from now. I don't want to be a good doctor. I want to be a great one, which means putting in a lot of work now to gain as much knowledge and experience as I can. What do I need to do now, academically and professionally, in order to do what I want to do later?

And what do I want to with my time now, outside of academic or professional commitments, before I'm in practice? Mission statements can be personal too. Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has a straightforward personal mission statement, "Have fun on your journey through life and learn from your mistakes." 

Regardless if a mission statement is general or specific, it provides focus and elucidates purpose. I think most of us could use the boost of a little focus and purpose, especially when life gets crazy. I want my vision to be clear.

An article I read for my class gave a formula for creating a personal mission statement: passion + values + superpowers. (I'm giving the super summary. The whole article is great, and it's a quick read. Go check it out!) 

I know I'm passionate about women's health, family medicine, innovation and learning. I value creativity, efficacy, individualism, and nature. I think my superpowers are investigation, teaching, innovation (I really love new ideas), being open-minded, and pursing excellence. 

But even that formula left me wondering how on earth I put all of the above into one concise statement. Thankfully my professor guided us through some additional thought exercises. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up, and how does that relate to what you are pursuing now? I really loved playing teacher, creating stories and scenarios that required problem solving, and taking care of my stuffed creatures, dolls, and any human baby. It is reaffirming to me to reflect on my child life and see the roles of naturopathic doctor-midwife, who is a teacher, caretaker, and solution finder, grow out of what I loved to play make-believe. I think we could all benefit from the kind of reflection. I don't think the things that we love in our early life totally dissipate. They manifest themselves in unexpected, yet understandable ways. 

The second exercise we did was reflecting on the pivotal moments that brought us to our current pursuit. I could pare my moments down to being sick, learning the truths of the meat industry, exploring the Environmental Working Group's website, and googling naturopathic doctors. All of those moments point toward learning, investigation, and nature. 

Mission statements are absolutely allowed to change. While it may not be great to change a business's mission statement every year (branding!), when a change needs to happen, it will happen. Personal mission statements evolve over time too, because the people who make them are always growing.

So I have a working mission statement for my future practice, whatever that may entail. The process of reflecting on what I'm all about has helped me refocus my endgame. What classes I take, conferences I attend, preceptorship relationships I form should all be leading me to where I want to be in three short years. 

As an example, here is the mission statement I created for EatStudyNature. 

Educating others about naturopathic medicine, holistic nutrition, and positive lifestyle changes in the pursuit of wellness for all

In summation, here are the steps to making a good personal or business mission statement:

1. Identify passions, values, and superpowers. 

2. Reflect on early life desires and dreams. Are they manifesting themselves now, and in which ways?

3. What are the pivotal moments that led to the present in the way in which it has manifested itself? What made those moments pivotal? 

May we all experience focus and clarity, while pursuing the things we love. 

 

Resources/References:

Motivated Magazine. Sir Richard Branson: on a mission to motivate. http://motivatedonline.com/sir-richard-branson-on-a-mission-to-mentor/ Last updated May 4, 2011. Accessed January 29, 2018.

Vozza S. Personal mission statements of 5 Famous CEOs (and why you should write one too). https://www.fastcompany.com/3026791/personal-mission-statements-of-5-famous-ceos-and-why-you-should-write-one-too. Last updated in 2014. Accessed January 16th, 2018.