This article was featured in divorcemag.com on December 29, 2022
In my work as a divorce coach, and personally through my own divorce recovery, I have found there is one tool that has grounded me during whatever stage of transition I’m experiencing, and the start of the new year is the perfect time to revisit this gem.
As humans, we constantly experience transition. Children grow up, professional ambitions change, relationships evolve, challenges come from everywhere, and we adapt, even if we don’t want to. For anyone dealing with divorce, you know that whether you chose it, agreed to it, or were completely blindsided, divorce brings many “firsts.”
Struggling through a multitude of emotions can be a full-time job. This is true for people in the immediate aftermath of divorce or separation, and sometimes for those who’ve been apart for years as well. Even people who’ve been divorced for some time can experience a triggering situation and it seems like just yesterday that the world was collapsing.
An alternative to Traditional Resolutions
In my work as a divorce coach, and personally through my own divorce recovery, I have found one tool that has grounded me during whatever stage of transition I’m experiencing. This year, try this creative alternative to the traditional new year’s resolution.
Your Personal Mission Statement
It would be unusual to find a business that doesn’t have a stated Mission Statement. Why? Because it clarifies the organization’s purpose. Why was this business created? Who does it serve? What sets it apart? When clearly articulated and prioritized, an organization’s mission unites employees, inspires customers, and enhances culture. In the best of circumstances, a mission will also serve as the sounding board against which difficult decisions are evaluated.
Alternatively, organizations without a purpose may have a harder time evaluating how or when to grow, whether to explore a partnership or how to differentiate itself to customers and employees.
These critical business decisions have obvious parallels to those we make about our lives. Are you clear about your main purpose in life? What matters most to you and what you aspire to? What are the values on which you base your decisions? What kind of legacy do you want to leave?
According to best-selling author and influential speaker, Andy Andrews, a personal mission statement is “A code of conduct for who you want to be, what you will allow into your life, and how you will positively influence those around you.” He also notes that “A personal mission statement sets boundaries,” and adds that “Setting clear boundaries is the number one tool for making tough decisions.” Wouldn’t we all love a helpful, personalized decision-making tool? One that takes the handwringing guesswork out of overwhelming situations like those we face during divorce?
Add A Divorce Mission Statement
With my clients, I like to create both a personal and a divorce mission statement. Sometimes, just thinking about, writing and revising these statements is a cathartic process that wakes you and starts you on a new journey. As you clarify priorities, identify values and choose each word, you may realize you haven’t focused on your own desires and potential this way in years! I love that my clients have a statement to guide them specifically around divorce, and more of the “umbrella” mission statement that speaks to their larger purpose and reminds them of their own worth. Time and again I see clients use these statements to choose the high road in difficult circumstances, remind them to prioritize the kids and deescalate, keep perspective and recover and apologize after making a mistake.
Begin with Questions
There are countless templates online to help you get started. I’ve reviewed several, and my favorite is still Andy Andrew’s. It’s a free download that includes a list of questions to ask yourself as you write and common challenges that come up as well (hint: don’t believe it when you hear yourself saying, “I don’t know.”).
Wherever you look for inspiration, most mission statements follow this general structure:
Identify your strengths
Reflect on your values
Evaluate how your skills can solve real-world issues.
I want to (what is important to you) ___________________ Based on my values of ____________________ and my goals, so that (what is the legacy you want to leave)______________________________ I value (doing x) ________________________because (why it matters)__________________________. To do this, I will __________________________________________________________________
Another helpful starting point is to think about who you are when you are at your best. Ask yourself:
I am at my best when?
I want to be my best self because?
What scares me about being my best self?
Values I demonstrate when I’m at my best include?
Here are a few examples from well-known leaders:
“To serve as a leader, live a balanced life, and apply ethical principles to make a significant difference” – Denise Morrison, Campbell Soup Company
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style” – Maya Angelou
“To use my gifts of intelligence, charisma, and serial optimism to cultivate the self-worth and net-worth of women around the world” – Amanda Steinberg, Dailyworth.com
“To be a teacher. And to be known for inspiring my students to be more than they thought they could be.”– Oprah Winfrey, Founder of OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Network
It will take a bit of time and effort, but when done with thought and intention your mission statement will be the only resolution you need this year!