I am coming to this blog today to simultaneously declare my distaste for mission statements… and to publish my own. (“Welcome to the ironic world of being human,” you’re probably saying. Thank you, but I don’t think I’ll ever get used to it. Please share your coping tips.)
Why do I hate mission statements, you may ask? Because, frankly, most of them are absolute crap. They’re just as silly as that “objective” line that used to be the standard at the top of your resume.
Either it’s so lofty and abstract that it’s absurd compared to the jobs you apply for… i.e. I’m applying for a customer service job and the objective statement says “to utilize my communication skills to better the lives of all,” which might be theoretically possible, but frankly anyone who’s ever been a CSR understands that the job consists of a morbid preparedness to be screamed at by someone who is convinced that they need a plumber ASAP because the poop in their toilet cannot possibly be theirs. It’s the neighbors’, and the neighbor illegally hooked the two domicile’s pipes together.
That little gem is a true story from my own time as a CSR, and you’re welcome. I’m sure you feel enlightened.
Or your objective statement is so specific that it’s meaningless… i.e. I send in my resume for a customer service job and it says “to obtain a job in customer service.” Gee, really? I couldn’t have guessed that from the fact that you applied in the first place.
Honest objective statements aren’t welcome. You won’t ever see “to obtain a job because I just graduated and I have student loans to pay,” or “I need to earn some bucks in between semesters at college,” or “I need a part-time job so I can homeschool my children,” or “I want to put my husband through school so we can buy a house someday,” or any variant thereof. The real reason motivating the job search, or the product manufacturing process, or whatever, is often not a socially acceptable addition to the job search or the marketing campaign. (How many jobs truly feed our passions is another topic entirely, and maybe I’ll blog about it later. I’m trying to focus here.)
But I do sort of have a personal mission statement. It’s the thing that I think I exist to do. It’s my vocation, if you want to use a big word that makes it sound cooler (which you don’t have to. I’m fully aware that I’m not a cool person). It is both simple and so regrettably honest that I’m not sure I should even share it in public. But since that’s probably the type of mission statement that the world needs more of, I’m going to tell you. (Please like me anyway.)
To help remind people that being alive is beautiful.
There’s nothing mundane about life. There’s this whole big, huge, complicated, complex, interconnected, relational, intricate web that you move through every day. Your office job, medical bills, and laundry (mass murders, war, rape, racism and sexism) exist in the same world as Mount Everest, honey badgers’ impunity to cobra venom, the milky way, and the fact that plants do sort of scream when you cut them (if you could listen in on a cellular level), and did you know that although a turkey vulture has a wingspan of 6 feet, it only weighs around 4 and a half pounds?
Every time something simple happens, like I give my husband a kiss as I leave for work, there’s a whole complex world of chemical reactions, memory chains, and sensory input happening inside my very own body.
There are symphonies and galleries, hikes and parks and plane rides. There’s the garden outside your front door.
It’s frankly so interesting and exciting that I lose all sense of how many commas really belong in a sentence.
Why do I feel like my office job is worthwhile? Because on a day-to-day basis I’m working to give people the skills to make their lives more meaningful and beautiful, whether that’s through painting, knitting, pottery, or any one of the sixty-odd classes I’ve planned this year. Sure, there are students who take a knitting class and never pick up their needles again. But I hope they make that decision with a whole new appreciation for being warm in the winter.
What motivates the artwork that I make in my free time? It’s the desire to connect the dots between my everyday experience and the wonderful things out in the world, and then hopefully to share those connections.
When I’m knitting a sweater or teaching knitting, I’m motivated because of the complete magic of using sticks to turn string into something that is gorgeous and that keeps me warm and is completely unique.
And so I’m doing my best to pick a life path that leads to my ideal epitaph: “She made our lives better by reminding us that life is beautiful.”
That type of mission statement will probably never get to be on a business card. But I did update this blog so that it is in the header.