Do you have a mission? Don’t bother searching through your mind for your organization’s mission statement which neither you nor anyone else can ever remember. You can check it on the website if you want to refresh your memory, although it may look like a collection of words painfully assembled by a committee in which every member had a passionate desire to see their word included. Such statements can range from boring to totally incomprehensible, but are rarely inspiring.
What about your personal mission? Sometimes it’s about getting a decent job and making a living, and that’s enough at certain points in your life. But it’s tough to keep generating positive energy for very long if your only goal is surviving. Granted, for some people making money really is their mission, and they love every aspect of the game of business, especially keeping score. But although they pretty much rule our culture, they are a small minority.
Regardless of your skills and experience, and the logical pro and con lists you make before you make a career move, there’s more to you than your cerebral cortex. The “more” part of yourself often gets ignored, or simply goes unseen for many years. Since it does not get fed, it gets hungrier and hungrier and begins to gnaw away at any sense of accomplishment you have. Something is missing.
Your mission can be big or small – it just needs to ring true for you. It can map to the kind of work your organization is doing, or simply direct the way you’re working within your organization. It can take time to discover what’s important to you. Some people seem to be born knowing what they need to do, but for most people the haze only begins to clear after much experimentation and downright thrashing around. If it makes you nervous to even think about having a mission, it’s because once you know what it is, you might have to make some changes.
It’s not just a matter of choosing between corporate and non-profit work, but of deliberately seeking to find a way to work that fits with what you value. This may mean finding an organization whose work you find important and meaningful, or it could be as basic as the decisions you make about how you communicate and support those around you wherever you work. Your mission can be to feed hungry people or simply to model a competent and compassionate work ethic while refinancing mortgages.
Take some time to think about what your mission would be if you dared to have one. Write it down. Warning – this knowledge does tend to haunt you once you have it. It begins to guide your steps and influence your decisions, both the big ones and all the little ones you make all day long. Still, the stronger you hold it in mind, the more whole you feel – like something that was missing has been found, and fallen into place.