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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Monday Morning Check In: Keep Your Eye on the Prize

Life is a series of ups and downs. We cannot avoid trouble or problems, nor can we ignore them. We may prefer to experience joy and celebration in every moment of our lives, but pinning all our hopes and expectations on this wishful thinking is unrealistic. We will be riding life's roller coaster of ups and downs, so we had better find a way to survive the ride until the end.

I do not think we have any trouble finding ways to enjoy our life's up swings, however, learning how to successfully hang on during the down swings may be another story. I would like to share one technique that can help you stay focused and moving forward in the face of adversity: "Keep your eye on the prize."

I had a fruitful discussion with a close friend and colleague this week about creating a different sort of goal statement than the types of goal setting I have previously espoused in this blog. Rather than a specific set of goals to accomplish, my friend and I talked about a goal that was more global. We were in effect discussing the creation of a mission statement or purpose for my work. I have discussed Stephen R. Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People in earlier blog posts. Creating a mission statement can span two of the seven habits:

  • habit #2: begin with the end in mind
  • habit #3: put first things first

Habit #2, begin with the end in mind, involves developing a principle-centered personal mission statement that includes long term goals based on personal principles. Habit #3, put first things first, involves spending time doing those things that fit within my personal mission and finding balance between all the various roles of my life.

My friend and I spent some time discussing my personal mission statement as it related to my work at the university. After discussing the various roles I played and the university's expectations of its faculty, my friend and I developed a three-point mission statement that covered the various aspects of my university teaching work. It covered my personal development and the performance of my teaching duties, my work as it related to my colleagues and working conditions, and my role in the larger university collegiate arena.

After developing this mission statement of purpose, I wrote it on a small card of bookmark size. For several days I referred to the bookmark often and read the statements that we had written on the card. I spent several days reflecting in my morning pages on the areas of my work that would fall under each of the three points. And finally, I used the card and my reflection time to develop specific items or goal areas that I wanted to effect improvement in myself and in my working relationship with my colleagues and work partners.

When those times of adversity arrive, and arrive they surely will, you will have a prize to fix your eyes upon. You can use the bookmark or card to remind yourself frequently what your purpose and mission statement is. When you are in the midst of a necessary confrontation, you will have something to remind you of your purpose and personal mission. If you keep your eyes fixed on the prize that you have set before you on a card or bookmark, you will have something to direct your steps during those times when you are being buffeted by unimportant distractions.

To try this idea, write a basic three-point mission statement of purpose for yourself. As with the Covey habit program, develop a statement that addresses and moves you through each of these three areas: dependence, independence, and interdependence. Make your own series of cards or bookmarks with your basic three-point mission statement, and place the cards or bookmarks in various places in your environment so that you are frequently reminded of your identified purpose and mission in life.

"Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win." - 1 Corinthians 9:24.

"And let us run with endurance the race that God has set before us." Hebrews 12:1b

For a good summary of Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits, visit:

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