People can have a tendency to drift through life without direction, or worse, allow others to choose their direction. The number one regret of people in the last stages of life is, "I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."1 One way to avoid this misfortune is to carefully assemble a unique mission statement rooted in personal meaning and reflecting your own individual values. Refer to it frequently and modify it as your life unfolds.
Consider the following:
1. Your life goals. When you come to the end of life, what do you hope to have accomplished? Make the goals sweeping and broad. Really consider the big picture.
2. Your morals. What does it mean to be a "good person?" Was "good" defined by your parents? Your religion? The laws of the land? Or, do you use universal litmuses like fairness, empathy, or potential for harm to determine ''goodness?" (Hint: The latter reflects a higher degree of moral development.)2
3. Your purpose. Why are you here? What makes you feel alive? What activities make your life worthwhile? Are you drawn to improving yourself? Your society? Both? Do you like to create? Build? Organize? Does the acquisition of knowledge excite you? Do you like to solve problems?
4. Your priorities. Priorities are ever shifting. How will you determine what is the best use of your time right now? Tomorrow? Ten years from now? What causes an issue to change from low to high priority?
Sample Mission Statement:
To have a positive impact on the lives of family, friends, co-workers, and people in my community by:
1. Demonstrating and encouraging curiosity, creativity, enthusiasm, geniality, tenacity, and industry
2. Committing to unbiased, logical, evidence-based sources of information and constantly seeking out relevant new research
3. Employing and supporting democratic processes to create a culture of ownership and participation at all levels
4. Changing positions when supporting evidence clearly outweighs disputing evidence for my own pre-existing beliefs
5. Utilizing empathy, fairness, and potential for harm to guide my ethical decisions
6. Developing myself socially, intellectually, physically, and emotionally
7. Employing moderation, patience, flexibility, and the greater good to determine priorities at any given time
1. Ware, Bronnie. The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing. Carlsbad, CA: Hay House, 2012. Print.
2. Kohlberg, L. (1984). Essays on moral development: Vol. 2. The psychology of moral development: Moral stages, their nature and validity.