Writing a personal mission statement

This post is an edited version of my 1/9/16 Rutland Herald column, “All Write!”
IMG_4018Last week I offered some ideas and prompts for envisioning and planning your future. In this post I will continue on the theme of setting intentions through personal writing methods, this time by discussing personal mission statements.
I have found, as many others have, that writing something down gives it more power (or in some cases, as with fears and anxieties, less — but that’s another topic for another post). Writing down plans, goals and steps forward (as in a weight-loss regimen) makes them more real, concrete and provides written evidence of progress which, if only small steps, deserves recognition and celebration.
(This reminds me of two helpful and proven-for-well-being daily practices: writing gratitudes and acknowledging what you did accomplish on your to-do, not what was left undone. This helps keeps the motivation going.)
This is why businesses and organizations write mission statements: to determine and make concrete their intentions, their purpose, their raison d’etre. A mission statement also lays a metaphorical path, maps a route and provides an itinerary. Without a clear idea of why and where you are going, you can get completely lost. Yes, it is fine to wander a little, but as long as you keep your sense of direction you will have a more successful journey.
This is true for individuals as well as businesses. To identify and clarify personal values, wants, needs and dreams, writing a mission statement can help give life direction. And once it is written down and placed where it can seen regularly, when life “happens” and you get distracted or discouraged, it can serve as a reminder of what you truly want out of your life, prompting you to do your best to get back on track.
There are various approaches to writing a mission statement; one is to assess the various ways humans inhabit this world:
  • Physical (physical body and health)
  • Mental (thoughts and learning)
  • Social/Emotional (connection with others and our own feelings)
  • Spiritual (connection with a higher power or inner wisdom)
For each area determine your values and wishes. Spend some time thinking through what you want out of your life and the direction you intend to go. If you are having a difficult time with any particular area, use your journal to free write — that is, writing without judgment or self-editing — about it first.
Ask yourself where you are currently regarding your physical self, for example, and what you’d like to be making progress toward. (Focusing on steps made forward, i.e. enjoying the journey as opposed to fixating on some far-off destination, is very important to feelings of overall contentment, or in new-age terminology, staying the in Now.) Or start with a prompt such as, “Right now, emotionally/physically/etc. I am …” From these written explorations you will discover your own thoughts and feelings about each area of your life. Alternatively, the mission can be also divided by the various life roles: wife, employee, father, board member, business owner, etc. “In my professional life, I would like to work toward … .”
A statement can be long or short or in any format wished: A sentence, paragraph, bullet points, even a collage of pictures. A family can have a statement also. Gather around the table, and as a committee, co-write the family’s purpose and intent for a meaningful life. Determining and writing a mission for your business, organization, your family and/or yourself, will help clarify your values and intentions for the future, thus increasing your ability to make successful decisions and be open to opportunities that are in line with those intentions.
Prompts:
  • In this (____) area of my life, I am …
  • This is what I would like to work toward …

P.S. This week I was informed, and I am honored and excited to say, that my workshop proposal has been accepted by The Center for Journal Therapy conference. I am humbly asking for support to enable me to go. All donors over $10 will receive a copy of my workshop, “Mother’s Song: Nurturing Body-Voice through Expressive Writing.” For more details and if you are willing to help, please visit gofund.me/8sj8v7k4. With much appreciation, I thank you.

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So you want to be a TLA (writing for healing/change) facilitator?

This evening I was asked by one of my online students how to start a TLA (Transformative Language Arts) — Writing for Change or Healing — practice/business. That is a big question and not one easily answered. There are too many factors to consider: location, niche, experience, education, personality, and financial situation, among others. So, instead I will tell my story, as briefly possible.

How to (possibly) start a TLA practice:

journal-with-lock

  1. Start a diary at age twelve. Keep writing daily through high school. Stop writing during college except for sappy and maudlin poems after break-ups with each new love of your life and consequently completely lose sight of who you are.
  2. Read Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and artistsway-tstart writing “Morning Pages” like your life depends on it. (It kinda does.) Fill binder after binder with complaints and dreams for the next few years. Start calling yourself an Aspiring Writer as you write (embarrassingly pitiful) stories and essays early in the morning.
  3. Leave your job and the state to become a stay-at-home mother. Get bored real fast and design a journaling workshop and offer it at the local bookstore. Discover the Center for Journal Therapy and start the instructor certification.
  4. Move again and take part time jobs while finishing the certification and caring for two young kids.
    JTTS_Instructor_Logo
  5. Finish the certification, get marketing materials (business cards, fliers, website, social media pages) together, and start offering workshops at the local wellness centers, bookstores, coffee shops (including a monthly one for free to get your name out there).
  6. Contact/join writing groups/centers, networking and social service organizations, colleges and schools, and get your name on a list of alternative practitioners.
  7. Keep offering workshops despite low turn-out and cancellations. Get posters up wherever you can and blast social media. Do this for … years.
  8. Keep writing. Finally get the courage to call yourself a Writer. Get published. Start freelancing. Put your “facilitator” in your mini bio at the end of each article.flyer_Lower Stress Write Way
  9. Ask, and accept invitations to speak at networking, wellness, and writing events. Collaborate with other facilitators and organizations.
  10. Discover there is a Masters program in this field in your home state (at Goddard College) and spend the next three years transforming your life in the most amazing way imaginable.
  11. Open your own writing center and offer weekly workshops. Start getting more name recognition, more speaking engagements, and more writing work.

So, that’s my story in a very small nutshell. But my journey from designing my first workshop to today was a not a short one — at all. My daughter was two when I began and she is about to turn thirteen! And it has been almost seven years since I got certified and I am only just beginning to feel I am “making it.”

Here are some factors specific to my situation which I believe have helped along the way:

  1. I live in a small town. I know many people.
  2. I live in a small, rural state and am one of very few who does this kind of work.
  3. I said yes to every opportunity until I found my niche (I can  adapt my work to many areas and populations).
  4. I am a freelance columnist. My name is in the paper every week.
  5. My connections through the Center of Journal Therapy,  Goddard College, and the Transformative Language Arts Network have allowed me many opportunities.TLAN-Banner-940x198

Here are some factors specific to my situation which I believe have hurt along the way:

  1. I live in a small town. There is not a huge population to draw from.
  2. I live in a small, rural state. Writing as wellness is not considered a mainstream activity.
  3. I said yes to every opportunity and took a long time to get focused enough to find my niche and in what/with whom I worked best. My “brand” and “elevator speech” have therefore been unclear — trying to be too many things for too many people.
  4. (Related to #3) I don’t enjoy marketing myself and may have not always used the most successful methods.

What I believe you don’t have to do that I did:

  1. Get a MA or other advanced degree in this field. Experience is the best teacher.

What I believe you do need to do:

  1. Be passionate about this work.
  2. Do the work yourself. Be introspective and Write. Write. Write.
  3. Have some training/experience in ethical and successful facilitation practices. Creating safe space for your clients is a priority.
  4. Familiarize yourself with the theories and modalities of TLA/Writing for Change (through the TLA Certification, for example.)
  5. Collaborate!
  6. Find your niche(s). Find your people. Stay focused. (But be willing/prepared to puzzle-piece your career together with lots of different projects and collaborations).
  7. Be confident that your work is of value and you should be paid accordingly.

But my number one piece of advice:

Never stop believing you can make this work because if you can’t imagine doing anything else, you will.

 

A prayer for my readers

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This post was inspired to this article by Molly Gordon, “Why you should pray for your clients.” As writing is my mediator to both the inner and higher sources of wisdom, I offer up this open letter as a prayer and meditation in honor of my valued readers and clients.

Namaste!

I do not know many of you personally but knowing you are there reading my words and sharing this journey called life brings me joy and encouragement. It is a blessing to know I am not alone.

I truly appreciate those who visit here and who occasionally comment. The thoughts and ideas you share and the gratitude you express brightens my day and gives me hope in this world that at times causes me despair. There are days, when the media is yelling, Be afraid!, the marketers are yelling, Buy more crap and feel crappy like everyone else! and my children are yelling, (S)he hit me again!, that I want nothing more than to crawl into my bed and not arise until war is over, big business is dead and my children have figured out they love each other. But through this blog and my work in the real world I meet people who inspire me and give me a glimpse at a changing – more loving – world. I thank every one of you for that.

It is my hope – my wish, my prayer – that as I continue to share my thoughts and experience that I will say exactly what you need to hear at the exact moment you need to hear it. I pray that Serendipity and Synchronicity will step in and allow us to meet, whether online or in person, just when you were looking for me (whether you realize or not!). I pray that you will come into my life and teach me something too, exactly when I need you. I learn from and am inspired by my readers, students and clients and I am so grateful for that!

Together as grateful, self-aware, self-confident and loving people, we can radiate a little more positive energy into this world.

So, I thank you, my dear readers, students and clients (current, past, and those whose paths I have yet to cross) for venturing along with me. And I thank the Great Good for giving me the courage me to walk – nay, dance! (and sometimes stumble) – along this path of my Potential and Purpose.

But above all, I pray you will find your own right path – the one that allows to find Flow. Believe in your talents, gifts and dreams and they will carry you far.

joanna

_______

 

Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

What is your Purpose?

Tweet This Blog Post!“Why am I here?”

Oh, boy.

For a few years now I’ve come to a personal understanding that the answer to that question is,  “To Pursue my Potential.” For me this means finding the things I enjoy and do well and developing them. It means to Focus with Meaningful Intent and Challenging myself to learn more, practice more and use my gifts for Good.

I have made it my Purpose and my Mission to also help others find and nurture their own gifts and talents. Our personal – and often stashed away – dreams are almost always a direct relative of our gifts and talents. We intuitively know what we are good at and therefore our dreams sprout from this. Our dream job or adventure is always a winning idea because it has both ability and ambition built right in. (Unfortunately, why so many get stuck is Fear.*)

With these things percolating in mind, I have slowly come to the realization that I have been putting my own True Purpose on the bottom of the to-do list. Again and again. I have always wanted to write, I get lost in the Flow of writing and writing is all I ever want to do when I have a day to myself (ha!). But despite that I do it far less than I want – and need (out of fear?). I have been so focused on establishing myself as a coach that my own needs have gone unfulfilled. I have not been focused. I have not listened to my inner voice telling me that I am the most happy when flinging words around.

I love to teach (and I know it is another precious gift that I have no right to ignore) and I wouldn’t give that up for a moment. But I have make writing more of a priority. The more I write the more I plug into my Purpose. With Purpose comes Meaning comes Passion comes Happiness. And it is with Passion and Happiness I will be a better (and hopefully more inspiring) teacher to my students.

I am here to be the best writer I can be.

There, said it! Now, why are YOU here?

~~~

Every human has gifts and talents. This does not necessarily mean artistic talents. Some are talented speakers, others listeners. Someone else may have the gift of cooking while another is able to drive a race car with – dare I say? – elegance. The point is to recruit your abilities and then team them up with experience and determination and go for the win! Find your Purpose and Focus on it. No matter what!

Below is the video which prompted this post. It explains how each of us have our very own Purpose (which is why there is no one answer to that age-old question of “Why We Are Here?” ).

Video from http://www.silvamethodlife.com/shedding-light-on-your-life-purpose

 

* Here are some articles I have written on Fear and how to use writing to overcome it:

Quoting Natalie: Tolerating Fear

Writing through Fear (pt1)

Writing through Fear (pt 2)

 

_______

 

Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

I write to know I Am

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The following post is recycled. I happened upon it this morning and it seemed appropriate today to re-post. I have been evaluating my Purpose lately and bottom line is: I need to write. I have no choice in this matter, it is my calling, my need, my salvation. Denying it would be like dragging my spirit along a dirt road; after not too long it would battered, bruised and bleeding.

~~~

It’s not like I write anything personal…

This was me defending my blog. The reaction from a family member was one of disbelief. Griping about my life and sharing my children’s antics is apparently way out of the comfort zone for some. But for me, the day-to-day mundanity of my existence on this planet – the struggles and the milestones – are not anything I am ashamed of or feel the need to hide. In fact, I need to share it, whether anyone reads it or not, so I know that I am alive and here for a reason.

At a family gathering this past weekend there was a discussion about the personal nature and vulnerability of art and various other occupations. Among the nine adults present were two writers, five artists/designers, three teachers, two hairdressers, a nurse, two counselors, and a preacher (most of us were some combination of these). It was agreed that the very act of creating of any kind is a bearing of the soul. The teachers/preachers/counselors also felt the vulnerability of their trade as they tell of their own experience to help others with theirs.

… hanging one of my paintings on the wall is like standing up naked in front of everyone…

When I write it is me that goes into those words. Me is all I know. So, on that plane the very act of writing is intimately personal. When you read my blog you are tasting my essence. And I am willing to give this to you. If I wasn’t, I wouldn’t be a writer.

When I open the pages of a magazine like Brain, Child I am sometimes astounded by the honesty of the writing. These women lay their very souls down on the page and allow us, the readers, to poke around in their humanity. But it is this very vulnerability that allows us to understand we are not alone – and there’s always someone worse off than us. Recently, a mother told of being arrested for child neglect when she left her pre-teens at the mall with some younger siblings. I have to admit, I myself was surprised, as were many other readers. Consequently, the author has been sorely criticized (beyond reason in some cases) and her story has spread throughout the media channels. She took a chance with the honest telling of her story and suffered for it. At this point in my life I would not have the guts to tell the truth quite so, well, truthfully.

But there is a need for me to tell you things. I feel compelled to. Although, you’re not the one(s) I am speaking to primarily – it is myself. I re-live, assess, and understand my life by putting it into words. Anais Nin wrote,

We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection.

I remember reading this in my early 20s and understanding exactly what she meant – I have to record my life to better live and appreciate it. The fact that I have allowed you, my readers, into my world and and believe you care is an arrogance. But it is also a yearning for community. I want to share the truth as I see it so I might connect with others who see it the same way – or don’t, but have another, equally valid opinion.

We all yearn to belong, to be a part of something, to believe someone cares about our lives. The meaningful conversations where we actually talk about the way we feel are, in general, missing from our everyday lives. We feel judged and ashamed of the way we feel (we can’t help the way we feel) and so we hide behind brainless chatter. I believe this is why Facebook, Twitter, and texting are so popular. But unfortunately, it has gone to extremes: I don’t care if you are going to the store to buy toilet paper and I didn’t really need to read that a FB friend had “afternoon delight.”

There is a quote from C.S. Lewis that I read when younger which really spoke to me:

We read to know we are not alone.

So I write for those who read so they may know they are not alone. I write to know I have purpose. I write to understand myself. I write to feel alive. And if I happen to inspire someone or help them feel less alone along the way then I have done my job as a writer.

_______

Please visit my Examiner.com page for articles on Journaling for Kids, Organization and almost everything in between.

Private coaching – Customized to help you re-INK your own life – available in person or via email.

Sharing your light

I have a friend who used to volunteer as a reading tutor. Her Christmas letter informing me there is nothing as gratifying as helping another person sent me into a self-indulgent, self-hate-fest. I used to complain to my journal or Hubby that I never did anything to help anyone else. I had no desire to volunteer anywhere and I interpreted this as selfishness.

When I worked in customer service at a bank, I admit I went out of my way to help the poor, clueless soul who thought the ATM had mind-reading skills and that the balance on the slip reflected the amount of the check she just wrote at the grocery store five minutes earlier. When I balanced her checkbook at no cost it made me feel good – even though I was later admonished for taking too much time with a non-lucrative customer.

But when I worked at a non-profit youth orchestra I was amazed by the retirees and parents who would take a few hours out of their day to help me stuff and seal thousands of fundraising letters or tune and price-tag dusty violins so they could be placed under the chin of a budding musician. On my day off, that would be the last thing on earth I’d want to be to doing.

Then I found something I believed in. Something I can do, something I love to do and know I do well. Now I want to tell the whole world and I’d do it for free if I could! And that makes all the difference.

Today I received a email from a friend who is going through a difficult time. I had encouraged her to write when she was ready, which she did. This was the final sentence of her message:

Thanks  for showing me a way to sort out thoughts and take control of my life.  You have helped more than you know and I would put that in any brochure or marketing tool you would like!!!!

This is better than a paycheck any day – and it made me cry.

I now know that my earlier “selfishness” was lack of self-esteem, lack of direction, and lack of passion. I now want nothing more than to help people. And I have the knowledge to be able to and the confidence to know that what I have to offer is something I would be selfish NOT to share!

I now know that my friend was right – there is nothing so gratifying as giving of your gifts, talents and knowledge for the benefit of another. And don’t underestimate what you have to offer. There is a certain joy that comes from giving the gift of yourself.

PROMPT: The ability, gift, or special knowledge I have that I could be sharing with others is…

Ready. Set. Goals!

I love the New Year. I love starting over and the feeling of getting back on schedule (especially after the nutty holiday season).

But above all I love starting a new journal! For the past few years I have just continued using the current journal until a) I ran out of pages or b) I got bored of it and excitedly bought myself a new one just ‘cuz. With a 1/6 of my journal still empty I had planned to keep write on going in that one, but then I realized this January 1 is special: Not only the start of a new year, but also a new decade, and for Hubby and I, a new life.

I went out and purchased an unusual journal (for me). It is full-sized (8×11) and the brown and pink polka-dotted 1977-esque front cover is more “fun” than I usually go for. But for some reason I was drawn to it (I believe we are pulled towards what we need). The large pages reflect the size of my hopes for this year and decade and the whimsical cover is for the fun I plan to have pursuing them.

On New Year’s Eve I spent a few hours in blissful solitude christening my new journal. I wrote four titles:

Mental

Emotional/Social

Physical

Spiritual

For each topic I wrote sub-titles: Current Status and Goals. Within that structure I let my pen go wild. I assessed where I was and how I was feeling about each area of my life. I wrote and wrote. I then used those thoughts to determine goals for the coming year.

I know the large pages of my new journal helped me think big(ger). I felt free – unrestricted.

From there I started a new page for just Work. I wrote down every project, workshop and collaboration that is either a done deal, in the works, or a possibility. The golden potential of this list inspired and exhilarated me! From here I moved onto Work Goals for January. The list was long but do-able. I was anxious to get started right away.

When we give ourselves a PURPOSE (or MISSION) and look forward with INTENT, the path in our mind’s eye and in reality becomes clearer. Written goals are a way to clarify these things.

So, now onto to 20-10! Forget those resolutions. Set goals. Do-able goals. Goals that look towards your dreams.

And if you wander off the path on the way towards your goals, don’t give up! Just get back on where and when you can or find a different path that leads in the same direction (or a slightly different one – you have the prerogative to change your mind).

And always make sure you have your MAP (Marker And Paper) or GPS (Good Pen [and] Stationary) (goodness, those were lame!) aka: your journal to help you find your way.

(Also read my Examiner.com article on making goals)