Establishing the Mission
- Tuesday, January 16, 2001
On a basketball team, every player needs to focus on something greater than himself or herself. At Iowa State, even after we made the team, Coach Nance often asked us, Why do you want to be on this team? He knew that many new players had the fantasy of becoming famous, the big man on campus. Others dreamed of becoming rich by making it to the NBA. But neither of those goals was good from the coachs point of view.
Neither focused on what was good for the team. Our love for the game could not be for selfish rewards. We needed a vision adjustment. We had to embrace a mission that would help the whole team prosper.
This principle became so important for me that, as the head coach for the Northwestern University Wildcats, I drafted a formal mission statement for my players But at this point I want to focus on refining the mission of the staff, which, in the case of the family, is the husband and wife. For those of you who are single parents, the staff is primarily you.
When two people get married, they need to have some idea of what their purpose is for coming together. However intense their love for one another might be, if their purpose is primarily selfish, they will be shaken when the tough times come. If you are a single parent, your mission has to be just as focused. You dont have time to waste your energy and resources drifting from one interest to another. I think the vision or mission statement ought to apply to the whole family, and it should be simple enough that even very young members can understand it.
For instance, the mission statement for our family is very simple:
The mission of the Byrdsong family is to make our world a better place by helping others to fulfill Gods plan for their lives so that God will say to us when we see Him, Well done, my good and faithful servants.
Everything we do centers around this. I also prepared a more specific mission statement for my children but even this more simple family statement applies to the kids. When my eight-year-old son, Ricky, says, Dad, I want to be rich, I dont pour cold water on that desire, I merely nudge him to see it in terms of our family mission statement. How will his becoming rich make society a better place and cause God to say, Well done? The statement doesnt dictate what the kids will do in terms of their careers or where they will live or who they will marry. Instead, it focuses on character.
A mission statement helps you stay on course and corrects you when you stray. When a basketball player is tempted to stay out late at night or to not take good care of his body, the mission statement reminds him that he is committed to the teams goal and not to selfish gratification. Without a clear understanding of that purpose, other interests can quickly take over.
The same is true in marriage. Too often young couples enthusiastically marry without agreeing on a goal outside themselves. They are drawn together by the promise of self-gratification. Now, dont get me wrong! Im all in favor of marriage being gratifying for each partner. But if they have not jointly agreed on a higher purpose, the day may come when their individual interests will detract from and ultimately threaten the marriage. One may say, This marriage isnt helping me realize my goals to become an architect or My marriage is too confining. Im sure Id be more fulfilled in another relationship.
Im not saying what your familys mission statement should be, only that each family should have one. In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Habit 2 says, Begin With the End in Mind. It goes on to state that all things are created twice, first in the mind and then in reality. Endeavors that fail, fail in the first creation, often because the purpose was not adequately refined. The most effective way to begin with the end in mind is to develop a mission statement.
It is the focusing quality of your mission statement that will help you as a family make small decisions by some method other than defaulte.g., how much time you should spend taxiing the kids around to soccer practice or gymnastics; whether or not they watch the same music videos and play the same video games as everyone else does; whether curfews are archaic. But your mission statement should also help you to make the big decisions, like whether or not to accept the job offer that requires the family to move across the country.
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