Personal Mission Statement

New Year resolutions irk me.  Probably because they are routinely set ups for disappointment and result in self-loathing.  Often, we identify specific things that we don’t like about ourselves and resolve to change them without ever questioning the root of those displeasing habits or traits.  Without identifying the root of the problem, change is difficult.  In the New Year, I try to direct my thinking, and that of my students, away from resolutions and towards intention setting.  Resolutions are goal oriented and often target what you don’t like about yourself.  Intentions, on the other hand, address what you want to bring into your life here and now. 

A yoga intention can be described as that value that means the most to you in the present moment.  When finding your intention, simply ask, what is the thing you want to bring into your life right now?  When seated on your yoga mat, you may even ask, “Why am I here?” or “What am I seeking from this practice?”  Often the honest answer to one of these questions is your intention.  Nevertheless, goals can be useful tools, and I always wondered whether there was some middle ground between resolutions and intentions?  Is there a way to set goals without being self-critical or setting yourself up to fail?  This couple years ago, I read a New York Times “Well Blog” written by Tara Parker-Pope that seemed to answer this question.  In lieu of a New Year resolution, create a Personal Mission Statement.

         Mission statements are widely used by wellness coaches as a tool to achieve wellness goals.  In order to find your Personal Mission Statement, first identify the values behind your aspirations.  For instance, if you want to lose weight, ask yourself why?  Is it really because you want to look different in a bathing suit, or is it because you want to have enough energy to support your loved ones in every way, both old and young, or set an example for your children?  Once you have located the value or values behind your goal, honestly examine and identify barriers to success.  Keep in mind that Personal Mission Statements do not aim to change old habits, but to cultivate new behaviors by focusing on your fundamental values.  Finally, it is recommended that you share your Personal Mission Statement with family or close friends.  Research suggests that you are more likely to fulfill your Personal Mission Statement if you do.

         What might a Personal Mission Statement look like?  Take the example of losing weight.  Instead of resolving to lose 10 pounds this year, your Personal Mission Statement might read, “It is my personal mission to have a healthy mind, body, and spirit so that I have the strength and ability to support my loved ones physically and emotionally throughout the years.”  You could even set a Personal Mission Statement for your yoga practice.  Perhaps you feel that you need more core strength.  If so, you might write, “It is my personal mission to practice yoga three times a week and focus on my core.  I need core stability to support my organs and my spine as well as to have a healthy posture.  With that added strength, I look forward to learning and adding new poses to my practice.”  When creating your Personal Mission Statement, remember to identify the values underlying your goals, confront obstacles, be kind, be positive, and finally, be creative.  You know how sometimes the hardest part about practicing yoga is rolling out your mat.  I suspect that similarly the hardest part about writing a Personal Mission Statement is sitting down with pen and paper.  Good luck!


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