I recently sat through an intriguing presentation in which a third party researcher shared data, gathered from employee surveys, for the purpose of revitalizing the company’s mission statement. I never realized the weight a mission statement holds. The adjectives have to be on point. There can be no room for misinterpretation. Are we forward-thinking or reliable? Are we compassionate or determined? Bold or safe? Familiar or daring? It has to be a testament to a brand’s hard-earned reputation and accomplishments, but also a promise of progression and prosperity. Listening to how passionate people were about pinpointing the ideal word to explain an establishment inspired me to do a little market research of my own.
I am writing a personal mission statement.
Now, in order to compose an accurate depiction of who I am, as well as who I aspire to be, I first turned to those who know me best. I grouped the participants into categories: Husband, Kids, Immediate Family, High School Friends, College Friends and Work Friends. I then sent them all the same text (Except my husband and kids, of course. They take forever to get back to me.) that read: “Hey guys! Doing research. If you had to describe me in one word, what would it be? BE HONEST!”
(Editor’s note – I have always wanted a man to call me, “Organized”. After reading this draft over my shoulder and seeing the intent, he changed his word to “Boundless”.)
High School Friends:
(She clarified, “Not to be confused with Genuwine, who wants you to ride it, his pony.”)
Down to earth
Fun as hell
I know this seems like a big ego stroke, but hang with me here for a bit. It’s not about fueling your self esteem so much as it is an exploration of what you’re putting out into the universe. Just like the researcher’s data tells a story for a corporation, these descriptions tell the story of how I am perceived, for whatever reason, by those who’ve known me in all the different points of my life. My immediate family has the entire 32 years to draw from, my high school friends have nearly as much history, and so on. What did my coworkers really see in me and what am I in my daughters’ eyes? I think of myself as one thing, but that doesn’t necessarily match the consensus. Some of the words truly surprised me, and I think that alone was worth the time it took to pound out a mass text. (It also triggered some pretty sweet text threads with my all-time favorite folks.)
This is where it starts to get interesting, and kind of geeky, but really more interesting than geeky. For reasons I can’t explain, I love a good word cloud. No? Not so much? OK, well, the cheese stands alone … Anyway, I took all the words people sent me and I plugged them into a word cloud generator, and it looked like this:
Then – hold onto your hats – I wrote a free-flowing, unfiltered paragraph about how I view myself using the same tool. I was going for the stream of consciousness thing, and included what I struggle with, what I think I’m good at and where I’m trying to go. It looks a little different:
I find it all fascinating. The way we view ourselves vs. how others view us. It must be mentioned that we tend to be both harder on and more honest with ourselves than our peers are. So, while my work friends might have had glimpses at my “obsessive” tendencies, they would be more likely to reach for the word “determined” for the sake of goodwill and friendship. While, conversely, I am more than willing to toss negative adjectives into my word cloud because I am constantly evaluating my weaknesses in an ill-fated effort to improve. It makes me wonder what a compromise word cloud would look like; one where I’m kinder to myself and my social circles are brutally honest.
In the end, this is where I landed, for now. The beauty in something like this is how well it plays with amendments and revisions.
Now, it’s your turn. It takes a phone (what the kids are using to send text messages these days), an honest group to survey and your choice of word cloud generators. Go write your mission statement and then live it in the boldest fashion possible.
Until next time …